Arnold Scher, a current Board member, is running for reelection to one of two open Hillsdale seats. The other candidates running for the two open Hillsdale seats are Gini Varghese, Kristin Martin, and Pat Luisi.
Scher attended Valley in the early 1980s and has had his two stepdaughters go through the school system. He has centered his campaign around student wellness, a common theme among the candidates, as well as gender, racial, and financial equity at the two schools.
Among his more recent motions on the Board, Scher was one of the nine Board members to vote to remove the Cowboy nickname at Hills and Indian mascot at Valley. Scher has also asked questions of the district reopening committee and has questioned Superintendent Erik Gundersen about the continuation of virtual Board meetings while most students return in-person to school.
Why Scher is running
Scher, who no longer has any children in the school system, named two primary reasons for his candidacy. “There’s a lot more work to be done in equity and inclusivity in all areas,” he explained, emphasizing his desire to “make sure we keep moving forward” instead of backward.
“The other thing is the Wellness Center,” he continued. “I just want to make sure that we continue the progress, and we expand it, and we provide whatever the administration needs to make sure that we’re providing support to not only our students but also the staff and faculty, especially in this time with the pandemic hitting.”
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Jared Mitovich: I think it’s safe to say that this year has been defined by a lot of challenges in so many different ways, especially Covid-19, the biggest challenge school administrations and Board members have faced in a pretty long time. You’ve been a member of the Pascack Valley Regional High School District Board of Education for a good amount of time, and I’m curious what is motivating you to seek another term on the Board and if you’re reelected, what will be your top priority or priorities?
Arnold Scher: So, I don’t have any more children in the school. My stepdaughter graduated over five years ago. My family thinks I’m crazy to keep staying on the Board. However, in light of what went on with the retiring of the mascot, seeing how people reacted to that, and how our district statement shows even more that there’s a lot of more work to be done in equity and inclusivity in all areas, that is kind of the driving reason for me to be on the Board: to make sure that we keep moving forward and going forward and not go backward. The mascots are retired, we’re done, the Board is now looking beyond and going forward, and that’s the biggest thing, the driving factor.
The other thing is the Wellness Center. It was a big push for Brian [Hallowell] who is leaving the Board this year; before he came on, he wanted to have it. It’s one of the things he wanted to do, we made it happen, and I think everyone’s on board with doing it. I just want to make sure that we continue the progress, and we expand it, and we provide whatever the administration needs to make sure that we’re providing support to not only our students but also the staff and faculty, especially in this time with the pandemic hitting.
Right now, Scher said, the Wellness Center is “even safer” and “more private” since many of the sessions students have there are conducted virtually due to the pandemic. Tying this in with his priority of advancing inclusivity and equity, Scher wants the Wellness Center to be expanded and seen as stigma-free by all students. He couldn’t clarify if there had been an uptick in students using the center since the pandemic started, but said it is one of the questions he will be asking at the next Board meetings.
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JM: You mentioned the Wellness Center as something you’re passionate about. How does that fit in with the current Covid-19 pandemic and what is currently being done –- because I think Covid has increased stress in students and teachers, so can you explain how the Wellness Center has been adapted towards that?
AS: I ask the questions in Board meetings. I ask, “What else can we do. Can we do anything else? Do we need more space? What needs to be done?” And they tell us what they need, and we’re there to support them in it. With the pandemic, it’s a lot harder. The space isn’t being used as much, it’s a lot more virtual work, but the counselors are reaching out to everyone that they see and to think the staff is getting more training or understanding to see key issues of possible triggers or thinks that may be going on with students and then bringing it to the counselors for them to reach out –– trying to be proactive and let everyone know that it’s a stigma-free space. Especially with Covid it’s even safer, more private, no one knows you’re down in the facility, down in the center; it’s all virtually being done.
JM: Has there been an increase in students using the Wellness Center?
