Popular White Plains Umpire Suffers Serious Eye Injury in Field

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WPCNR PressBox. By John F. Bailey. May 2, 2002. 10:30 AM EDT.: Jimmie Wolf, the man who organized umpiring for the upper ranks of amateur baseball and softball leagues in Westchester County, Rockland and Dutchess Counties, colleges and the White Plains Little League, suffered a serious eye injury yesterday while umpiring a college game in the field.
He is resting at home, but is out of action for weeks, perhaps months.
Wolf, according to his wife, was hit in the eye by a thrown ball while calling action on the basepaths in a college game yesterday. He was hospitalized after the incident, and is now resting at home. Julie Wolf told WPCNR last night that they are hopeful he will recover 100% vision in his eye. Meanwhile, she told WPCNR, his first concern was that “his” games would be covered. She was scrambling to cover games last night.

Wolf organized the science of umpiring over recent years so that leagues could make one call to him, and he’d assign an umpire or crew to the games for reasonable fees. His umpires showed up, called before games and kept control of the game, and most of all knew the rules.

In the White Plains Little League, handling senior games and majors games, we always knew that Wolf would have the umpires there. The Umpire would be good. The game would be under control.

Jimmy professionalized umpire assignment by setting fees, at the beginning of the season, making sure umpires were paid a reasonable fee, and evaluating their competence, only taking on umpires on his staff he felt were good arbiters. He worked games with new recruits to teach them the tools of the arbiter’s trade.

His umpires are even-tempered men and women who bring a touch of class and big league professionalism to every game they call, thanks to Jimmie’s leadership.

It is a tribute to Wolf’s sense of duty to “The Game,” that he was pressuring his wife last night to make sure his own personal umpiring assignments were covered, while in great personal pain.

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Sharpener to the Stars: Fred Kohler, Blade Master to White Plains Skaters.

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WPCNR Pressbox. By John F. Bailey. May 1, 2002. 3:00 PM EDT: The man who used to sharpen Dorothy Hamill’s figure skates sharpens the skate blades for White Plains figure skaters with one-of-a-kind precision instruments he designed 35 years ago.

BLADE MASTER FRED KOHLER sharpens skates in his Haverstraw workshop.
Photo by WPCNR

Your reporter met Fred Kohler at his home in Haverstraw Monday, when he was recommended by one of my daughter’s skating instructors. It’s the way Fred Kohler, 75, gets his clients. Strictly word of mouth. If you’re not landing your “Axels,” or bobbling your spins, one sharpening by Fred and bingo, the landings become pinpint, the spins “on a dime.”

“Leading Edge” of Skate Sharpening.

After a pleasant drive up the Palisades Parkway and into the rapidly growing community of Haverstraw we arrived at Mr. Kohler’s attractive home and were welcomed into his very neat little garage workshop. Little did we know this was the “leading edge” of skate blade sharpening in the world.

MEASURING THE BLADE POSITION, Fred Kohler uses a centering device to assure a precisely-positioned blade.
Photo by WPCNR

His “workshop” features a machine lathe with grinder wheels. Boxes of skating boots were stacked in precise order to the ceiling and some autographed photographs of well-known figure skaters whose skating blades Mr. Kohler sharpened: Kyoko Ina and Jason Dungeon, the pairs skaters and the American Champion, Elaine Sayak were just two of the photos of skating icons on his wall.

We met Mr. Kohler, a slight man in his seventies, thin with spectacles, Monday morning. He is “The Sharpener to the Stars.”

Troubleshooter on the Edge.

In his German-American accent, Mr. Kohler asked to look at my daughter’s blades. With his naked eye, he said he did not see how she could skate on these blades, or spin, because there was a bump in the spin area at the tip of the blade.

MEASURING THE HEIGHTS OF BLADE EDGES, with his own custom “Edge-O-Meter,” The Sharpener to the Stars discovers if edges are in sync.
Photo by WPCNR

Next, to my amazement, Mr. K. reached for an instrument that appeared to be a stop watch, that he precisely fitted onto the skate blade. (For skating amateurs, a figure skating ice skate blade is hollowed out in the center to create two edges, an inside edge and an outside edge.)

It turned out to be a gauge, (what the WPCNR, always in search of nomenclature will call an “Edge-O-Meter”) , which Kohler used to measure first the inside edge, then the outside edge. He showed me the difference in the needle positions, the readings confirming that one edge of my daughter’s skateblade was twice as high as the other edge, way out of whack.

Takes the Guesswork Out of Sharpening.

“I designed these instruments, and built them myself,” Kohler explained. “The gauge checks the edges that every edge is exactly the same height.” Kohler explained.

I asked if this would make a difference in my daughter’s ability to land her jumps. Kohler said absolutely:

“Because the skater if they have an edge higher or lower would have a hard time to get at that lower edge. They have to be exactly the same height.”

When a figure skater lands a jump, depending on the jump, the jump would require a landing adjustment depending on which edge (inner or outer), she landed on. My skater had trouble landing her axel three times over the weekend, and she never misses them, so Mr. Kohler’s analysis made a lot of sense.

Created for His Daughters’ Skates.

Kohler turned on the machine lathe/grinder device. Locking the boot into a custom mount, he proceeded to bring down the edges. By hand he brought them back with his own personally designed hand sharpening instrument. Mr. Kohler developed his sharpening tools when his daughters skated..

ONE OF KIND TECHNOLOGY: Kohler’s Edge measurement gauge, what WPCNR calls an “Edge-O-Meter,” on the left, is used by Kohler to synchronize the height of the blade edges. He uses the hand edge-sharpener at right to bring up the edges, and checks them with the gauge.
Photo by WPCNR

Both of Mr. Kohler’s daughters were figure skaters. He created his instruments because when he had his daughters’ skates sharpened in New York, they were never right:

“When my daughters were skating, we had to go to New York for skate work. Sometimes when we came home, something was wrong with the skates. So, back to New York. So, I figured there had to be a better way. I started doing it for them. Then I did it for friends. And before I knew it I had people from all around. I had a lot of skaters.”

Kohler has never patented or marketed his “Edgeometer,” or his skating instruments, though he gave one to the Chinese figure skating organization twenty-two years ago when they were developing their figure skating team for the first time. Perhaps the rapid rise of Chinese figure skaters is a direct result of “The Kohler Edge.”

