Board President Denise Tormey opened the March 19th Board of Education meeting with the following statement explaining the rationale behind a revised field proposal:
Good evening friends and neighbors. Welcome to the March 19, 2015 Board of Education meeting. Thankfully, this is the last meeting we will hold in the Winter of 2015. This winter has presented our school with a number of challenges. We had three weather related school cancellations and a total of five delayed openings or early dismissals. Despite that, so far we have not lost any upcoming vacation days as our calendar includes additional days of student attendance over the state mandated minimum of 180 days.
In addition to improving weather, March is the time for our school musical. Congratulations to all involved in the successful production of Sweeney Todd. Spring also marks the return of outdoor recess and Phys Ed, and a new season of Bronxville athletics at the modified, junior varsity and varsity levels. The pressing need for our District to address the condition of Hayes Field should be obvious even to the most casual observer. While Chambers Field has been available for practices and other activities, Hayes Field is currently unusable and is not expected to be available until April __. This Board and prior Boards have grappled with this issue for years. The abysmal weather we have experienced highlights once again the impact our chronic field shortage has on our programs. Anyone who doubts the severity of our field problems need only take a walk over to the fields to observe first hand.
The lack of usable field space for our students at recess and our growing number of sports teams is a problem that has only become more acute with the passage of time. This evening, Dr. Quattrone and Erik Wilson of KG&D will present a new proposal for the revitalization of the Bronxville School play space and the reconfiguration and enlargement of Hayes Field with a synthetic turf system. After years of study, the District and the Board have settled on this proposal as the best alternative for the Bronxville School campus. We satisfied ourselves about environmental and safety concerns. We considered all comments made in public session or submitted in writing, by email, letter or personal outreach. In the deliberations, all other options, including replacing Hayes Field with natural grass and leasing, purchasing or constructing other fields within and outside the District, were explored. WE BELIEVE THE RESULT OF THIS EXTENSIVE PROCESS IS A REVISED PROPOSAL THAT REFLECTS COMMUNITY INPUT, IS SUPERIOR TO THE ORIGINAL PROPOSAL AND CARRIES A BUDGET SIGNIFICANTLY LESS THAN THE ORIGINAL PLAN. THE ONLY ELEMENT OF THE PLAN THAT REQUIRES A PUBLIC VOTE IS THE USE OF EXISTING CAPITAL RESERVE FUNDS TO PAY FOR THE PROPOSAL.
Those who have spoken or written on behalf of the "Friends of Hayes Field” or otherwise in opposition to the idea of reconfiguring Hayes Field with a synthetic turf system have no proposals to address the field shortage problem, other than to find practice fields as far away as Irvington and bus our students after school. Others have suggested spending district money to build fields in other communities - synthetic turf fields - and share those spaces with other schools. Busing our students to off-site locations any more than is absolutely necessary is not only a weak “environmental” alternative, it shows little to no concern for our students and their time constraints. The only viable alternative to address our field shortage is the installation of lights on Chambers Field. This is an option that the District and Board remain reluctant to take given the increased usage that a reconfigured and expanded synthetic turf field on the current Hayes Field would offer.
The discussion of our field shortage issues and alternatives for Hayes Field has been vigorous. The comments on both sides of the issue have been heard. The proposal has been revised from its early stages to address many issues of concern and to incorporate suggestions that have resulted in an improved plan. Regardless of that process, however, there will be those who will never change their view one way or the other. These types of projects will never have unanimous support. Under these circumstances, the Board's responsibility is to consider all facts available to it and recommend a course of action that it believes is in the best interest of the District (most importantly, our students) and is within our mandate to be responsible stewards of the District's resources.
Some have expressed the view that the Board should delay action on this proposal. Frankly, the suggestion that the process has moved too quickly is preposterous. Those voicing such a concern are merely new to School Board meetings and the approval process or for whatever reason have not kept themselves informed on the issue. Since September 2012, including this evening, there have been at least 18 public mentions of our field shortage issues and the possibility of addressing those with a reconfigured Hayes Field. These 18 occasions include regular board meetings, long-term planning sessions, budget workshops, and information sessions. Our regular meetings are televised; minutes of meetings are posted to the website; and public notice of all workshops is given well in advance. There is and has been ample opportunity for the public to become informed and remain informed on all matters under consideration by the Board. For quite some time, the public comment on this matter has remained static. No new information has been presented, and no new proposals have been forthcoming. Further inaction and delay is not an option.
As noted at the last budget workshop, the District has consulted with legal counsel to confirm ITS AUTHORITY TO schedule a vote TO APPROVE THE USE OF EXISTING RESERVES TO PAY FOR THE REVISED PROPOSAL. THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO QUESTION AS TO THE APPROPRIATENESS OF THIS ACTION, AND ANY SUGGESTION TO THE CONTRARY IS AN attempt to DIVERT attention from the real issue at hand, which is the urgency of developing a long-term solution to a chronic problem and doing so on a timeline that will enable us to take advantage of at least $250,000 in cost savings through the flood mitigation project.
With that, we will proceed to the formal agenda. At the conclusion of the presentation from Dr. Quattrone and KG&D, we will open the floor to public comment under the usual rules. At the conclusion of the public comment period, the Board will consider a resolution authorizing the submission of a new proposition regarding Hayes Field to public vote at the time of the budget vote.