AS: [The district] track[s] how many students, how many sessions interactions they have with students, and they also keep track of how many new students or how many total students are being –– because there may be one student once a week, and another student once a day. So they keep count of all that and for [Board members] right now we get those numbers every once in a while knowing what it is and threats where we push are stretched too thin do we have to try to budget for another counselor to come onboard. Do we need another software or programs? So they’ve been pushing or using another program to my understanding. For real specifics, I don’t know the numbers and stuff; there’s too much information, and try not to as a Board. We’re a policy-making and a funding area. We don’t stay out of the day-to-day operations, we get the updates, we get the information, but I’m not calling up asking, “How many people came today,” or “Where are we?”. But at the meeting, that’s one of the things I’ll be asking: How is the Wellness Center doing? Are we seeing an uptick in people using it? Do we need to get more info out to people and updates? Do we need more support? And that’s always one of my more ongoing questions, especially at this time.
On the Board’s goal to improve communication
After the Board voted in June to remove the Cowboy nickname at Hills and the Indian mascot at Valley, parents and students were critical of not just the decision, but the process that led to the decision. “This vote was held during the summer intentionally, to make sure none of us students had a say in it, because they knew we wouldn’t approve,” one Hills student charged in June. Parents critical of the decision echoed similar thoughts, saying that they weren’t made aware of the meeting where the vote was taking place.
Scher maintained that “it’s not the responsibility of the Board to make sure every student or parent knows what’s going on,” emphasizing that “we put out the information.” The June 23 meeting to discuss the mascot was linked on the Board website and mentioned in an email from Supeirntendent Erik Gundersen. He also said that, since the Board meetings went to Zoom, viewership saw a large uptick and Board members saw it as more convenient.
“[W]e’ve been expanding how we get information out over the past three years,” Scher said, naming the quarterly newsletter from the Board president he said is sent to everybody in the four district towns.
He did acknowledge that efforts were ongoing in improving the Board’s communication with the community, a goal it has listed for the 2020-21 school year. To Scher, it is a balancing act.
“We’re just looking now as the committee for what will be the most productive way to get people updated on things and know when things are,” Scher explained. He wants to be proactive instead of being reactive to student’s accomplishments, quickly “blast[ing] it out to the media,” though he said it was up to the newspapers if they wanted to publish what is sent to them. Scher also expressed a desire not to send so many emails to parents “that they just start putting it all in junk mail.”
Rebuffing past and present criticism that the Board is “trying to [make decisions] in a closed dark room,” Scher said “it’s not true at all, and for the mascot, it’s something that’s come up for the past 20 years, so it’s not a first-time issue.”
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JM: You talk about how the Board has a specific role. One of the Board’s goals this year is to improve communications between the Board and the community. What are you specifically doing as a Board member to increase engagement by the public? Besides the newsletter, do you think there’s anything else that will better the connection between the community and the Board? That was something that a lot of parents were upset with, whether it was true or not, that they had not heard anything about the Board meeting where the mascot was voted on –– although there was a link on the website.
AS: It’s not the responsibility of the Board to make sure that every student or parent knows what’s going on in the Board. We go over and above, I think, to let people know of things going on and what’s happening, but it’s not our responsibility to do it. We put out the information. We put it there, and then it’s kind of, you know, if parents want to be active in knowing what’s going on in the school, they should be coming in and listening and looking at the meeting. That being said, we have had a big uptick since we had to go to Zoom in the number of people coming to the meetings. For us we see it as now Board members get to do it while they’re making dinner; they don’t have to carve out a piece of time. They can just casually listen to it and be involved, which is good and bad in that part because you should want to be actively involved and know what’s going on. Getting information out and everything else, we’ve been expanding how we get information out over the past three years. Today there was an email from [Superintendent Erik Gundersen] asking who wants to be on the two new Board committees, the committee for the community and the equity committee. He wanted to know who wanted to be on it and that we needed X people on it. There’s going to be administrative people on these committees as well, so we’re trying to expand and find new ways to get the information out. They send out the quarterly updates, a print out by [Board President Tammy Mollinelli] that gets sent out to everybody in the four towns.
