LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Letter in Support of GFB
Posted: October 28, 2018
To whom it may concern,
My name is Taylor Spivak and I graduated from Tuxedo in 2016. I'm writing to you about my experience in hopes that it will help you weigh opinions about the future of the school in regard to the upcoming vote.
I attended George F. Baker from September 2012 through June 2016, so I experienced what our school was like both with and without Greenwood Lake students. Both of these situations were beneficial for me and provided me with a lot of knowledge and experiences. There are many elements of my educational identity that I did not lose out on when my class size dropped. In fact, I feel that I gained the opportunity to develop skills in critical thinking, collaboration, and leadership. Throughout all of high school I had intellectual curiosity— I always wanted to delve deeper into what I was learning and understand the underlying concepts behind what I was being taught. I struggled with this for most of my high school career because teachers did not have the time to explain nuances of theories and equations to me when they had so many other students to attend to. However, my senior year (my only year without Greenwood Lake students) is when I really benefitted from teacher-student interaction. Being in classes that had 8:1 student teacher ratios as opposed to 20:1 not only allowed teachers to have more time to spend with each individual student, but also gave them a chance to get to know us personally. Every teacher I had understood my learning style and what was going on in my life outside of academics, so they knew how to teach in ways that made sense to us. This was incredibly valuable, especially in AP classes. I got to learn not only from my teachers lecturing, but also from my peers through class discussions that are simply impossible at larger schools. This enhances the learning process more than I could explain because it allows students to gain confidence in their own voice and to see the world through different viewpoints, which enhances critical thinking.
Furthermore, the opportunity to take part in however many of the school's extracurriculars I wanted was beneficial to me. I was on two sports teams when I was in ninth, tenth, and eleventh grade, and with a smaller school, I got to play three sports my senior year. Larger schools may provide more options, but smaller schools provide more opportunities for students to be included, involved, to step out of their comfort zones, and to develop their own voices. I participated in National Honor Society, Haunted Hallways, the spring musical, three sports, and more while taking four AP classes. I got to hold leadership positions and learn how to manage my time, both of which have been incredibly valuable in college.
I am aware that others are claiming that students in such a small school aren’t being prepared for college. I’d like to share my viewpoint of that statement. I am currently a junior at Colgate University in Central New York. I started my freshman year timid, as most students do. However, the interpersonal skills that I developed in high school through having class discussions and close relationships with my teachers allowed me to thrive in my college environment. I am a Behavioral Neuroscience major, which requires me to dedicate large amounts of time to studying and collaborating with others. Succeeding in rigorous coursework takes a lot of effort and time, but Tuxedo prepared me for that. I am double minoring in Educational Studies and Sociology. These are both fields that I first became interested in when I was in high school due to the relationships I had with teachers. Succeeding in these two departments requires critical thinking and seeing the world for what it is, rather than just as the sum of your personal experiences, which are both elements that Tuxedo instilled in me during my senior year. My interest in Educational Studies is focused around inclusion in the classroom. As my class discussions are filled with horror stories about my classmates’ experiences, I am always proud to give examples of how my small school allowed for inclusion and personalization for every student in every class. I have to put in more time and effort in college than I did in high school, but the confidence, interpersonal skills, and time management skills I acquired from my small school prepared me to excel in independent work, group work, discussions, and extracurriculars, while feeling comfortable going to my professors for help when I need it.
I think that all students, each to their own extent, hold their own intellectual curiosity. It would be not only unfair, but detrimental to put students in a setting that doesn’t give them opportunities to explore it.
When I was a senior at Tuxedo, I served on a panel in which I discussed my high school experience to potential incoming students. I told them that I felt that I was prepared for college because I went to a small school, and now that I have over two years of college experience, I can confidently say that I was right.
At this time, it is important to listen to all voices, but I think extra consideration should be given to the opinions of students who are currently enrolled at Tuxedo and those are experiencing the direct outcomes of the experiences and education that Tuxedo has provided.
Thank you for your time,
GFB Class of 2016
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Open Letter to The Board of Education
Posted: October 28, 2018
Dear TPFYI Editors,
Please find attached a letter signed by several Tuxedo residents that was delivered to the TUFSD Board of Education on October 23.
