Kids? Five:24 boy, 27 boy, 30 boy, 32 girl , 34 boy and one new granddaughter!
What school(s) did they attend? There was one back to school night we had to make five different stops. We didn't make it- two of the schools were in NYC (Regis and Dominican Academy). We enjoyed many local schools- MAS, Saints John and Paul, Soundview Prep, Hommocks, MHS and Fordham Prep. My wife and I put a high priority on education. We also knew that one size does not fit all. We made decisions to place each child in the best educational environment to meet their needs. It also gave me a unique perspective on MANY different teaching approaches and physical school/classroom settings.
Background info? (Day job? Previous career? Hobbies? Tell us about you in a nutshell!) Born and raised in Larchmont. I had the same first grade teacher at Chatsworth as my mother. My 7th grade class was the first to attend Hommocks when it opened. Married to Byrne Murphy Sleeper since 1982. MHS '74. Syracuse '78. 22 years as a local real estate broker. Previously in a NYC startup and Amtrak for 15 years. Currently a member of the Town of Mamaroneck's BAR/Board of Assessment Review. This is the group that homeowners goto when they want to lower the assessments - ergo their taxes. It is a privilege to work in this community and walk its streets every day.
What brought you to the MUFSD? The family's return in 1995 from Lancaster PA was simple- I was coming home. Close proximity to family, a great place to raise a family and great schools were all part of the plan.
WHAT MADE YOU WANT JOIN THE TASK FORCE? Dr. Shaps gave an update on the schools to the Local Summit in January 2017. He spoke about creating a task force to help the BOE consider a new paradigm for the future of the district --- Education 2.0. He was eloquent and passionate. I knew wanted to be a part of it!
Has it been what you expected? What have you learned about the District that you didn’t know before? Yes and more. The complexity and challenges of teaching our children are far more complex than I ever imagined. The respect I have for teachers is tremendous- the financial challenges the administration must deal with to support their success is mind boggling. There are no simple answers.
What more do you hope to learn as the Task Force moves forward with Phase II? The Task Force has broken up into sub-groups to explore a multitude of options. I can't wait for all of us to re-convene and bounce all of these ideas off each other. We are all learning from each other. This is our greatest strength.
Any other comments about the process and/or you that you’d like folks to know? Task force members bring so many perspectives. They bring unbiased, fresh thinking and personal experiences. Nothing is preordained.
I’m Michele Metsch and I’m a volunteer on the MUFSD Enrollment Planning Task Force. I’ve lived in the district since 2003 and have had children enrolled in the schools since 2009. Currently I have one at Murray, one at Hommocks and one at Mamaroneck High School. I’m the secretary for SEPTA and an active PTA member especially at Murray where I’ve held various leadership positions through the years. It is because of all of this involvement that I chose to apply to the Task Force.
The task force was formed with a variety of members of the community in order to examine the current enrollment challenges and come up with solutions to correct those challenges. This has also been an opportunity to examine the district as a whole to correct problems and enhance the district at the same time. I have been impressed by the diversity of the task force with a representation of all members of our community --- families with current and past students, empty nesters, retirees, teachers. I have found all of the members to be thoughtful, engaged, and inquisitive as we’ve explored issues and challenges. During Phase I, we began our work with a summary of where we are as a school district and what challenges we face. We heard from outside speakers Prakash Nair and Heidi Hayes Jacobs, the latter which was open to the public, on innovative changes in education in order to understand how to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s world. We then explored the research on different topics such as class size, diversity, program structure, program delivery and others and their impact on educational outcomes.
Taking what we learned from that research, the task force has entered Phase II and is currently researching and examining possible changes to our district. We are looking at maintaining the status quo, reorganizing by grades, reorganizing by school choice, and constructing new buildings or adding on to existing buildings. Within these areas there are many options and configurations, pros and cons. The Task Force will thoroughly examine all of these options and their related costs and benefits. The goal is for our district to provide the highest quality education to ALL students in the most efficient way and to position the district to adjust to the ups and downs of enrollment over time.