I always want –– which must be hard in this day and age –– instead of being reactive to stuff that goes on, we should be proactive. We should be sending out info about all the awards students have won and all the things going on and blast it out to the media. If they take it or don’t take it, that’s the big issue –– we can send out the information, but it’s depending on if they want to know it. But then you have to find a balance if sending out to parents, how much information you are going to send to them that they just start putting it all in junk mail, so you have to find a balance with that well. We’re just looking now as the committee for what will be the most productive way to get people updated on things and know when things are. We have had the same [communication] issue every couple of years, like when we had the transgender policy. That was another one that people said they didn’t know about, that we’re trying to do it in a closed dark room –– and that’s not true. I don’t think it’s true at all, and for the mascot, it’s something that’s come up for the past 20 years, so it’s not a first-time issue. It’s been there and done a lot.
On the mascot removal
While he said that “[t]he mascots are retired, we’re done, the Board is now looking beyond and going forward,” in response to a question about the mascot removal Scher sought to clarify how the decision –– or at least his –– was made.
He initially was not convinced the Cowboy and Indian mascots should be removed –– until the One Spirit Club, an organization at Valley that fought to remove the Indian mascot, presented their case to the Board at a meeting. Scher tailored his questions towards his prior research, where he “found that the image of the Indian is not a caricature, it’s actually taken from an actual person that lived in this area 200 years ago.”
“If it’s not a caricature, why don’t we just learn more and do more?” Scher asked.
Because it goes against the very district’s goal to “advance the work of inclusivity and equity”, argued the club. “They just kind of threw it in our face and said if [Board members] really want to do what [they’re] saying with the goals, how can we have these mascots?”
To Scher’s understanding, every Board member agreed that the club’s argument allowed for a “no-brainer” decision. This was reflected in the Board’s unanimous vote in June to remove the mascots per a motion that Scher proposed.
“I did the motion, someone seconded it, we had a short conversation. The vote was unanimous. It wasn’t like it was on the fence, that it was 4-5, 5-5, 4-against. [The Board members] were all saying it makes sense and goes. That surprised me in that we didn’t have much of a discussion and that it went directly to a vote. That’s not me –– I’m the one wanting to make a change; it’s the other Board members that if they have questions or issues they are the ones who should be asking and bringing things up and having an open discussion.”
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JM: I do want to turn to the mascot a little more. I don’t want to spend too much time on it, because as you said it’s something the Board has moved past. You were the one who proposed the motion to remove the mascot. Were you expecting the reaction from the community and what convinced you not just to have another conversation like over the past 20 years but to propose the motion now?
AS: I didn’t prethink. I saw the presentation all the Board members received separately in two groups from the One Spirit club at Valley. I asked the One Spirit members questions during the meeting. I did research ahead of time and found that the image of the Indian is not a caricature, it’s actually taken from an actual person that lived in this area 200 years ago, and that same image is actually used by the town of Hackensack on their logo. My questions to the One Spirit members were why get rid of it if this is actually a real person? If it’s not a caricature, why don’t we just learn more and do more? Those were my questions and thoughts to them before I saw the presentation. When they said –– and if you look at our Board goals the first one says to advance the work of inclusivity and equity –– when they said that that the mascot goes 100% directly against that first statement, I was done. They just kind of threw it in our face and said if [Board members] really want to do what [they’re] saying with the goals, how can we have these mascots?
Talking with other Board members about this all, to my understanding talking to them and through conversations before in smaller groups, they all said it’s a no-brainer. It’s right, they’re right, it’s not inclusive. You wouldn’t want to be called the Valley Blacks or the Valley Jews or the Chinks or any type of group of people. For me, it was like, “Okay, it’s done. How long do we have to procrastinate on this all?” And as a Board member, I can bring up a motion at any point, and [a mascot removal motion] was done a couple of months before. Someone brought up a motion and that motion didn’t go through and so in June, I said, let me bring up the motion about it, we can have the discussion about it, see if someone seconds it, have a discussion about it, and see if we want to have a vote.