The future of George F. Baker High School is of utmost importance to everyone in our community, and therefore, we thought it might be appropriate for you to post the attached letter on TPFYI’s site as issues are noted in the letter for consideration by the Board and the community.
Click here to read this letter.
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The Future of Our High School
Posted: October 24, 2018
As a former public school principal and district superintendent, I fully
appreciate the difficult decision you have to make with regard to our High School.
After carefully reading the study recently completed by our school
board's consultant, I can't help but conclude that it is sheer folly for
the board to continue to fight a losing battle: the George F. Baker High
School must be shuttered, at least for now. The board owes it, not only
to the taxpayers of our town, but to our students. Tuitioning them out
to a neighboring district is the best decision on their behalf, even if
not all realize it now.
It seems to me that the very viability of our wonderful town is at
stake, since it is clear that continuing the precarious nature of the
high school is driving away potential new families, including those with
school-age children. If the board is able to muster the courage and
good sense to allow the inevitable to happen now, once that hard
decision is made and the alternate school options for our teenagers are
clearly laid out, we are far more likely to regain our status as a
viable community for families with students.
Theodore Swartz, Ph.D.
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George F. Baker Strong
Posted: October 22, 2018
We have lived in the Tuxedo Union Free School District for over 19 years and raised our children in this school. We have seen the district struggle and make difficult decisions through the years.The last 4 years have been the most challenging, separating from Greenwood Lake and living with the uncertainty. My family has always been pro-Tuxedo school. We believe in the small school model and all the benefits that the nurturing environment can provide in developing strong educated young adults. We also believe that a child should be in the best education environment that they thrive in and that it is individual to each child. If it is staying in TUFSD great and if it is a private school, that's great too. That is a family's choice!
Our school is part of the community and the community should come together to do what is best for future generations of this town. It is the center of this community and a vital part of the financial stability and promise for growth. The Tuxedo Town board should be focused on the needs of the town, partnering with the school to assist enrollment, building community relations, and fostering positive growth. There is a small group of community members speaking out against GFB. It is not the majority! You can not be pro-town and anti-school. It is a contradiction in itself, stunts growth and is purely divisive. I do not agree with closing the school to meet a personal agenda or the ideal picture of what you feel is the best high school environment. This School may not be ideal for all and that is where families have choices. Choices to move to other districts or to go to private schools. Choose what is best for your own child, focus on their education and the school that they attend, not ours.
We moved to this town knowing that it was a small district and so did everyone else. We had the town promise of a large development that would increase the population and bring a beautiful new high school. It has been 25 years and unfortunately we are still waiting for that development, it has not happened. It has been a natural attrition that some students go to private schools in this area. We are fortunate to be in a geographic area that broadens our choices. Tuxedo has never had a football team or ice hockey team or swim team. The teams we do have are inclusive, competitive and strong. We are also combining with surrounding districts to be part of sports teams that we do not offer. The elite athletes are making the large school teams. Most kids are sitting on the sidelines or being cut and not making the teams at all.
The financial cost per student has been highlighted in this debate. It’s simple math, increase enrollment and the costs per student will decrease. Closing and going to another school district does not alleviate the financial commitment mandated by NY State. We will still pay school taxes, the costs are all relative. If this school should go to another district, the tax percentage will increase, we will loose a voice in the district and also be faced with the reality that the school will not likely reopen. Ask our neighbors in Northern Tuxedo, in Greenwood Lake and in Sloatsburg.....
Our children in Tuxedo can be in the AP honors program, STEM program, sing in chorus, play a violin in the orchestra, be in the school play and be part of a winning Section 9 sports team all at the same time or be part of any variation of what they want to do. It is their choice. No one tells them that they are not good enough or that the club is full. Their teachers know their names and take a vested interest in their success. It's a small school with a big heart. Ask our Students.....
We truly feel that our BOE, Administration, Teachers, Aides, Coaches, Bus Drivers and all of our Staff have risen to the occasion to continue making our high school the best experience that it can be for our children. It has been proven. Our academic program is still strong, the music program has expanded and we are competing in sports at the Section and State levels. Our students are still getting into great Colleges. In keeping with GFB's long proud tradition, since 2016, we are still graduating kids going on to colleges like Cornell, NYU, RPI, RIT, Binghamton, Columbia, Stony Brook, Sacred Heart, Plymouth State University, University of Rhode Island, Manhattan College and Colgate, to name just a small few. It's about the quality, not quantity, at George F. Baker that has been the foundation that shaped our students into the successful adults they are today. Ask our many proud Alumni.....