Grinding Away Shabby Sharpenings.

Kohler enjoys a reputation among skaters who have used him as the absolute master of “the skater’s edge.” One of my daughter’s instructors has been having Kohler sharpen her skates since she was 7 years old. Kohler laments that other professionals sharpening skates in the area are simply not paying enough attention to their important work:

“First of all, I think, most of those people don’t take enough care, or don’t have enough training to do it that accurately. Secondly, they don’t have the gadgets that I have.”

Previously my daughter’s skates were sharpened by hand. We asked why Kohler uses the machine grinding on the skates: “I do machine sharpening and hand-finishing. You have to get that old sharpening down first with the machine. You have to get the old sharpening down to a dull edge, then you have to put a new hollow into the blade. You have to be careful not to take too much off the blade, because those blades are very expensive. This is like a hobby to me.”

So “Edgy”, Skaters Send Kohler Their Skates from All Over the World.

Kohler said he has professionals sending him their skates from faraway places who pay for overnight shipping to get their skates back with the coveted “Kohler Edge.” The overnight shipping costs more than his sharpening.

The reason: the Kohler Edge works.

While I was visiting, Mauro Bruni’s mom, called up Mr. Kohler. Bruni, a well-known young man who learned to skate at Ebersole Rink in White Plains, and competes nationally, competed in Luxemburg, Germany recently, and finished second. Mrs. Bruni called to personally thank Mr. Kohler for the skate-sharpening, which she felt contributed to her son’s strong finish possible.

Monday evening my daughter took to the ice with her new “Kohler Edges.” Previously, whenever my daughter had her skates sharpened she was cautioned by instructors to break them in a little and not sharpen skates right before a show. This time, the blades showed a difference right away. Jumps were landed crisply. Spins solid.

Her analysis: “They’re really good, Dad!”

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WPCNR County News Service. From Westchester County Department of Communications. May 1, 2002 8:00 AM EDT:County Executive Andy Spano announced yesterday a public education campaign to make sure that parking spots reserved for the handicapped are only used by the handicapped. Mr. Spano also introduced a new fleet of paratransit vans to transport disabled citizens.
And as part of the county’s long-time commitment to providing adequate transportation to the disabled and elderly, Spano also announced that the county has acquired 18 new paratransit vans, as replacements for older models that have logged hundreds of thousands of miles transporting people with disabilities.

“By making sure our handicapped parking spaces are used properly and that our paratransit vans are available, we go a long way to ensuring that disabled people can work, shop and enjoy public amenities like restaurants and theaters,” said Spano. “More importantly, this helps people keep their independence.”

A Closer Look at Who’s In the Blue Spaces

The campaign dealing with handicapped parking is aimed at reminding the public that only people with the proper identification on their vehicle may use these restricted spaces and that the access aisle near the restricted spot (a blue zone) is needed by those using wheel chairs.

Video Training for Police

In addition to a public education campaign aimed at the other motorists, the county has prepared a video for area police departments to heighten their awareness about the need to enforce these restrictions.

Spano said, “Over the years, the county’s Office for the Disabled has received thousands of complaints about parking. The three most common complaints are: no handicapped parking (or not enough) at a particular site; inadequate enforcement of handicapped parking laws; and misuse of permits by non-disabled people, including family members, friends and even thieves. Enforcement of parking laws is the responsibility of the local municipalities, but we hope that our education efforts will have a real impact and, ultimately, make life easier for people with disabilities in Westchester.”

Full Court Press

Westchester’s education program involves:

• A video developed by the county Communications Office with the Office for the Disabled that will be distributed to the chief elected officials and police departments in every Westchester municipality, to educate them about the spirit and the letter of the Vehicle & Traffic Law, and to raise awareness of the importance of strict enforcement of handicapped parking rules.

• Distribution by the county of posters and signs reminding people of the law.

• Distribution of “ticket pads” to the public to put on illegally parked cars reminding the owners of the cars that they are parked illegally and that a police officer could have given them a real ticket for the transgression.

Fines Finance the Campaign. Federal Grant for 80% of new van costs

The state is now collecting a $30 surcharge on fines paid on any handicapped parking violations. The Westchester public information campaign is being financed with Westchester’s share of the money.
The new paratransit vans each cost $56,491 — 80 percent of which was paid for with grants from the Federal Transit Administration. The state-of-the-art, raised roof vans are all equipped with wheelchair lifts and high contrast interior design to assist riders with low-vision. Each vehicle can accommodate seven ambulatory passengers and two wheelchair wpcnr_users.

177,000 ParaTransit Trips in 2001

ParaTransit is administered by the County Executive’s Office for the Disabled, with support from the Department of Transportation. There are approximately 4,000 people registered to use the service and last year the county provided 176,536 trips–over 14,000 more than the previous year. As demand for ParaTransit increases, Westchester hopes to increase the size of the county fleet; though the 18 vans that have been launched this month are replacements, an additional 18 are expected at the end of the summer which should allow for expansion of the system’s capacity.

Westchester County provides Bee-Line ParaTransit in compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, which prohibits discrimination based on disability in all activities of state and local government, as well as in the private sector.

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King Komments Galleria Intrigued by Children’s Museum

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King Comments by White Plains Councilman William King. April 30, 2002. 3:00 EDT. The peripatetic councilman suggests possible sites for a Children’s Museum in White Plains, and reports the latest “Galleria Spin” from Winnette Peltz, the Galleria General Manager. He reports a department store there within two months.
Winnette Peltz, the Galleria general manager, who was considerably more upbeat, naturally, than the last time I talked to her, which was after the shooting incident there 2 years ago, says she is intrigued by the idea of a children’s museum.

She said she saw such a museum in a converted dept. store in a mall in Poughkeepsie. I will have to go and take a look. She asked me how much space a children’s museum would need and I said I didn’t know, that I seen them in various sizes. I asked whether a store (or a children’s museum), other than a dept. store in the mall, could be 2 levels, as most of the children’s museums I have seen were on more than one floor, and she said there haven’t been any at the Galleria but she has seen them in other malls.

I mentioned to her about my contacting IKEA a few months ago about the Penney’s space which she appreciated. I said IKEA had only got back to me to say they would call me but they never did.