I did the motion, someone seconded it, we had a short conversation. The vote was unanimous. It wasn’t like it was on the fence, that it was 4-5, 5-5, 4-against. [The Board members] were all saying it makes sense and goes. That surprised me in that we didn’t have much of a discussion and that it went directly to a vote. That’s not me –– I’m the one wanting to make a change; it’s the other Board members that if they have questions or issues they are the ones who should be asking and bringing things up and having an open discussion.
Scher: Reaction to mascots ‘shows there has to more education’
“It got to the point where you saw it run off the rails,” Scher said of the community’s emotional reaction to the mascot removal. Citing the protest at Hills, Scher said he was disappointed in how parents acted. “It was kind of beyond what I thought it would have gone to,” he admitted.
Scher repeated that the reaction was one of the reasons for his candidacy, arguing it showed why the fight for “equity and inclusivity” must continue. “There has to be more education,” he said he learned from the backlash, “and we have to educate the community as to why in the bigger sense equity and inclusivity need to be here.”
“Between the teaching and the curriculum, it goes across everything facility-wise,” Scher continued, referencing gender equity in academics and athletics and his stewardship of the issue on the Board.
“Once we heard that” the girls’ softball team didn’t just have to play off-site but had to walk on a busy road to get to their field, Scher said the Board “bought a van, because that’s wrong –– there’s no sidewalks, no nothing.” The softball team now has their own field on Hills’ athletic campus, but Scher said in retrospect that it was an equity issue and an example of the things that “when we find out about them, we take action.”
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The community backlash got to me. I knew there was going to be a backlash; I knew there was going to be backlash on both sides. I knew there would be a backlash about the Cowboys because that wasn’t talked about or known about as much. But we’re not the Cowgirls, we’re the Cowboys, and how is it inclusive having the girls team being called the Cowboys. And for someone to say, “Oh, you can do whatever you want with the girls and you know they can call them whatever they want, they can be Cowgirls.” Again it’s not equity and it’s not inclusivity. It’s wrong.
And this is why I’m running. It got to the point where you saw it run off the rails, and it has still run off the rails a little bit again, with all the comments that were made and the fake accounts that were created about it and how the protests that happened at Hills and how the people acted at the protest –– more how the parents acted at the protest, not the students. It was kind of beyond what I thought it would have gone to, and it just shows there has to be more education, and there has to be more information provided, and we have to educate the community as to why in the bigger sense the equity and inclusivity need to be here. Not just in [the mascots] but also in many other things such as sports. Between the teaching and the curriculum, it goes across everything facility-wise. There has to be equity and inclusivity, and we’re working and it’s not an overnight process.
You know we didn’t have a softball field for the girls at Hills. They always had to play off-site. The Board kind of knew they played off-site, but didn’t know the equity part, didn’t know that they had to walk to and from the field down the road. Once we heard that, we bought a van, because that’s wrong –– there’s no sidewalks, there’s no nothing. We bought the van for them so that they could get back and forth.
Same thing with golf. We found out things about golf and we bought a van, because it shouldn’t be the responsibility of coaches and students to move the players back and forth. So those are the things that, when we find out about them, we take action. I think we find out a lot more now about not just the students, but the communities. We have some education and understanding [now] about equity and inclusivity.
On working with other Board members
Scher pointed out that every Board member he has worked with over the past years has “come in with one agenda: do right for the students,” adding that “[t]here’s no personal agenda.”
In this election, he was not fully confident of each candidate’s agenda but voiced concerns.
“I think now, unfortunately, if you look at some of the people that are running [for the Board], they have a very simple agenda, and the agenda is to get on the Board and to use the mascot issue to rile up people to get themselves on the Board to then try to change the decision that was made and to bring back the mascots back into the system,” Scher said.
He argued this was connected to “changing the curriculum and changing teachers and some administrative levels” because the unnamed candidates “see progress as liberal or too liberal and don’t see that schools have to grow and change.”
“You have to continue to evolve and change and grow,” Scher argued of people’s perspectives, challenging that some candidates want to do the opposite and questioning, “What drove you now to [run]?”
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JM: If reelected, would you work with members you may disagree with on the mascot issue to sway them the other way? How would you approach that based on how you’ve worked with Board members in the past?