The issue is not open or close anymore. We have proven sustainability. The issue is increasing enrollment and together figuring out what is best for our town and school district.
We miss our GWL families and students. We encourage them to consider coming back and giving their students GFB as a choice. We would also welcome our Tuxedo kids from the north and all Tuition students that want to be part of this special place.
We have the best of the best administration, teachers and staff. They are all in! They care for our student’s futures and genuinely care about making this school the best it can be. All have put in countless hours to represent our town, do what is best for our children and our community. We choose this school and so do many others. Our community will continue to rally around our school.
We are GEORGE F. BAKER STRONG!
Proud Parent of GFB Students,
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Letter To The Editor
Posted: October 31, 2016
Re: Tuxedo Park Board of Architectural Review
I am the acting Village Justice in the Village of Tuxedo Park. I am writing to you with respect to a letter from Ms. Paola Tocci and Mr. Robert Simon, regarding their resignations from the Board of Architectural Review, that you published on your website on October 18, 2016.
Within the body of their letter, Ms. Tocci and Mr. Simon stated that the Tuxedo Park Justice Court has jurisdiction to review the determinations of the Village Board of Architectural Review (BAR). This is incorrect. The Village Justice Court has no role in reviewing determinations by the BAR. Pursuant to the Village Code, decisions of the BAR are reviewable by the Village Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA). Any appeal from the BZA is taken to the State Supreme Court sitting in Goshen, pursuant to the New York State Village law and Article 78 of the New York State Civil Practice Laws and Rules.
I hope that you will publish this letter so that the residents of Tuxedo Park will be properlyinformed as to both the law and procedure for appealing from decisions of the BAR.
MARC D. CITRIN
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BAR Appointments - A Letter of Resignation
Posted: October 18, 2016
October 16, 2016
To the Mayor, Board of Trustees, and Residents of Tuxedo Park:
On Saturday, October 1, Mayor Guinchard, Trustees Guazzoni and Moon (with Trustees McFadden and McHugh dissenting) voted to fill the current vacancy on the Board of Architectural Review and appoint as its new Chair a person unknown to any of the BAR members, one who has never attended a meeting of the BAR, one with the briefest residency (less than a year) in Tuxedo Park, and one without expertise in any of the constituent fields (architecture, engineering, architectural history, construction and project management) that are required for responsible, proper determination of applications that can stand up to judicial scrutiny.
This action, which included the removal of both the sitting BAR Chair and Deputy Chair without prior notification or discussion, and without cause or explanation, in a public meeting at which no public comment was permitted, is not only an insult to all the BAR members who have served with great dedication over many years, but to the entire Village. In addition, the failure of the Board of Trustees to reappoint one of our most accomplished and valued BAR members – the only trained Architect on the Board, who holds a degree from M.I.T (one of the most rigorous architectural programs in the world) and who has developed a patented framing design for passive solar houses—solely as a ploy to elect a new member and Chair, is a reflection of the contempt and disrespect that the current administration feels towards the BAR, its members, and the Village. It is the latest in a series of executive decisions made by our Mayor, with the support of a majority of the Board of Trustees, that have created discord in our community and have threatened the continued safety and security of our Village. These include the wholesale dismissal and replacement of the Village’s police department, legal representation, and engineering consultants, as well as the elimination of the position of Consulting Architect, which had provided independent professional advice to the BAR, as well as to applicants and their architects, thereby resolving many potential conflicts –legal, aesthetic, and practical.
Over the period of our tenure, we have endeavored to make the BAR an asset to the community by protecting our architectural heritage while preserving the property rights and enhancing the property values of the entire Village. To that end, we have sought out and secured as members of the BAR residents who are accomplished and distinguished in the fields of architecture, engineering, architectural history, construction, and project management. At the same time, we have worked to provide clarity, transparency, and efficiency to the application process, while creating and establishing Design Guidelines to assist residents in the formulation of their new construction, restoration, or renovation plans. This has all been accomplished by BAR members who have devoted many hours a month over several years to conferences, site visits, and public meetings.