She said there is strong interest in the space, which the Galleria (Cadillac Fairview, the owner of a bunch of malls in the U.S. and Canada) bought from Penney’s last November and that, while they thought they were close to an announcement a few months ago and stranger things have happened in the real estate business, she thought there might be something to announce in the next few months in the way of a new dept. store in the old Penney’s. The new store would shoot for either a Christmas 2002 opening or in Spring 2003.

I think we’ll have to look at other space in the downtown, either existing space or as part of some redevelopment project. Cappelli hasn’t leased its second floor yet. They were going to contact the Children’s Museum of Manhattan after I last spoke to them.

People should take a look at Rochester’s. And, as I have heard, also Providence’s. Baltimore has done some exciting things for kids, too. There are even old exhibits probably somewhere in storage down there from the Baltimore City Life Museum, near the Inner Harbor, which was excellent, but closed.

I would also like to look at Paris’s children’s museum!

William King
White Plains City Councilman

King Komments is a periodic column from the White Plains Councilman carried exclusively by WPCNR.

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Local Girl Plays Palace: Elyse Spies, Hot Ticket Jazz Flutist at Art Council Sat

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WPCNR After Dark Nightly. By John F. Bailey with Alex Steinberg. April 26, 2002. 3:00 PM EDT: South Broadway Hipsteress, the disstaff “Herbie Mann,” Elyse Spies, plays a gig in her home city Saturday night at the Westchester Arts Council, 31 Mamaroneck Avenue, at 7 PM.

ELYSE SPIES, JAZZ FLUTIST, KEYBOARDIST, SINGER, COMPOSER SATURDAY NIGHT AT ARTS COUNCIL. Ms. Spies has played The Bottom Line, Triad Theatre, Lion’s Den, Baggot Inn CB’s Gallery, and is in demand at the NYC club scene.
Photo by As Communications LLC

Real White Plains Jazz

Spies lived on South Broadway in White Plains from 1996 to 1997, and is backed by guitarist Art Rotfeld and skinsman, Mike Severino, White Plains residents. Bassist Gary Ptak was born and raised in White Plains.

When Elyse takes the stage at the Arts Council Building Saturday evening, the patrons will be hearing jazz in White Plains by White Plains jazz musicians with a national reputation.

Tickets for her performance at the Westchester Arts Council Building, 31 Mamaroneck Avenue at the door are $15 apiece, a fraction of club prices, are available at the door for jazz aficionados to hear Ms. Spies with her combo of native White Plains jazzmen and lady. Elyse is backed up vocally by keyboard artist, Elleen Nicita of Brewster.

A traveling lady.

Elyse Spies, flutist and keyboard impresarioess, composes her own songs, and has been singled out by The Village Voice no less in favorable reviews.

Her first CD, Trip debuted in 2000, and was requested often on WFUV-FM and WARY-FM. This popularity earned her appearances at many of New York City’s hottest jazz clubs.

Spies attended Purchase College in Harrison, after a youth of many homes, spent singing, composing, playing the flute, studying under Jean Pierre Rampal’s student, Peggie Schecter. When she switched to composition courses at Purchase, consisting of learning recording technology, MIDI, jazz piano, and theory/composition, she changed the tunes she was playing.

Seduced by those cool jazz major.

“The jazz majors had quite the attitude,” Spies remembers. “Many times my musician friends and I would end up in the Music Building ‘trading 8s’ or ‘trading 16s’ on jazz standards. For a classical flute player, this was quite a challenging experience! I started a love-hate relationship with jazz. I was intrigued to learn it, but it was incredibly hard work on a flute.”

Meeting the White Plains “Cats”

“The autumn before my senior year of college, I joined ‘Swahoogie,’ a rock band,” Spies recalls. “The day I was asked to join the band, I went out and bought a keyboard. I went to one of their jams and when they heard I could sing, they let me sing some ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ on backup. Eventually, I was singing duets with the lead singer. We played at places like the Elbow Room, Downtime, and New Music CafĂ©’ in Greenwich Village.”

Elyse met up with the White Plains boys, guitarist Arthur Rotfeld and bassist Gary Ptak five years ago when she joined Swahoogie. The musical direction of all three to include an unmistakable jazz inflection, which can be heard on Spies Trip CD.

Drummer Mike Severino has been working with Rotfeld for a number of years.

Spies and backup vocalist/keyboardist Elleen Nicita have been acquainted for several years, teaching music students.

Rock-Jazz Eclectic Elyse.

Spies has song and played keyboard for Terre Roche of The Roches, with whom she played The Bottom Line for a year.

Now, White Plains welcomes back Ms. Spies Saturday night as featured performer with her band as part of the Westchester Arts Council Jazz Series, produced by Donovan Guy.

Spies is living the glamour of the club scene, which she will bring to White Plains Saturday night:

“I was 20 years old and never been to a club before – so the experience of playing in New York City clubs was quite exhilarating,” she reminisces. “I love the crazy scene. Now, I am breaking free and playing all my own material. I am using my classical knowledge, jazz experience, and original songwriting to create music.”

Ms. Spies talents can be heard live tomorrow evening at the Arts Council Building, 31 Mamaroneck Avenue. A limited number of tickets are available at the door.

You can hear her CD on her wesbsite, www.elysespies.com.

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Electronic Voting Machines Introduced to Council.

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WPCNR All News Final. By John F. Bailey. April 25, 2002. 11:00 PM EDT: Sequoia Voting Systems of Jamestown, NY and Election Systems & Software of Syracuse presented the ABC Advantage and V2000 electric voting machines to the Common Council Thursday evening. The council learned that to purchase new machines would cost the city approximately $600,000 for 80 machines to bring jamproof voting to White Plains voters.

RITA MALMUD TRIES OUT THE ABC ADVANTAGE VOTING MACHINE AT THE COMMON COUNCIL: The machine can be previewed at the company website, www.sequoiavote.com.
Photo by WPCNR

Both machines are similar. The “ballot with metal levers” is replaced by a flat, soft voting panel, with electronic touch squares in boxes below the preprinted ballot sheet, that can be reconfigured for each election. Voters depress the squares softly with the finger to vote for a candidate.

There are no mechanical parts. The machines when activated show lights to indicate offices to vote for. It is impossible to vote twice for a candidate. Write-ins are handled electronically with keypads.