I have to say, as a volunteer, I’ve been frustrated by some of the misinformation and rumors that have spread in our community during this process. I believe that the Board of Ed and our Superintendent really have the best interests of our school district in mind. This is a large and complicated system with many strengths and challenges. As citizens, individuals may not always agree with the decisions that are made. They may not be what is right for an individual child or family or even for a small group. And yes, sometimes decisions or plans are made that fail. But I believe the intentions of the administration and the Board of Ed are good. If someone believes that decisions are not in the best interest of the MUFSD, they are invited to share their concerns with the Board via the appropriate channels.
We have a great school district AND we have challenges that can be addressed. We can and should always be striving to improve educational outcomes and experiences for all of our students. The goal of the Task Force, and the administration, and ultimately the Board of Ed is to find solutions/changes that provide the most benefits for the greatest number of students while maintaining the values of our community. It’s a huge challenge.
I’m looking forward to the continuation of the process and excited to see the possibilities unfold. I hope that you will follow this process by reading these blogs, attending/watching Board meetings, reading district communication, and talking to Board and Task Force members. I know through careful, deliberate, and thoughtful work our community can enhance our schools for all of our children.
ETF MEMBER PROFILE: RYAN FIFTAL
Kids? My wife Nicole and I have three children at Central – Sophie and Maddy are in 2nd Grade, Alison is in Kindergarten.
Background info? (Day job? Previous career? Hobbies? Tell us about you in a nutshell!) My day job is at a hedge fund, investing in Technology, Media, and Telecom companies. My nights and weekends, as you’d probably guess, are pretty busy with the three kiddos. I think I average about 1.5 birthday parties per weekend …
What brought you to the MUFSD? After our third daughter came along, our one-bedroom apartment in the city officially qualified as a clown car, so we decided it was time to move on. My wife and I both attended great public schools growing up, and we wanted a similar experience for our children.
WHAT MADE YOU WANT JOIN THE TASK FORCE? Like most of the best decisions of my life, my wife made it for me. Half kidding! The other half, let’s call it my concurring opinion, came out of my experience watching the re-zoning debate and board meetings late last year / early this year. I was left with two impressions / possible concerns. First, there was a lot of emotional intensity in the debate. And while that emotion was completely understandable (and in many ways showed how much the community cares about our schools) I felt like we needed a more dispassionate approach that would consider the best interests of the broader community over the long term. When I found out that the Task Force was NOT looking at the immediate / short-term overcrowding situation, but rather was looking at a longer-term solution, I became very interested. Second, I noticed that Central family voices were somewhat under-represented in the discussion, so I was encouraged that the school board explicitly wanted to pull together a balanced cross-section of the full MUFSD community.
Was it what you expected? What have you learned about the District that you didn’t know before? I would say two things have surprised me, both positively. First, I was surprised at how much time (all of “Phase I” in the Spring/Summer) was spent trying to help the Task Force have a holistic understanding of the challenges facing the district. For example, we broke in to 7 sub-groups to understand the academic literature / current thinking on a number of educational issues (e.g. what is the impact on education outcomes of class size? Teacher quality? School Choice?). Second, I’ve been really impressed with the other members of the Task Force. My fear was that people would come in with a specific agenda to push, but I haven’t seen that at all. What I have seen is a group of people who care a lot about the schools, want to really understand the issues, and want to be thoughtful about how potential solutions fit with our community’s specific preferences / needs.
What more do you hope to learn as the Task Force moves forward with Phase II? II still have a lot to learn. Because the Task Force took time trying to build a more foundational base of knowledge, we’re really just beginning to consider possible solutions, so the ‘real work’ has really just begun.
Any other comments about the process and/or you that you'd like folks to know? As a district we’ve been lucky that lighter Kindergarten enrollment alleviated some of the acute pressure on the system this year, so we have a bit of time to step back and come up with a longer-term solution. And given the engagement and resources of this community, I’m really optimistic we can solve this and any other challenges our district will face in the coming years.
ETF MEMBER REFLECTION: MIRAN ROBARTS
Hopefully your summer has been filled with safe travels, family time, and well-earned rest from the hustle and bustle that the school year brings.
