What is the Scarsdale Schools Education Foundation?

The Foundation is a not-for-profit organization incorporated in 2012 for the purpose of supporting our schools and educational excellence in our community. The Foundation raises funds to support innovative programs and facilities that are not funded through the District’s own budget.

Why the SSEF and Why Now?

Scarsdale is justifiably proud of its national reputation as a leader in public education and our schools’ long tradition of achievement and excellence. Our schools are the reason many of us have chosen to live here and we know that the quality of our school system helps maintain property values in Scarsdale.

At the same time, we recognize that meeting the high standards the community has set for its schools will increasingly require more resources than the annual budget of the District can provide. That budget is under constant pressure to cover mandated costs (salaries, benefits, facilities, transportation, etc.) while staying within the limits of the taxation system.

As with other high-performing school districts, tax dollars alone cannot sustain the quality our students deserve. We believe the Foundation can play a very positive role by funding the “extras” that support a truly outstanding school system.

We hope you will join us in creating a community-wide effort to provide new resources that will ensure our school system will be the very best it can be.

Who founded the Scarsdale Schools Education Foundation?

A. The SSEF began as a Board of Education initiative. Following the recommendation of a multi-constituency Revenue Committee that was appointed in 2010, the Board of Education established a Steering Committee in June 2011 to consider the feasibility of launching an educational foundation. The Steering Committee’s report to the Board in December 2011 recommended the creation of a foundation to support “projects and activities deemed ‘endangered’ as a result of current economic conditions and/or would be valuable educational innovations that could not otherwise be supported through the regular budget process.” The Foundation was incorporated in May 2012.

Who is on the Board of the Scarsdale Schools Education Foundation?

The current board members include Pam Rubin and Beth Zadek Steckel, Co-Presidents; Scott Eichel, Anne George and Lindsay Zaken, Vice Presidents; Dave Shuster, Treasurer; Megan Simon, Secretary; and Mark Bezos, Jeremy Cohen, Elinor Etkes, Seema Jaggi, Stephen Nicholas, Josh Silverman and Scott Zemachson. Ellen Miller-Wachtel and Florie Wachtenheim are emeritus trustees.

What is the purpose of the Foundation?

A. The purpose of the Foundation is to provide financial support for innovative programs and facilities above and beyond the District’s own budget. The three specific interest areas that the Foundation has identified are: 1) research & development/innovation, 2) technology, and 3) physical infrastructure.

What is the relationship of the Foundation and the Board of Education?

The Foundation is committed to a close working relationship with the Board of Education and District leadership to identify potential programs, services and/or facilities worthy of funding. The Board of Education has appointed a representative, Nina Cannon, who serves as liaison to the Foundation and attends board meetings. Potential projects are developed collaboratively and all projects that the SSEF decides to fund must be approved by the Board of Education at a public meeting before they are accepted by the District.

Why do the Scarsdale schools need a charitable foundation?

Scarsdale’s schools have a long tradition of achievement and excellence. Education has always been a priority here and the community is justifiably proud of its schools. But unfortunately the job of maintaining the high quality and leadership role of our schools is increasingly challenging in the current economic environment. Often, in a time of fiscal restraint, near-term needs make it challenging to fund investments in the future. That is especially true when so much of the District’s operating budget is allocated to government-mandated costs or critical “fixed” costs such as salaries, transportation, supplies and maintenance, much of which increases annually. As a result, discretionary spending is often squeezed and little funding remains to build on core academic programs.

What grants has the Foundation awarded?

Most recently, the Foundation committed to fund the “Scarsdale Fellowship for Social Entrepreneurs” at SHS- a program which encourages students to develop innovative ways to tackle environmental and societal issues through social entrepreneurship. In the fall of 2017 SSEF made a grant of $15,000 for the Student Entrepreneurship course which aided in curriculum development for the three-year pre-engineering sequence that is now housed in the new Design Lab.

Click here to see the Grants section of our website for more information and program updates.

Does the Foundation have staff?

Not at the present time. In October 2013, the SSEF appointed Steve Seward as its first Executive Director. Steve filled that role for five years, overseeing the Education Foundation’s capital campaign to build the Design Lab and Fitness Center. The administrative responsibilities for the Foundation are now handled by its volunteer officers and board members.

How much money has been raised to date?

The Scarsdale Education Foundation has raised a total of $3 million to date, including $1 million to launch the SSEF. More recently, as part of a capital campaign, an additional $2 million has been contributed by Scarsdale residents through leadership gifts and paver purchases.

The Foundation looks forward to reaching out to more members of the community in the months ahead to broaden its base of support and increase the funds available to the schools. Scarsdale has always set very high standards for its schools. As a community, we accept the challenge of ensuring a top-notch educational experience for all of our students and want to make every effort to maintain Scarsdale’s position as a national leader in education.

Will the Foundation have an impact on the willingness of voters in the community to support school budgets and bond issues?

The fact is that even with a very strong fundraising effort, the potential funds available from the SSEF will be small in comparison to the total budget of the District, which provides the essential operating funds for the school system. Foundation funding will play an important role in creating and supporting new initiatives, but the $3 million in funds pledged to date cannot begin to compare to the District’s total annual budget of more than $150 million.

What is the relationship of the Foundation to other groups supporting our schools?

The Foundation will not seek to raise funds for the projects which other fundraising groups seek to support. The Foundation’s focus will be on District-wide initiatives that benefit students throughout the Scarsdale schools.

Who has contributed to the Foundation at this early stage and are you interested in wider community participation?

All of the members of the board of directors and a growing number of other community residents have contributed to the Foundation. The SSEF is very interested in input from the community and welcomes wider participation, through financial contributions and by offering ideas and suggestions to help shape priorities and consider innovative projects to fund. Please contact Beth Zadek Steckel at zadeksteckel@gmail.com if you are interested in getting involved.

Do other public schools have foundations?

Yes, quite a few communities in the area have education foundations and there are hundreds across the country. Edgemont, Chappaqua, and Bronxville established school foundations more than 20 years ago. In Westchester, foundations also support the school systems in Bedford, Dobbs Ferry, Harrison, Irvington, Katonah, Pelham, and Rye, among others. In addition, the recent imposition of the State property tax “cap” and other economic factors have motivated more communities in the area to take steps to establish their own foundations.

Would it make a difference if the SSEF did not exist?

This is perhaps the most fundamental and important question of all. Scarsdale is very proud of the reputation of its school system and our schools are the reason many of us have chosen to live here. The excellence of the school system also helps maintain property values in Scarsdale. But Scarsdale schools are public schools, the size of the District’s annual budget is limited, state aid to the District is small by statute, and separate state regulation limits property tax increases.

Our teachers, administrators, and Board of Education do a terrific job within the constraints of the budget. At the same time, they have innovative and exciting ideas to improve the educational experience of our students. What they need is a place to go for financial support outside of the District’s budget to help them implement those ideas and realize their vision — and this is where the Foundation can play an important role.

As a community, we set very high standards for our schools, but we may not be able to achieve these goals through public funding alone. To provide our students with the best possible educational experience, the Foundation seeks to support them by funding state-of-the art technology, a creative curriculum, quality teaching techniques, and an environment that allows students to benefit from innovative educational theories and practices.