Sobol Award Full Release

November 21, 2016

First Annual Thomas Sobol Service Award Recipients Announced

Two long time Scarsdale employees, Christopher O’Brien, Director of Information Services for the Village of Scarsdale, and Christopher Renino, Assistant Principal at Scarsdale High School, will be the recipients of the first Annual Thomas Sobol Award for Service to the Community. They will be honored at a luncheon to be held at the offices of Scarsdale Edgemont Family Counseling Service at noon on December 8. The announcement was made by SFCS Board President Kathy Steves on November 17th. Scarsdale Edgemont Family Counseling Service is the sponsor of the Award.  

Dr. Sobol was one of the nation’s leading educators who, from 1971-1987, served as Scarsdale’s Superintendent of Schools, then as New York State Commissioner of Education from 1987-1995, and subsequently as Professor of Education at Columbia Teachers’ College, until his retirement in 2006. The New York Times characterized Dr. Sobol as a “fervent advocate for imposing broad academic standards, subsidizing poor urban districts, empowering parents and teachers to make policy, and promoting a multicultural curriculum.” He firmly believed that educational excellence in the classroom must be combined with support at home and that ALL children should have the opportunity to learn.  

While in Scarsdale, Dr. Sobol was instrumental in helping to establish the Scarsdale Community Youth Service Project, a unique collaboration between the Village and the Schools and administered by SFCS, providing significantly to the well-being of students in the Middle and High Schools. “The purpose of the award is to recognize two employees who work in Scarsdale, one from the Village and one from the Schools, for their distinguished service to the community over a period of years, who like Dr. Sobol, set an example of professional skill and loyalty to the community” said Bill Miller, SFCS Board Treasurer and one of the organizers of the Sobol award. “This would convey to the people who work in Scarsdale that its residents appreciate their efforts, and at the same time honor the memory of Tom Sobol.”  

Christopher O’Brien has faithfully served the Village’s Information Technology Department for the last twenty-seven years. He began working for the Village of Scarsdale on a part time basis in 1989 and was appointed as a full-time employee in 1992. Christopher’s leadership abilities and technological vision for the Village’s future led to his promotion to the position of Director of Information Services in 2001.

“Christopher is known for his respectful manner, modest disposition, and readiness to serve. His helpful style and analytic abilities are significant and many of his initiatives have enhanced the delivery of services to the greater Scarsdale community” said Scarsdale Village Manager Steve Pappalardo. Pappalardo went on to say “Christopher was ahead of his time when he created and designed the Village’s website over two decades ago.” “The Village was one of the first municipalities in Westchester to have its own website.” Additional accomplishments credited to O’Brien include drafting and implementing the Village-wide Computer Implementation Plan which prompted the automation of all the Villages’ major departments, including the Recreation Department registration process. “Christopher’s hard work, dedication and expertise over the course of several years proved fruitful. His plans and understanding of technological systems have benefitted not only the Village, but the greater Scarsdale community.”

Chris Renino has been a member of the Scarsdale School District for 32 years. He served as a teacher and Chair of the English Department at Scarsdale High School before joining the administrative team in 2011. As a teacher, Chris was known for his thoughtful instruction and deep scholarship. Chris edited the Macbeth unit in a set of teaching materials entitled, Shakespeare Set Free that was published by Simon and Shuster in 1993. He was a Master Teacher at the Folger Shakespeare Institute in 1996. Chris also served as the adviser to the Book of the Month Club and the AFS Club, as well as on various committees throughout his years at the High School.

Chris was described by Scarsdale School Superintendent Thomas Hagerman as “A deep thinker, writer, and scholar,” highlighting Mr. Renino’s many published articles, workshop presentations and novel, The Way Home is Longer, published in 1997. Dr. Hagerman went on to say “Chris’s accessibility and approachable demeanor have helped him foster deep relationships with many of his colleagues in the faculty and administrative team. Teachers and administrators frequently seek Chris out for guidance on a range of matters, trusting his experience, judgement, wisdom, and humanistic approach. In both his teaching role and his current administrative position, Chris is respected and beloved by students and colleagues alike.”

SHS Principal, Ken Bonamo, stated, "As a member of the administrative team, Chris has encouraged personal connections and enriched our work as professionals. Chris is incredibly well respected by his colleagues on the faculty, not only because of his long tenure as a teacher and Chair in the High School, but also because of his careful consideration of issues and desire to achieve consistency, clarity, inclusivity, and humanity in our school’s policies and practices."

Following his tenure as State Commissioner of Education, Dr. Sobol returned to Scarsdale and served as a Board member of SFCS, chairing its Long Range Planning Committee where his final report was well recognized for its perception and written eloquence. In 2007 he was the recipient – with his wife Harriet – of the SFCS Open Door Award for service to the Community. Dr. Sobol passed away on September 3, 2015 after a long and valiant battle with Parkinson’s Disease.  

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