I have had the privilege, along with 30+ members of our vibrant community, to serve on the Enrollment Task Force. As many of you are aware, the Board of Education formed this group to investigate and assess long-term strategies to address growing enrollment and space limitations in our schools. The BOE has implemented the use of a Task Force several times in the past to address challenges faced by the District, and with great success. Not only is it a vehicle that allows for the involvement of the community, but it also serves as an effective way of tapping into the vast resources and experience of our neighbors. This group is no exception. I have met wonderfully sincere people from a variety of backgrounds, each bringing a unique and valuable perspective to the table.
As the school year wrapped up in June, so did the “Phase I” groundwork of the Enrollment Task Force. Since March, the group has been been thoughtfully engaged in a broad process of bettering our understanding of the current state of education as it applies to our remarkable District. This included thoughtful discussions, research, and presentations on educational models, our community values, and its priorities. It was a lot of information and a lot of work, perhaps more than most of us expected, but we all now share a much deeper appreciation for the challenges our BOE, administration, and community face as we move forward. More importantly, we are now poised to take on Phase II, in which we will take on directly the mission of investigating and assessing strategies to address growing enrollment while maintaining the high expectations and performance of our school system.
Many of you became engaged in the issue of growing enrollment that our district is facing through discussions with friends and neighbors, online forums, and BOE meetings. The conversations were at times intense, certainly heartfelt, and clearly, important. Please continue to stay engaged, and I ask that you do so with the same tenets that Task Force members were asked to uphold as well: keep an open mind, ask questions, and respect this process that embraces community connectedness, collaboration, and the power of public deliberation.
Best wishes for a happy and safe summer and we look forward to bringing you more updates when the Task Force reconvenes this fall.
Miran Robarts - ETF Member
ETF MEMBER INTERVIEW: NOA ARIAS
Kids? I have two pre-school aged kids in daycare right now, but one is about to enter school.
Background info? (Day job? Previous career? Hobbies? Tell us about you in a nutshell!) I am a marketer - I've worked in marketing for everything from big beauty brands, to financial services, to high-tech startups. Now I am heading up digital marketing for a new aluminum-free deodorant brand. My passion is writing, so I love blogging for the smaller brands I have worked on. Fun fact: when my husband and I welcomed our first child we started a website to help parents find daycare and preschools for their children. We have since sold the site, but it was an awesome experience.
What brought you to the MUFSD? We moved to Larchmont a little over 7 years ago because of the walkability, the proximity to Manhattan and, of course, the school district's great reputation. We didn't have kids at the time, but my husband and I are both from Westchester and we knew we wanted to eventually raise our kids here.
WHAT MADE YOU WANT JOIN THE TASK FORCE? When the BoE first started seriously considering flex-zoning as a solution for the overcrowding issue, I (along with a few other Larchmont ladies) formed a short-term committee and Facebook group to help spread awareness of the issue and get people to brainstorm alternative solutions. I joined the task force to share the voice of the short-term committee and help find an equitable solution to the overcrowding issue. Another fun fact: I actually found my new house through the short term committee. The sellers were in a so-called "flex zone" and reached out to me and my friends to thank us for our efforts and mentioned they were selling their house. I reached out to them and the rest is history.
Was it what you expected? What have you learned about the District that you didn’t know before? The task force has not been what I expected, in a good way. There's a lot more learning than there is doing at this point - which is important when you consider the task at hand. I don't have any kids in school just yet, so I didn't know much, if anything, about the district. There is still so much for me to learn and I know I am not alone.
What more do you hope to learn as the Task Force moves forward with Phase II? I hope to learn what we can (and will) actually action upon. There are so many great ideas, but so many limitations. One of the biggest challenges we will face as a Task Force is community acceptance for any proposed solution, so I am eager to learn how other districts have presented overcrowding solutions to their communities.
Welcome to the Enrollment Task Force (ETF) blog! It is our hope that this will serve as a complement to the Board of Education's official communications to our community; one that is informal, yet personal, and provides insights into the process that we as ETF members are undergoing to help better understand our district's challenges. Stay tuned!