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Scarsdale SBNC

For Release March 19, 2024 – The 2024 School Board Nominating Committee (“SBNC” or the “Committee”) has selected Leah Dembitzer and James Dugan for the 2024 non-partisan slate for election to the Scarsdale Board of Education. The Committee chose Leah and Jim from a pool of dedicated candidates after a thorough vetting process. If elected during the school board election on May 21, 2024, Leah will assume her role as a first-term school board member and Jim, who currently serves as a member of the Board of Education, will return for his second term effective July 1, 2024.


The Candidates

The SBNC enthusiastically endorses Leah and Jim for election to the School Board. These two qualified candidates will bring different perspectives and draw on complementary backgrounds and experiences to serve our community. What they have in common is a deep commitment to maintaining the excellence of the Scarsdale schools and serving different constituents.

Leah Dembitzer

Leah has lived in Scarsdale for 15 years. She and her husband, David, have three children- two of whom attend Scarsdale High School and one enrolled at Quaker Ridge School. Leah currently serves as PT Council President for the 2023-24 Scarsdale Council of Parent-Teacher Associations as well as a Board Member for the Westchester-Putnam PTA. These roles cap off a track record of a dozen years of community volunteerism which have heavily emphasized service to our District’s schools (via committee and leadership roles across the elementary, middle, and high schools) as well as membership and committee and leadership work in support of the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale and Westchester (including a two-year tenure as League’s president) and of Westchester Reform Temple (including involvement on the Board of Trustees).

Leah has supported complex initiatives across our community including Budget Study, DEI, literacy (co-chairing the Young Writers’ Workshop), both executing on established programs and innovating and spearheading new initiatives (such as the SMS House Parents pilot program during the 2020-21 year when COVID meaningfully impacted District activities).

Leah was heralded as a hard worker, good listener, well organized, approachable, collaborative, and open-minded based on the feedback the Committee sought out regarding her candidacy. These attributes, paired with the deep and broad knowledge she has of our community and, in particular, the seven Scarsdale schools and District operations borne of her years of volunteering in our community, position her to be a welcome addition to the School Board.

Leah said “I am deeply honored that the SBNC has nominated me to run on its slate for the Scarsdale Board of Education. I thank the members and Chair of the SBNC for their diligence and hard work during this process. If elected, I look forward to serving our incredible community and working collaboratively with the Board members and Administration to support our students and move our schools forward.”

James Dugan

Jim has been a resident of Scarsdale for over 17 years. He and his wife, Shirley, have three children who attend Scarsdale High and Middle Schools. Jim is currently a partner in the Litigation Department at Willkie Farr & Gallagher, LLP focusing on complex commercial litigation. He has more than 28 years of experience representing Fortune 500 companies, hedge funds, private equity firms, C-level executives, and accounting and financial services firms in securities class actions, shareholder derivative litigation, bankruptcy litigation, contract disputes, employment disputes, and restrictive covenant and non-compete litigation. As a member of Willkie’s Pro Bono Committee, Jim has dedicated substantial time to working on cases for the Innocence Project. He served on the Cornell Law School Alumni Board for three years and is currently a member of the New York City Bar Association.

Shortly after moving to Scarsdale, Jim became an active member of the Overhill Neighborhood Association, joining the board and then eventually becoming president of the association and serving for two years in that role. Through this role, he was instrumental in fostering a sense of community for that corner of Scarsdale and keeping neighbors apprised of key issues around the village. He was also a founding member of the Coalition for Scarsdale Schools which was engaged around the issue of elementary school class sizes. This was a natural role for him as he was passionate about maintaining the excellence of our school system. He has also served on the Citizens Nominating Committee, the CNC Procedures Committee, and has served in numerous roles at St. James the Less Episcopal Church. In each of these community roles, Jim has proven a tireless volunteer, giving of his time and expertise to work collaboratively to make Scarsdale a great place to live.

References for Jim uniformly recommended him for reconsideration for the Board of Education based on his primary strengths including being direct, methodical, straightforward, and professional – and, in particular, as someone capable of finding compromise to help reach consensus. This aligns with what the Committee members have observed of his Board service to date. As evidenced by his active and thoughtful participation during board meetings across his first term, Jim will continue to serve the School Board and community well with his valuable skills and perspective.

Jim noted “I’m truly honored to be nominated to serve a second term on the Board of Education. It is my privilege to be a part of supporting Scarsdale’s great and continuing legacy of excellence in public education, and I look forward to continuing to serve the community in this important role. Many thanks to the SNBC for their valuable work in vetting and proposing a slate for the 2024 school board election.”

The Committee

The SBNC is a non-partisan committee comprised of 26 voting members (with representatives from each of the five elementary districts) who serve for a three year term, and is chaired by a non-voting member. Over the course of Sunday meetings from January through March, this year’s committee conducted extensive candidate outreach to encourage interested community members to apply, listened to applicant presentations, questioned them, conducted detailed due diligence on all applicants, and considered potential candidates’ qualifications and characteristics. Pursuant to the SBNC Resolution, committee deliberations concerning candidates are confidential and the SBNC selects candidates “solely on their qualifications to serve the community” and not on their campaigning abilities or positions on specific issues. All discussions, deliberations, and references shared in Committee are kept confidential. Informed and engaged residents willing to serve on the SBNC and the School Board, along with voter participation, help to ensure the highest quality school board leadership.

The SBNC congratulates Jim and Leah on their nomination and thanks all applicants who went through the nominating process. “I am grateful to the Committee members for their dedication, hard work, and thoughtful consideration, to the applicants for their demonstrated commitment to our community which was further evidenced by their courageous willingness to participate in our rigorous selection process, and to the broader Scarsdale community for its support of the SBNC’s efforts to help shape the excellence of the Scarsdale schools and ensure student success and wellbeing,” noted Valerie Phillips, Chair of the SBNC for 2023-24.

Voters in the School District are encouraged to vote on Tuesday, May 21, 2024 in the Scarsdale Middle School Gym. In addition to voting for two School Board seats, District voters will also be voting on a proposed School District Budget for the 2024-25 school year.

For more information on the SBNC, please visit our website at or contact the SBNC Chair.

Inquiries and contacts concerning this press release:

Please Participate

Scarsdale is fortunate to maintain a nonpartisan election process for the Board of Education that selects candidates based solely on their qualifications to serve, not on their campaigning abilities or positions on specific issues. Informed and engaged residents willing to serve on the SBNC and the School Board, along with voter participation, help to ensure the highest quality school board leadership. Please consider serving or suggesting other school district residents to fill future vacancies. You can do so at any time by emailing

In addition, please consider a donation to the SBNC. The SBNC elections and process are financed by your contributions alone. Donations are solely used for running the SBNC elections and not towards any candidate. Any amount would be appreciated. Please visit

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