AS: No Board members that I have worked with –– when I came into the Board initially and the new ones that came on since –– come in with an agenda. They come in with one agenda: do right for the students and be right for the students. There’s no personal agenda or personal thing.
I think now, unfortunately, if you look at some of the people that are running [for the Board], they have a very simple agenda, and the agenda is to get on the Board and to use the mascot issue to rile up people to get themselves on the Board to then try to change the decision that was made and to bring back the mascots back into the system. And look at changing the curriculum and changing teachers and some administrative levels. This is because they unfortunately see progress as liberal or too liberal and don’t see that schools have to grow and change. I went to school at Valley in the 80s, late 70s, and it was a good school then. But if we stayed with those principles today, we would be the worst school in the state. So you have to continue to evolve and change and grow.
There was a time that the Indian mascot made sense and it was okay in our perception, but now people’s perceptions have grown. We understand more; we’ve evolved, and we have to keep doing that, and I think some of the Board candidates running want to go back and step backward and that is their singular look and thing. I’m looking at some of the candidates out there, and they’ve been in [Hillsdale] for over 20 years, 15 years. They’ve had students already go through the school system and graduate. They have students that are in the system graduating and just starting, and well why now? What made you want to be a Board member? What drove you now to do it? If there were issues before, did you ever go to the Board and bring those issues up?
On why he originally ran for the Board
Returning to what he described as the crux of his candidacy, Scher said he was invited to join the Board after advocating for financial equity in extracurriculars.
There was a “big difference” in how things were done between Hills and Valley for funding theater, Scher explained. “[L]ooking more at it, there was a greater disparity in how much money was given to sports and how much money was given to the theater department as related to core parts of what it does.”
Because his daughter was in theater at the time, providing him a personal interest, Scher attended Board meetings and said the lack of proper support was not right. The Board agreed.
“I wouldn’t have voluntarily done it and said ‘Run for it,’ because it wasn’t on my radar at all,” he confessed. “But I saw an issue, [the Board] saw, ‘Hey, this person sees stuff,’ and I’ve been moving since then.”
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JM: What made you originally decide to run for the Board?
AS: That’s a great question. My daughter was in theater, and there was a big difference between how funding was done and how ticket prices were dealt with –– how things were done between the two schools. And there wasn’t equity. It was a big disparity, and looking more at it, there was a greater disparity in how much money was given to sports and how much money was given to the theater department as related to core parts of what it does. In theater, you have to buy the royalty rights to do the show. They had to fundraise to buy those rights; they weren’t just paid for by the school district. Whereas the dance team goes out every year and buys a choreographed routine and music that the district pays for; that’s apples to apples, but it’s not being supported properly. So I saw this and went to Board meetings and brought it up to them and said that this is not right, how come you’re not doing it this way?
They looked at it and they said, “You know, you’re right.” And I knew the Board president at the time, Jeff Steinfield, outside of the district. A Board member was leaving the Board because she was moving out of town, and I was asked to join the Board because I went to meetings to find a seat change and see what was going on. So I was invited to join the board.
I wouldn’t have voluntarily done it and said “Run for it,” because it wasn’t on my radar at all. But I saw an issue, [the Board] saw, “Hey, this person sees stuff,” and I’ve been moving since then.
As a side note, the schools are about 20 years difference age-wise. When I went to school, the way it was structured for financing was that if you spent half a million dollars to replace a boiler at Valley, Hills had to get half a million dollars as well, even if they didn’t have to replace one of their boilers. It’s just like, “Well you got half a million dollars in one school, so you’ve got to give half a million o the other.” It wasn’t equal, so it didn’t make sense why that was happening.
When I got the Board, I asked, “Do we still do this practice where if one school gets money, the other gets money?” They said no. We finally got away from that and started using the money more effectively where and when needed.
On Board members’ advocacy and responsibilities
From the way he became a member, Scher said he is familiar with how to advocate for students and their concerns –– something he says all members “are supposed to [do].”