We have consistently received support and gratitude not only from Park residents and applicants, but from a succession of past Village administrations. We have accomplished this by scrupulously following our Village Code and remaining objective concerning the merits of each project no matter who the applicant might be. We are proud to state that the Tuxedo Park Board of Architectural Review has become a model for other historical communities, and has regained respect in the architecture industry. For the first time n a very long while, prestigious awardwinning architects and architectural firms are now attracted to working in Tuxedo Park and going through the BAR process. This has become a source of pride to us, our residents, and Village.
Recent developments in our Village have changed all that, and there is no secret that they began with the Mayor’s vehement opposition to a project initiated by her direct neighbor that had been approved by the BAR two years prior with no public objection at the time. Appreciation and gratitude for our long hours of volunteer service was replaced with disrespect, contempt, threats, and recrimination. Enforcement of Code violations has become selective. In perhaps the most blatant reflection of the current administration’s attitude, the renovation of the Keep and the rebuilding proposals of the Gatehouse –the most significant and recognizable structures in Tuxedo Park– have proceeded without any consultation, formal or informal, from the Board of Architectural Review. This is an incomprehensible lapse given the BAR members’ wealth of knowledge and experience in architectural preservation, restoration, construction, and costs. The Mayor has publicly stated to her Board and to the community in Board of Trustee meetings that she was working with a single BAR member on this matter – a claim that is blatantly false. After a significant public outcry and efforts by Trustee McHugh and McFadden, the gatehouse is now coming before the BAR. Still the Mayor continues to this day to spread serious falsehoods about BAR members, hoping to discredit them by casting aspersions on their character, integrity, and ethics.
After much consideration and deliberation, we can no longer continue to contribute our services as part of a Village government that has become profoundly undemocratic in its structure, secretive in its deliberations, and vindictive to many of its constituents. We are also concerned for the future viability of the BAR, not only due to its diminished expertise, but as it will now be led by a lawyer who is also a licensed real estate broker in Orange County and is married to our Village’s Acting Justice (who would need to rule on challenges to and enforcement of BAR decisions): both present serious conflict-of-interest concerns.
With considerable regret, we hereby tender our resignations. It is a painful decision that we do not take lightly as our many years of residency and volunteer service have demonstrated our love, passion, and devotion to the Village of Tuxedo Park. We apologize to the community and to any applicants whose projects may be delayed by our resignations and who will not benefit from our professional expertise.
Robert B. Simon
Resident, Tuxedo Park, since 1983
Member, Planning Board/Board of Architectural Review, 1987-1990
Member, Board of Architectural Review, 2006-2016
Deputy Chair, Board of Architectural Review 2008-2016
Paola J. Tocci
Resident, Tuxedo Park, since 1985
Consultant, Planning Board/Board of Architectural Review, 1993-1994
Member, Board of Architectural Review, 2006-2016
Deputy Chair, Board of Architectural Review, 2007-2008
Chair, Board of Architectural Review, 2008-2016
Subject: BAR appointment results
Thank you so much for your time as BAR Chair. Also, would like to thank Robert Simon for his time as Deputy Chair.
Sheila Tralins BAR new member and also BAR Chair.
Julia Simet Deputy Chair.
Mary Jo Guinchard
Mayor, Village of Tuxedo Park
(o) 845-351-4745, ext. 5
Village of Tuxedo Park Office
P. O. Box 31
80 Lorillard Road
Tuxedo Park NY 10987
Tuxedo Park Garden Club letter regarding new parking lot at the Keep
Posted: October 18, 2016
TO: The Board of Trustees of Tuxedo Park
The Board of Architectural Review of Tuxedo Park
CC: The Vestry of St. Mary’s in Tuxedo
FR: The Tuxedo Park Garden Club
RE: Proposal to construct a Parking Lot Adjacent to The Keep
There is a plan currently under consideration by the Board of Trustees that has come to our attention. We understand the plan would create a parking lot on a portion of the beautiful grassy area just inside the main entrance to Tuxedo Park, for police cars and for easier access to the back door of The Keep jail. The majority of The Tuxedo Park Garden Club members do not endorse this plan for a variety of reasons, the most important of which are:
- In addition to compromising and detracting from the unique and historic architecture at the entrance to the Village, a parking lot filled with cars behind The Keep would permanently mar a cherished bucolic view which is a delight for the community -- for its sweep of green lawn, then punctuated by these historic buildings, and finally, rising above all, the mountain in the distance. Please refer to the attached picture of the exceptional view we currently enjoy.