Photo by WPCNR

A printed tape is provided by the V2000 with results, and a printed sheet with tallies is provided by the rival machine, the ABC Advantage. Each machine has 4 back-up memory banks and a cassette device to recreate the vote. Each has battery backup. Primary counting ability is made possible by the voting machine attendant who programs the party the voter announces before they step into the machine, making it impossible to vote for two parties.

The ABC Advantage machine that Councilperson Rita Malmud is trying out, is in use in 14 counties in New Jersey, including Bergen County, Union County, Hudson and Morris County and has a proven track record over 13 years. Douglas L. Van Sant, of Sequoia, said the County Clerk of Ocean County, New Jersey just this week was telling him how very pleased that county is with the technology.

IN USE FOR EIGHT YEARS, in St. Lawrence County, the V2000 may be viewed in detail on the Election Software and Systems website at www.essvote.com.
Photo by WPCNR

The V2000 Machine is in use in St. Lawrence County in New York, and one county in New Jersey and most closely approximates the standard New York State ballot voters are used to in its configuration, according to Larry Tonelli, the ESS spokesperson. Tonelli said Governor Pataki’s Committee on Modernization was very sensitive that the plastic ballot board be familiar to the voter.

“It looks just like your ballot,” Tonelli said. “That’s very important, because the least amount of change and description you can do is a great benefit.” The V2000 provides 16 rows down and 32 across, very similar to the typical ballot in a mechanical voting machine.

The ABC Advantage device, according to Van Sant, is being used in more counties in New Jersey than the V2000, with no adverse affect from its 12 columns across format with 54 lines down format. Van Sant said that Party Affiliations are run across the top of the ballot, and the offices to be voted for are run down the side, and voters have had no problem with that ballot configuration.

Van Sant reported that the ABC Advantage is not a computerized machine. Results cannot be erased by magnets. he says, “It is a good solid workhorse. It’s not a sophisticated system. Not a complex machine. It eliminates human error. It’s all boards and chips, no components can be demagnetized.”

Van Sant added that the Advantage is Americans With Disabilities Act-compliant, that a wheelchair could fit under the voting board and the button registering the vote reachable by a person in a wheelchair. Both Van Sant’s machine and Tonelli’s machine had accessories enabling the machine to be used by the blind and the hearing disabled.

Van Sant reported that the Westchester County Board of Elections is considering the Advantage for its absentee ballot system.

The Gretsas Report

After the presentations had been completed, George Gretsas, the Mayor’s Executive Officer, said the Governor’s Committee on Modernization was due to report its findings and recommendations on election machines by the end of April. He said that through “the grapevine” he has learned the Committee is expected to recommend county purchase of machines for the towns. He said it may authorize other kinds of voting machine formats such as a paginated ballot display in use in other states, or the voting kiosk recently tested in Grand Central Terminal. He said the Council had to consider whether now was the right time to buy these machines since, they were old technology. The Advantage, in fact was first used in Bergen County the very year when Mr. Gretsas was on the ballot for the Board of Education there.

On the other hand, Gretsas wryly observed, a new system has no track record of success as the V2000 and ABC Advantage have, which would be one of the first questions asked about any new system.

Gretsas reported that the two houses of congress are currently reconciling their separate bills authorizing federal funding for new election systems. Gretsas said it was thought that the thrust of these bills was to replace punchcard systems, not voting machines. But, it is unclear at this time what federal aid and conditions will be in the reconciled version. “There are a lot of issues,” he said.

City could bond the project for 5 years. A 6/10 of a percent tax increase.

Gretsas said that the city financial departments recommended they bond the purchase over five years, which would amount to approximately $170,000 in the first year, resulting in a 6.6% tax increase in the budget, instead of a 6.3% increase now planned in the 2002-03 Budget.

Eliot Spitzer Has Not Contacted Larry Delgado

A rueful observer in the audience was private citizen, former Councilman Larry Delgado, whose loss to Glen Hockley, was sealed by a jammed voting machine in District 18 last November. Mr. Delgado told WPCNR he had written the Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, asking him to look into the matter of a quo warranto proceeding. Delgado said he was told “we were looking into it, and we’ll get back to you.” It has been a month, and Mr. Spitzer has not responded to Mr. Delgado’s plea.

Roach praised by Mayor Delfino for taking the lead on the issue.

Mayor Joseph Delfino complimented Councilman Tom Roach for putting the city out in front on this issue.

Mr. Roach thanked the Mayor and his staff “You’ve worked very hard on this. I think this is the right time to be looking at this. There’s no remedy that would have recreated what actually happened on Election Day (in November, last year). I appreciate the hard work that went into this (presentation).”

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Scarsdale Moves Seniors Home in Saxon Woods Along

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WPCNR Daily Mirror. By John F. Bailey. April 24, 2002 12:30 PM: EDT: REALM, Incorporated, the builder of senior care homes, which plans a 115-Unit Nursing Home or Senior Care facility for the property adjacent to the Ethical Culture Society of Westchester property off Saxon Woods Road, had their Final Environmental Impact Statement accepted by the Scarsdale Planning Board Wednesday evening, without comment.

SITE OF PROPOSED REALM SENIOR/NURSING COMPLEX: Shown as it looked in January of this year, the site of the REALM three-story, L-shaped complex for senior living needs to acquire access to the site by widening the bridge shown in the foreground of the driveway leading in from two-lane Saxon Woods Road.
Photo by WPCNR

Elizabeth Marrinan, Village Planner of Scarsdale set May 13, as the last date for interested parties to present comment to the Scarsdale Planning Board, pending an anticipated public hearing on the site plan and special permit authorization in June.

ACCEPTS WITHOUT COMMENT: The Scarsdale Planning Board in Scarsdale Town did not notifiy White Plains they were considering the Final Environmental Impact Statement for acceptance, Wednesday evening, according to Planning Commissioner Susan Habel. The Board is shown, minutes after their unanimous acceptance of the FEIS.
Photo by WPCNR

Architect pleased, optimistic.

Frank S. Fish, the architect of the project, of Buckhurst Fish & Jacquemart, Inc., told WPCNR he was very pleased about the Planning Board’s acceptance of the FEIS, and said he expected a public hearing on the project before the Planning Board in June.