“For instance, I questioned about how Hills used to get concussion testing or had concussion testing and Valley didn’t,” Scher explained. In response to his questions, the administration said the discrepancy was because the district received a grant to conduct testing at Hills and not at Valley.
Scher told them that “I think we have to fund it, and our biggest thing is to make sure students are protected.” After the Board agreed, it tasked the administration to “put the money in, find the money, do what we need to do so that every student is tested and has a concussion test.”
While this was another instance of financial inequity within the district, something Scher has focused on as a member, he said an important part of advocacy on the Board was that each member has different areas of interest.
“[T]hat’s how our Board has been running or known as. Everyone has their niche area that they want to focus on: Some are finance, some are academics, others are extracurriculars, or the arts or sports. It’s not all one-sided,” he explained.
According to Scher, this way of organization during his time as a member has allowed the Board to fulfill its duties: to “make policies,” “provide guidance,” and “push the administration.”
However, it has not come without some drawbacks. Scher described the frequent, often wide-ranging changes of past years –– including the switch to a block schedule and the creation of Pascack Period –– as a “little overboard” on the Board’s part.
“We realized, okay, we have to kind of pull back, and we have to do it a little slower and let things settle in and then do it. So that’s where we are,” Scher said.
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JM: You talked about how before you were elected to the Board, you went to Board meetings, and I’m interested in what responsibilities you think Board members have regarding advocacy. This goes along with the district goals –– advocating for students specifically, or advocating for specific issues. But do you see yourself as having responsibilities in that regard?
AS: The Board members are supposed to look out for the students and look out for the issues that are concerns to us and to the community who may come to us and say that this is a concern or this is in this area. We need to then bring it up to the administration and have the administration come back to us with, “Well that’s yes,” or, “It’s a no,” or, “You’re right.” This happened on multiple levels. For instance, I questioned about how Hills used to get concussion testing or had concussion testing and Valley didn’t. Why does one have it and not the other? I didn’t know one had it. I was listening to news programs and stuff, and I brought it up as, “Hey, why didn’t we have concussion testing?” because we need to protect our students. And make sure they are protected.
The administration said, “Oh, well we do it at Hills and we don’t at Valley.” I asked why, and they said they got a grant to do it at Hills and not at Valley. I think we have to fund it, and our biggest thing is to make sure students are protected. And the Board agreed. So we then tasked the administration to put the money in, find the money, do what we need to do so that every student is tested and has a concussion test.
So that’s part of the advocacy that we do for students, and I think all of them do that. Other people do different areas, and that’s how our Board has been running or known as. Everyone has their niche area that they want to focus on: Some are finance, some are academics, others are extracurriculars, or the arts or sports. It’s not all one-sided. We’ll say, “Oh, I didn’t know that was going on, and that makes sense.” And we have discussions, and we talk about it, and we then put it to the administration to say, “Look, what can we do to change this. What can be done?”
We task [Director of Curriculum] Barry Bachenheimer, we task [Head of Guidance] Sean Struncis, we task them a lot to come back to say, “What can we do? What do we have to do?”
The Board is policy. We make policies, we provide guidance, and we push the administration. Sometimes the administration comes to us and says academically they know stuff and want to try this and try that. We approve it and weigh the pros and cons. We went a little overboard for a while and made changes too fast –– like every year for years, there was stuff going on: Changing the schedule to be a block schedule, having a Pascack Period. Not getting rid of midterms but midterm week, so that there are midterms when there need to be midterms but there aren’t midterms just to give midterms. We threw a lot out there; every year was a change and a change, and it was kind of boggling peoples’ minds. We realized, okay, we have to kind of pull back, and we have to do it a little slower and let things settle in and then do it. So that’s where we are.
On the reopening of school
Scher said that the Board and district goals for the school year, which include a focus on student wellness, are aligned with the reopening of school during the ongoing pandemic.
“[T]hey went above and beyond,” Scher praised the administration on reopening. “For the Board, it wasn’t a lot on us, but it was a massive amount on the administration.”
Now that schools have reopened –– with no positive Covid-19 cases recorded in the district so far –– Scher circled back to his interest in supporting the Wellness Center and pursuing equity and inclusivity within the district.