- A parking lot would certainly compromise not only the existing visual beauty but also, as it would require salt and plowing, the health of the surrounding grass and the magnificent and valuable specimen Weeping Beech tree, planted next to The Keep as a memorial to Cordelia Wheeler by her husband, Edwin and her family. Mrs. Wheeler was an upstanding member of the community and a devoted and active member of the Garden Club.
- Further, located directly across the street, a parking lot filled with cars would deflect attention from the Centennial Wall which the Garden Club and, indeed, the community at large have maintained at considerable expense since its creation in 1986 in commemoration of Tuxedo Park 100 years.
- Police cars parked outside the entrance have, for years, served as a warning to most potential intruders.
- A parking lot with police cars at the ready would certainly increase the likelihood of an accident due to its close proximity to the actual entrance.
The Tuxedo Park Garden Club has a fifty plus year history of serving our community and represents a sizeable percentage of Tuxedo Park residents. This letter reflects a unanimous opinion among our executive committee and the vast majority of our members.
We hope that this letter will persuade the Board of Trustees and the Board of Architectural Review to take a fresh look at this situation and come up with an alternative solution. Please consider re-examining the issues driving the decision to move the parking lot in the first place.
We applaud the efforts a few months ago to get input from the community via a survey and public comment sessions regarding the rebuilding of the front gate guard house. Please handle this situation for moving the parking lot with the same due diligence and community input as you did for the front entrance gate house.
The Tuxedo Park Garden Club Officers and Executive Committee:
Jean Marie Thompson – President
Paula Sink – Vice President
Laura Garbett – Treasurer
Lili Neuhauser, Sandy Taylor - Co-Recording Secretaries
Susanne K. Williams – Corresponding Secretary
Stephen Brodheim – Chair Community Projects
Daphne Whelahan – Chair Programs
Dolores Marchand – Chair Conservation & Horticulture
Sara Cassis – Chair Special Projects
One Architect’s Opinion - A Letter To The Editor
Posted: October 13, 2016
Dear Mrs. Vaught, Mr. Dupont, and Tuxedo Park Trustees:
I recently learned of the departure of two distinguished members of the BAR,
Paolo Tocci and Robert Simon. I would like to express my appreciation for their service. I also wish to acknowledge and commend the BAR for its extremely capable stewardship under their guidance. The task of serving on the BAR was, and is, formidable.
Having had the good fortune of appearing professionally before the BAR over the past 20 years, I have witnessed a lot. Post 2007, the climate of construction certainly changed. As always, each project requires particular care and a wide scope of understanding. The BAR responded extremely judiciously post 2007, making sure projects moved through the process in a timely fashion, while holding high standards of design. The practical side of construction was understood. There also was a sensitivity to the pressures experienced by clients in the process. This requires unusual skill. To objectively judge others, who are undertaking extremely important endeavors that have a personal impact to their lives, is no easy task. To do so, as a volunteer, while living in such a small community, is absolutely daunting. In my professional opinion, they did it extremely well.
I did have the great fortune of serving as Mr. Simon’s architect. While I certainly have some bias in my appreciation of him, I can state sincerely that he always held his objectivity, sensitivity, and fairness in his service on the board during my presence.
While change is inevitable for Boards with such a high profile, the transition in losing these two outstanding members will undoubtedly be a challenge. I urge the trustees to seek ways of tapping into their talents, in whatever way possible. The interests of the Park are too great to miss out on their contributions.
Peter Cooper, Architect and Landscape Architect
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TPFYI is intent on presenting polite public opinion concerning important issues relevant to Tuxedo and Tuxedo Park. However, TPFYI reserves the right to publish in full, abbreviate or dismiss any submissions at its sole discretion. Thank you.