Fish said he had last spoken with the White Plains Planning Department’s Rod Johnson, Deputy Commissioner of Planning January 28, and had not spoken with Susan Habel, Planning Commissioner since a recent meeting they had attended.

Habel concerned.

Habel was surprised to learn about that the Scarsdale Planning Board was taking up the FEIS because, she said, they were supposed to notify the White Plains Planning Department when the matter was to be taken up once more.

Fish said he would be delivering the copies of the FEIS to the Scarsdale Planning Board by the end of this week, and expected that the Scarsdale Board would forward the FEIS to the White Plains Planning Department. He was hopeful of beginning construction in September.

Fish was guardedly optimistic about the friendly acceptance by the Plannning Board. He said that White Plains had sued to be the lead agency on the project, but were denied, with the Department of Environmental Conservation ruling that the Scarsdale Planning Board was to be the lead agency.

Scarsdale-White Plains Border War.

Fish said he was not worried that White Plains would sue to prevent the project. He said that there already is a road into the property off of Saxon Woods Road, and it simply has to be widened to provide access to the site.

“They lost before,” he said, referring to the DEC decision. Fish did not offer an explanation of why they could not access the site from Scarsdale. “There’s already a road there,” he added, meaning the driveway leading into the property from Saxon Woods Road.

Graessle’s Finest Hour

The REALM project Draft Environmental Impact Statement was severely criticized by former Planning Commissioner Michael Graessle last August in a rare reversal of roles. Graessle presented a stinging indictment of the REALM DEIS noting inconsistencies and a lack of definition of the facility, whether it was a senior care home, or a nursing home, which has to be licensed by the state Health Department.

Graessle added that White Plains would have to issue fourteen licenses and permits for construction of any road into the property, and provide water and sewer service.

The road into the property targeted for the facility is in White Plains, while the majority of the property is in Scarsdale.

Scarsdale Planning Board using consultants to guide them through the Environmentally Sensitive site process.

The Scarsdale Planning Board does not have extensive experience in handling environmentally sensitive sites. A consultant has been guiding them through the labyrinth.

Mike Healy, a consultant reviewing the FEIS for the Village of Scarsdale, and speaking for the engineer firm, too, said the FEIS had answered most of the questions raised by the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, and he felt it was in order for the Planning Board to accept.

The Planning Board voted unanimously to accept the FEIS.

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Cappelli In the Money. Signs Westin Hotels to Exclusive.

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WPCNR Afternoon Tribune. By John F. Bailey. April 24, 2002. UPDATED 3:30 PM EDT: Louis Cappelli announced today on the steps of City Hall that he had secured $190 Million of the $240 Million in construction costs to fund the retail portion and North Tower of the City Center Project.

SUPER DEVELOPER CLOSES HIS DEAL: Louis Cappelli takes questions from news reporters, Susan Elan and John Jordan, on steps of City Hall Wednesday, announcing that the City Center has closed after a three-month “closing process,” culminating in a 10-day marathon session with eight law firms.
Photo by WPCNR

He said the remaining $70 Million in financing was already committed to by his consortium of banks, pending his decision on interior configuration of the South (Martine Avenue) Tower of the project.

Cappelli reported he had signed an exclusive agreement with the Westin Hotel chain to run a hotel, “if he builds a hotel in White Plains.” The “Super-Developer” also said he remained “active” in the White Plains real estate market, and would decide in the next three months whether to build a hotel/condominium combination in the North Tower of the project (overlooking Main Street). Asked about the Halpern property on Main Street, currently being shopped, Cappelli said “it was a beautiful piece of property.”

Demolition of the Main-Martine Garage, Cappelli said was to begin in approximately 3 weeks. More details later.

Cappelli opts for 4 Floor City Center. Project High Balled.

Since July 17 when an Excavator first pierced the old Macy’s building, Louis Cappelli has been waiting for this day. It was the day when the Super Developer announced he had his financial package in place. Speaking to reporters from the steps of city hall, he outlined the newest configuration of the City Center.

Cappelli told assembled media outlets that the City Center will now consist of a Target Store on the ground floor. The street level floor on Mamaroneck Avenue and Main will be occupied by Circuit City, Legal Seafood (in the Greenpoint Bank building, Applebee’s Restaurant, and Zanaro’s, and a branch of Greenpoint Bank.

He said the second floor of the City Center is not leased right now because he wants to keep his options open in hopes that Sears Indoor Store would lease the entire floor, or that another tenant such as a Ballys, the health club, might lease the second floor. Cappelli said he had engineered the floorage to carry the weightloads that a furniture operation such as Sears Indoor Store would require.

The fourth floor of the City Center will be the National Amusements Theater and the Community Arts Theater.

Westin Hotels wins the Cappelli Hotel Stakes.

Mr. Cappelli announced a signed agreement naming Westin Hotels the hotel he will be working with, and the Super Developer talking to WPCNR, worded the Westin announcement very delicately, saying if he builds a hotel “in White Plains,” it will be a Westin Hotel. Cappelli reported he had not decided whether to include the hotel in the South Tower on Martine Avenue, and told us what is next:

“After the next three weeks, (I haven’t slept in seven months), I’m going to be relaxing, doing nothing. Then we’re going to get started on deciding what the second (South)Tower is going to be, doing the (interior) designs on that second tower as far as it being whether it’s a condo, residential-rental, or a condo and hotel. We’ll make that decision in the design process in the next 90 days. It’s a question of what’s inside of it. If it’s not residential rentals, and it’s a condo, I’ll have to come back to the Common Council, because there’s a change in the taxes, the PILOT, and if it’s a condo and hotel it has to come back to Council for site plan approval.”

Cappelli “active” in White Plains market.

Cappelli confirmed that Ritz-Carlton hotels is now no longer being considered for the project.

WPCNR asked if Mr. Cappelli was looking elsewhere in the city. Mr. Cappelli was noncommittal, saying, “I think White Plains is a wonderful place to do business up to this point, and is going to be an even better place to do business in the future. There’s some very exciting things going on in White Plains, very exciting.”
Asked if he was looking for other acquisitions, Cappelli said, “I’m active. I’m active. I’m active.”

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Connors Commits to 7. City “Fine School System.”