“That’s where we need to go, and we need to get the community on a better level,” he explained, adding that “we can’t sacrifice student health and wellness and their learning and growth” for the technological feat of having in-person Board meetings be streamed on Zoom.
“We have a very limited amount of discretionary funds to spend each year. We have a multimillion-dollar budget, but we only have 9 to 11% –– if you’ve watched the meetings and see the budget process –– to pick and choose what we want to do. The majority of the money is already put forward to contracts and other pieces, so we have to try to balance where it is,” noted Scher.
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JM: Would you say that is your and the Board’s goal for the next year or so? I’m interested in where you see the Board and district in a year from now. Are you looking to keep it to no more drastic changes? Besides the pandemic, which could drastically change things at any given time.
AS: I think our biggest piece is where the Board and district goals are: to deal with wellness. The pandemic’s right in our face, and we got through it. We facilitated the reopening and restarting of our school year. For the Board, it wasn’t a lot on us, but it was a massive amount on the administration –– they went above and beyond.
I was on the restart committee with over 40 people and nine different subcommittees. I had the easy part; I just sat there and listened and asked questions and tasked them to find the answers and do it. I didn’t have to do the real work. I think now what we have to do is support the reopening with the Wellness Center and equity and inclusivity and across the board. That’s where we need to go, and we need to get the community on a better level.
It’s hard to do unless we change and spend a lot of money –– it’s hard to, once we go back in-person, to continue doing Zoom meetings. It’s a technology feat that has to be overcome on many levels. It’d be great if we could, but I don’t know if it will happen. We have a very limited amount of discretionary funds to spend each year. We have a multimillion-dollar budget, but we only have 9 to 11% –– if you’ve watched the meetings and see the budget process –– to pick and choose what we want to do. The majority of the money is already put forward to contracts and other pieces, so we have to try to balance where it is. We can’t sacrifice student health and wellness and their learning and growth, but do we have the ability to add this piece on which doesn’t add to that; it just adds to the community. So that’s the hard part.
On what he likes to do in his free time
While a previous pastime of his, sailing, is no longer something he does, Scher nowadays “get[s] away by riding my motorcycles.” He clarified that he doesn’t use the motorcycles “as something to get to somewhere fast” but “something to get away from everything, because it’s the only time you can be unplugged.”
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JM: Final question. The biography on the Board’s website says that you’re the Vice President of Gravity Systems at Solid State Logic. You can say that this is your favorite thing to do outside of the Board if you want, but if it isn’t, what’s your favorite pastime outside of the Board?
AS: The best thing I used to do was sailing. But unfortunately, that is a pastime that I don’t think I’ll have again or do again. This is the biggest thing –– I was the AV [audiovisual] geek at Valley. I ran the school. I knew everything, people who knew me, there used to be a service award in my name for years after I left. They started a non-academic service award towards the school. I still do AV and film to this day. Gravity Systems is a computer-based editing system. The good and loved part about that and everything else is that it’s owned by Peter Gabriel. He’s from Genesis. The most-watched video on MTV when MTV played music video was called Sledgehammer. [Gabriel] is an old-time rocker that’s out of England. Me knowing him and having to work with him and be in his audio facilities is a great time.
Nowadays, I get away by riding my motorcycles. I don’t use motorcycles as something to get to somewhere fast. I use it as something to get away from everything, because it’s the only time you can be unplugged because you’re always plugged in, and on a motorcycle, you’re not.
On educating voters
Scher expressed that his social media campaigning is not him “telling people who to vote,” but instead “trying to get information out so you have an educated way to understand what’s at stake at this time, this is what’s going on and what we have done.”
“I don’t think there are some people that are out there to do that,” he said. “They have blinders on looking at one specific issue.”
In terms of his guiding philosophy, Scher returned to the mascot vote, an event that has developed the core of his reelection candidacy. “Just because it’s popular doesn’t mean it’s what you should do. It’s about doing what is right, not what is popular.”
He wants voters to remember that “[i]t may not be the popular thing, but it was the right thing.”
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