Erica Lazzaro, Current Parent and Alumna
In sitting to write this post I considered one of the first rules of writing- know your audience. Since I think, you are a lot like me, a discerning woman or man about town, who can smell a sales pitch and marketing fodder from a mile away, I know what you are thinking. A testimonial from a current parent, alumna and (gasp) member of the board, holds as much weight as a paid advertorial. When I read school testimonials, yes, I am interested in all the positive experiences and outcomes the parents or other stakeholders have with the school, but I am also interested in how the school staff and administration handles the challenges- big, medium and small- of a Jewish day school environment. In my case the small to medium ones include my children’s occasional behavioral challenges, a difference in opinion in handling an interaction, or whatever else day in day out comes with having school-age children. Not only does the school proactively reach out when there is something worth calling home or writing home about involving my children, if I have a question or feedback, I can interact directly with the teachers, staff and anyone in the administration- and so can any parent. Because my children spend most of their waking hours at school, having this open and direct communication is important, and something that is very present at Gross Schechter Day School. Coffee Talks with Head of School Randy Boroff, regular requests for parent feedback, and, of course, one-on-one interactions with teachers and staff, are all evidence of the same. Gross Schechter Day School does more than check boxes on the academic program. I am not embarrassed to admit that I will quickly be out of my depth with my son’s math and Hebrew homework, and I love it! I do not question my children being more than just prepared for what lies ahead in their academic careers. But what school doesn’t at least have a tag line that includes “academic excellence”? You would look twice at a school that did not include it as part of the school’s mission. Point being- it is a given and expected. But here again, lasting impressions from this school year (so far) are the LOVE of reading that has been instilled in my first grader. Whether he is reading “at level, below level, above level” is not the focus- it is instead that he is READING. The aftercare teachers telling me at pickup about the ruach that my daughter sings English and Hebrew songs for Kabbalat Shabbat. The fact that my children are learning Yoga and mindfulness, as I am learning the same. I get teary eyed watching poised eight graders deliver D’var Torahs (summarizing the Torah portion of the week) in front of a dozen strange adults at a meeting (plus their kvelling parents). Whether or not they are natural public speakers is beside the point, the preparation and respect paid to exercise, as demonstrated through their poise and delivery, at a time when many 12 and 13-year-olds would choose to focus and value different things, gives me comfort in what lies ahead for my children as they approach their storied middle school years. My children have found their place, they leave for school happy and come home happy.Moreover, my husband and I have found our place too, in the Schechter community. Jumping into a group of new people and trying to make connections doesn’t come naturally to me. At Gross Schechter though, my husband and I quickly formed those connections, thanks in no small part to the facilitation by the school through social opportunities, circulation of a class roster, open house events and more. Just as with any new situation, you have to be an active participant to influence a positive outcome- friends and a support network do not just fall in your lap. Nor should they- it is more meaningful when you help shape it. This means showing up at the variety of class specific events, social opportunities and volunteer activities. My husband and I both work full time, but that does not exclude us from participating and contributing.Although I have many affinities with Gross Schechter, at the end of the day, my husband and I want what is best for our children. A school where they can thrive and be challenged and supported, where we as parents and adults feel similarly included and supported. And we have found that here, at Gross Schechter Day School.