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WPCNR Morning Sun. By John F. Bailey. April 24, 2003. UPDATED 1:30 PM EDT:Timothy Connors, the Board of Education’s “Superintendent-Select,” was introduced to approximately 75 persons Tuesday evening at White Plains High School and won over a skeptical crowd by giving candid answers to hard questions. Wednesday morning he met with Mayor Joseph Delfino as part of his formal introduction to White Plains.

WHITE PLAINS EDUCATION’S NEW FIRST COUPLE: Timothy Connors, and his wife, Jean, meet and greet White Plains residents at Mr. Connors’ debut in the community last night at White Plains High School.They will be moving to the City when Mr. Connors assumes Superintendent of Schools post July 1.
Photo by WPCNR

Mayor Joseph Delfino said today that his meeting with Mr. Connors at 8 AM this morning went well.

“Basically, we just talked about both our backgrounds, and I can tell you that obviously he’s an outwardtgoing person,” the Mayor told WPCNR at City Hall today. “We had a nice relationship. We had discussed and planned to meet periodically, as much as even quarterly and sit and talk about issues facing both of us. We both agree the school system and the city are basically participating with the same children. They’re our children. I’m looking forward to sitting with him and working together as one unit to better the children of this community. He’s going to be very proactive. He’s going to be out there as much as anyone.”

That was the impression this reporter gained from Connors’ appearance Tuesday evening at the high school.

Speaking for 8 minutes, then throwing the forum open to hard questions and his own forthright answers for 1 hour and 10 minutes, Connors said he was committed to White Plains for at least seven years. He said he and his wife are looking for a home in the city.

He produced a groundswell of good will in his audience by the end of the evening with eyebrow-raising candor, unequivocal stances on school testing, and returning again and again, to his mantra: commitment to the individual child.

Connors, looking like he could still go on patrol for the U.S. Marine Corps, in which he served three years, took over the room after being introduced by Board of Education President Donna McLaughlin. He disarmed the most passionate advocates for education in the city, concerned parents, with comments on his life, his educational philosophy, and an honesty that resonated positively with about 50 parents, 15 teachers, and a handful of district administrators.

WORKING THE ROOM: White Plains gets their first impressions of Tim Connors as he conducts the longest news conference we’ve seen in White Plains.
Photo by WPCNR

Connors Connects with his Audience.

Many reacting positively after the Connors Q & A, were the same faces who had filled this room last fall angrily reacting to Dr. Saul Yanofsky’s firing. By the close of Mr. Connors’ chat with parents, they were laughing at his banter, asking what team he rooted for (Yankees), and asking when his birthday was. There was a genuine welcoming effort. One resident got up and “welcomed him to White Plains,” and warm applause followed.

Comments from five parents, WPCNR talked to were positive, upbeat, and far more impressed with Mr. Connors than they expected to be.

Board President Donna McLaughlin introduced Connors as the man the Board hopes “will strengthen the program, and will bring us to the next level.” Then Mr. Connors took a stick mike in hand, strode out from behind the podium and faced the music and the “Tim Connors Show” was on.

“Committed to this thing called Public Education.”

Mr. Connors made clear he was here in White Plains because he was “proud to be here,” because he and his wife, Jean, were “committed to this thing called public education.” He said to do that, “we have to come to this community,” and that he and his wife were looking for a home in White Plains.

Tours High School, Highlands Middle School, and Mamaroneck Avenue School.

Connors took a whirlwind tour of three White Plains schools Tuesday morning. He was impressed:

“I learned today, in going through your schools, education is going on for all of your children. And I’m in this biz, for the children. From what I can see, from the schools today, from everything I’ve read, from the state reports, this is a community that cares about their children.”

THE TIM CONNORS SHOW: “Next Question?” says the Man from Danbury, as he delivered thoughtfully taking questions from the people of White Plains Tuesday night.
Photo by WPCNR

His mother his hero.

In opening remarks, Connors said his mother, who is 86 years old, was his life model who raised him, according to “the golden rule – treat others the way you want to be treated and they will do the same to you.”

Connors said he grew up in Massachussetts, won an athletic scholarship to Springfield College, served three years in the U.S. Marine Corps, and felt, even as a child, that the way he could really make a difference in life was to teach. He began teaching social studies and coaching track and football. He decided he could make “more of a difference” by being an Assistant Principal, and getting into administration. He saw he could “impact” the whole school by being a Principal, which he was for ten years. Mr. Connors, in capsulating his biography has obviously been making a difference everywhere he has gone: As an Assistant Superintendent, and as a Superintendent of Schools in Woonsocket, Rhode Island,(1982-92), Bloomington, Minnesota,(1992-1997) and for the last five years, Danbury, Connecticut.

“I’m a Change Agent.”

Connors shared his philosophy with the audience, “I’m a change agent. I advocate for children.” He said, in reference to news stories that he was taking the White Plains job to sweeten his retirement, that he looked upon coming to White Plains, as “a great opportunity to enhance a fine school system, and work with the great staff you have here.”

Later, asked specifically how long he expected to stay, he said he hoped to stay seven years, signing a three-year contract and, he hoped, a four-year contract if the Board of Education was pleased with his work.

The Connors Entry Plan.

Connors finished his opening “monolog” by saying up front that he understood the district is unhappy with test scores, and said that he had an “Entry Plan,” which he said would involve “surveys” of parents, “listening to what your concerns are.”

Commenting on how he’d tackle raising test scores, he said his philosophy was “to educate every child, and maximize their potential for learning.” He commented that “I can tell you as an outsider you’re (test scores are) very high. Together over time we can make an improvement,” and later, “we have to see that the trend is to increase. We have to see what we can do to achieve that.”

Connors returned to the test question again and again. He said tests were important, but was more concerned with the “body of knowledge” each child was acquiring along the way: “I guarantee you (that if the body of knowledge is there), our test scores will go up.” Connors was honest that he was not familiar with New York State standards and would be studying them hard in the weeks to come to get up to speed. (“I have a lot of homework to do.”)

Turns Forum Into a News Conference for Parents

He delivered his opening monolog in a fast-moving, articulated velvet mellow tone, reminiscent of Vaughn Monroe, then Connors asked for questions from the audience, creating the most outstanding “News
Conference,” this reporter has seen this year.

“I Want to Hear Your Questions.

At twenty past eight, Connors threw the meeting open to queries from the floor. For an hour and ten minutes, the questions came rapid-fire and were handled deftly, intelligently, we thought, with little parrying and ducking.

STARTING THE JOB: Timothy Connors disdains the podium to talk directly to the crowd in Kennedyesque style. Donna McLaughlin, Board of Education President is at left.
Photo By WPCNR

Responding to a question on his retirement, Connors said “he had a great relationship with the city of Danbury,” and told them the reason he was leaving them was “I can enhance my life, not retirement. You’re (White Plains) an outstanding school district. I want to be a part of that.”

Philosophy: Be the Best.

Connors shared what he has told the Danbury staffs at the beginning of the year: “ When I meet with them at the beginning of the year, I tell them you have to be the best you can be because that’s what your children deserve.”

An Ability to Persuade.

Connors said he was a believer that we all need a “good learning environment.” In Danbury, Connors has committed the district to a $100 Million long-range expansion of the schools, which he convinced the Mayor and city government to provide.

On message.

Asked how he would operate with the School Board, Connors said, “I’ll be clear with the School Board where we want to go.” He said that his agenda coming in was to present the White Plains schools in “a better image,” and that he firmly believed “The best schools in town are the public schools.”

Test Scores are “Snapshots,” Not Goals.

Connors took a position between those who would abolish state testing and those who are eager to increase scores. He said he saw the tests as “snapshots,” showing where a student is at any one moment, but that anyone who says they can make large gains, “they don’t know what they’re talking about.” He scoffed at the federal government test standards recently introduced, which state that in a few years all children will be able to score at certain levels, saying, “they don’t know what they are talking about.”

Queried on how much he had improved Danbury’s test scores, Connors, true to form said that it was only a matter of three points, and that what mattered was the trend.

All Should Read by the End of Third Grade. Parents Play Big Role.

Connors has his own standard: He feels all students should read by the end of the third grade. He said this can be achieved by “giving remediation to get them back on track.”

He added that he would give teachers a free hand in how they wished to teach children how to read, as long as they got the reading job done. He said that “all of you (teachers and parents) can learn and provide the environment where that (reading) happens.”
He said he feels that “Reading is eclectic in its approach. What works for you (the teacher) is what is most effective for the child in front of you. You do whatever it takes to get it done, and I’ll support you.”

Parents must give feedback.

Connors said he would actively seek parent involvement, saying “You have a responsibility to give feedback, to the teacher, the principal, to administrators, the Board.” He said he would conduct surveys regularly to gauge the concerns of the district. He is firmly committed to the same parent involvement and outreach programs White Plains has now. He will design more such programs, as he learns how the parent-child involvement needs.

The Superintendent-Select exhorted parents to be advocates for the schools, to involve themselves, not just by coming to meetings, but by asking about their children’s school days, keeping track of their childrens’ peers and who they are, and talking and inquiring about their child’s performance. He said he would look for ways to involve parents to a greater degree who were not coming to the schools.

Defuses School Choice Fears.

Connors said the White Plains School Choice program is lauded by Harvard University as one of the two best programs in the nation, and said he had no plans to change it: “If it’s working it’s meeting the needs of the District,” he said.

Achievement Gap Related to Maximizing Potential to Learn.

Connors said that he attacked the Achievement Gap between blacks and Hispanics in comparison to white students, on a student-by-student basis. He pointed out that his Danbury SAT scores were averaging 475, and that his district goal was now 500. He said he had his Danbury District pay for students to take the Preliminary Scholastic Apptitude Tests to encourage them to see where they were.

He added that he was an advocate for providing the remedial intensity required to help the minority students close that gap. He said that meant to him whatever it takes, bringing books to the students, setting up library, or parent outreach programs.

Big Grant Hunter

The “Finalist” noted his success at acquiring grants for a health center in the Danbury Middle School, and two of the 99 Federal 21st Century Grants nationwide. He employed a full time grant writer in Danbury.

Consensus his Goal in Conflict.

Asked how he would handle disagreement with the Board of Education, Connors reported, “We always work them out. How we work through it in the best interests of the children is my concern. We always have to be willing to listen.

Teacher Drain

Connors saw the loss of teachers due to retirement saying to him that one-third of the teachers in the district are at the early stages of their career. He said he saw his role as nurturing the newer teachers to adjust and develop their craft through appropriate staff development, so they would spend their entire careers in the White Plains schools.

Says “What About the Student-in-the-Middle?” Criticism is a Myth.

The “Man from Danbury” noted that it has been his experience that “I have yet to know a School District that ignores any group of students.” He says he has heard the same complaint in every district he has been in during his career, and “I don’t know that it is valid.”

BOARD PRESIDENT INTRODUCES MR. CONNORS. Donna McLaughlin, of the Board of Education presents Tim Connors to White Plains. She described him as the man who can bring us to the next level.
Photo by WPCNR

Hiring of High School Principal Up to Yanofsky.

Donna McLaughlin, Board President, took great care in thanking the citizens’ committee that helped interview the two finalists in the Superintendent Search. She said that the Board of Education had been presented with 31 candidates from 14 states by Hazard Young Attea, the search firm that that brought them Timothy Connors.

WPCNR asked if hiring of a high school principal to replace William Colavito at White Plains High School would be Mr. Connors’ decision, and Ms. McLaughlin said that Dr. Yanofsky was still in charge of that decision. McLaughlin said she expected no departures from the Yanofsky roster of Assistant Superintendents. “The Board wants them to stay,” she told WPCNR Thursday.

Connors to Meet Mayor Delfino Today.

Mr. Connors said he would meet Mayor Joseph Delfino this morning for the first time, and looked forward to working closely with the city.

McLaughlin, in introducing Connors, said that a member of the Danbury School Board called her personally and told her they were very “unhappy that Connors was leaving, but that we were getting a good man because he knows how much time Tim spends in the schools.”

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Bloomington’s Addie Mattson Remembers Tim Connors.

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WPCNR Afternoon Tribune. By John F. Bailey. April 23, 2002. 2 PM: Timothy P. Connors, the “Superintendent-Select” of the White Plains Board of Education to head the City School District when Dr. Saul Yanofsky leaves June 30, came into a district in Minnesota in 1992, following a very popular superintendent, and facing a serious budget crisis. Addie Mattson remembers his extraordinary contributions to the Bloomington Schools.

According to Addie Mattson, Community Relations Coordinator of the Bloomington Public Schools, Mr. Connors quickly won over the district, made tough decisions about a budget, and initiated “ahead-of-his-time” measures to address minority achievement, and attracted new funds. He left under good terms to head back East.

Is Timothy Connors the right stuff for White Plains?

Mr. Connors will begin to answer those questions tonight at White Plains High School when the Board of Education introduces him at a Community Forum in the B-1, All-Purpose Room, off North Street at 8 PM. The public is invited.

Ten Years Ago He Was the Right Stuff for Bloomington, Minnesota

Mr. Connors is no stranger to coming into tough situations and staying the course. He was before coming to Bloomington, superintendent of schools in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, where he stayed ten years, winning Superintendent of the Year.

He moved on to Bloomington, Minnesota in 1992.

Ms. Mattson remembers. Mr. Connors is a firm believer in communicating with his School District constituents directly, as evidenced by his first move. He hired Ms. Mattson as Community Relations Director, a post she still holds to this day. She spoke by telephone with WPCNR Friday and told us what Mr. Connors’ Bloomingdale years were like.

“A Number of Contributions. Style: Easy to Work With.”

Ms. Mattson, in her comfortable heartland drawl, reminisced, “I think Tim made a number of contributions that really helped the school district move forward. Since he has left, (1997), we’ve built on that and continued our progress. I reported directly to Tim while he was with us.

“For my part I found him easy to work with, accessible, good at communications, out in the community a lot. He made it a point to be in the schools very, very frequently, so he had a very fine understanding of how things were working for kids.”

Easterner Fits in With “Stolid Minnesotans.”

Asked how Mr. Connors, being from the Northeast made the transition to “stolid Minnesotans,” Ms. Mattson said, “Well, we’re not stolid, for one thing. We value very highly hard work. We got that from Tim. We value education and we got that. So we had a lot of common ground.”

Bloomington Larger Than White Plains, With a Lot of Match-ups.

“Bloomington the city, and Bloomington the school district are pretty much the same space,” she said. “Bloomington is a city of about 88,000. We are the second ranked suburb of Minneapolis, Southwest central. We’re a quite affluent community, though we have a broad range within that. We’re predominantly white, but becoming increasingly diverse. We have a lot of strong community support for our schools. People don’t write a blank check. You have to make a good case for money and support, and they act on that behavior.”

Convincing, Committed Leader

Mattson said that Bloomington now is fully developed and at a point where people have have decided we are going to “reinvigorate ourselves.” She reported that shortly after Mr. Connors left the district, the city passed what was at the time a state record for a capital bond referendum to renovate all of Bloomington’s schools.

Mattson said that “there would have been laid some things in place as groundwork,” begun by Connors for the eventual passage of that referendum in 1999, that sold the referendum to the Bloomington voters.

Connors Highlight Reel

When Connors worked for Bloomington, it was 15 to 18% minority population, and as Mattson describes it, (White Plains is approximately 53% minority), “diversity was just starting to come on the radar for a lot of people, one of the places it is most visible of course, is in schools. We had one school in particular that was relatively more diverse than the rest. Tim made some good steps in terms of that school, and kids generally, that he was responsible for.”

Established “Diversity Coordinator Position.”

Connors established a “Diversity Coordinator Position,” a district-wide position. That person is still with us, she says, and “we’ve built on that. Our district is now diverse enough to qualify for state distribution money. So Tim, with his focus on urban diversity, certainly, right there was the leading edge of that. He strengthened it there.”

Secured Funding for Schools Where Poverty an Issue.

Connors, she reports, helped Bloomington, secure “extra resources for schools where poverty was an issue. What happens of course, is you often have a correlation between diversity and poverty, although it’s not a perfect fit. They are not the same thing, but they coexist.”

Practical, Pragmatic, Progressive Persuasive Futurist

In speaking with Mattson, Connors appeared to be a man with an eye to making good decisions for the future that stand the test of time. Statewide testing came to Minnesota six years ago, according to Mattson, at the end of the Connors era. She said he had already secured extra funding at schools where minority achievement was an issue.

“I remember no dissatisfaction that came out in any official way. We’re always striving to be better.”

Technology on a Budget.

Connors, at the same time White Plains was technologizing its schools, was upgrading Bloomington schools technology. He also established a technology model, Mattson reports, “which we’re still following.”

Mattson described her former boss as, “very committed to the technology for all employees and students. He was able to put a (technology) model out there, using what were then scarce resources for it, and developing the support of all the principals to allocate funds from each of the schools to assemble a model media center in what was then our intermediate school. We follow that model now as we’re going through these renovations. He was very instrumental in having that handled.”

Implemented Sweeping Schedule Changes.

Mr. Connors is able to tackle sacred cows.

Mattson said Connors “required” the high school to “develop a new schedule system so that we could eliminate some of the course choices the kids were having to make, such as continuing in music or taking a foreign language.” Asked how he achieved this, Mattson said he simply told the administrators that “we are going to do this, so you can either work out a way to do it, or we will do it for you.”

PILOTed All-Day Kindergarten.

Connors created the Bloomington All-Day Kindergarten, which, she says is “now available in most of our elementary schools. It’s choice. That was tested while he was here, and that’s become a success for sure.”

The Leave-taking.

Mattson said, “We felt there were pull factors, more than push factors. Number one, he had a strong, strong interest in urban education. That was his academic background. While Bloomington was becoming increasingly diverse, you would not think of it as an urban environment. All of his roots were in the East.”

Mattson said he came to Bloomington because of its “strong national reputation for strong programs, forward looking leadership and community support.” Connors created many of those programs. She says, for example, “Bloomington attracts administrators from all over America. Our latest financial administrator came from Hawaii.”

The Scouting Report.

“We felt he was a person with high energy, looking over the horizon, recognizing problems, and moving forward,” Mattson summed up. “There’s one thing that Tim said when he first got here, that I heard him say many times, particularly when we were dealing with challenges:

“Everybody sends us the best kids they’ve got and from there its our responsibility to move them along to their fullest potential.”

” I think he acted on that, this community expected that, and his time here was very progressive.”

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