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Friday, December 29, 2006

Working Together

This is a story that makes me proud:
Upon entering the Number Six School cafeteria on any Monday afternoon at 3:30 or so, after dismissal, you're likely to find fourth-grader Mike Cornejo listening intently to Eytan Austein, a yeshiva student taking time out of his busy day to tutor Cornejo in a variety of subjects.

Even though he is doing homework right after school, Mike enjoys this time of the day, and Eytan, a junior at the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach-Davis Renov Stahler High School for Boys (HALB-DRS), finds it rewarding to help someone younger who attends school in the same neighborhood.

The boys' weekly sessions, along with numerous other tutoring lessons taking place at the Woodmere elementary school, have brought public-school and yeshiva students closer together in a climate of cooperation. This environment contrasts deeply with the overall climate in District 15, which is one of divisiveness, riven by an ongoing feud between public and private school parents and anger over failed budgets and contentious school board elections. Uniting the students in this unique tutoring program was the vision of two principals who saw a way to help heal a fractured community.

In late 2005, Number Six School Principal Angelo Siconolfi proposed the idea of Hebrew Academy students walking the short distance to the elementary school in their neighborhood to tutor the youngsters as part of an after-school program, which also involves the nearby Number Five School in Cedarhurst. HALB-DRS Principal Harvey Feldman embraced the concept and made the mentoring program work logistically, fitting it into the high school students' rigorous academic schedule, which, between religious and secular studies, has no free periods.
The partnership between the schools blossomed in 2006, as the mentoring program saw an increase in the number of high school volunteers from 21 to more than 30. Feldman and Siconolfi hope the bridge they have built to bring together public-school and yeshiva students will pave the way for future collaboration between the schools, which, over time, they believe, will create a better understanding among both students and adults of their respective communities. The project could go a long way toward helping ease tensions in District 15, which have reached the boiling point in recent years in the wake of four straight defeats of the Lawrence Public Schools budget and the community¹s election of a school board with an Orthodox majority in May, which upset many public school parents.
According to Feldman and Siconolfi, the mentoring program proves that the public and private school communities can co-exist in harmony ‹ which is why the Nassau Herald has named the two principals People of the Year for 2006.

"The relationship between the kids and the high school kids is just amazing," said Siconolfi of the bond that has been forged. "I wish the entire community could see how well these schools work together."

This story belies the claim, oft-repeated here in comments, that the Orthodox members of this community couldn't care less about the success of public school children, and that we are "only out for ourselves". I wish all of the students involved in the program much success and mutual enrichment from this endeavor.

May this community learn from these kids how to work together towards a common goal of helping all district children.

12 Comments:

Blogger Still Wonderin' said...

Saw this in the Herald. Great article. I was happy to see this used as a frint page lead. It struck me as purposefuly conciliatory.

12:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe Siconolfi should be the Superintendent in Lawrence. Appears he's working to heal the community and improve the student perfomance in his building. Great article.

6:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a yeshiva parent with a child in public School too I am happy to see that the good relationships are being hilighted.

My personal experience has been positive, with only pockets of negative feelings, from unexpected sources. The general Public School parents have been wonderfully supportive of us.

8:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"This environment contrasts deeply with the overall climate in District 15, which is one of divisiveness, riven by an ongoing feud between public and private school parents and anger over failed budgets and contentious school board elections."

Im not sure why this would make you proud. Arent you in district 15?

10:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Im not sure why this would make you proud. Arent you in district 15? Orthomom is, I assume, also a member of Klal Yisroel

1:11 PM  
Anonymous Fox said...

A lovely story! Good news always generates fewer comments, but it's a pleasure to see.

Now, if only the high school kids could supervise Gourmet Glatt with the same quiet perseverence, you'd be set -- lol!

1:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovely story. So when HALB takes over the number six school all the kids will already be familiar with the building. Beautiful.

10:04 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Anonymous said...

Lovely story. So when HALB takes over the number six school all the kids will already be familiar with the building. Beautiful.


Wow. Only an utter jerk can walk away from this story with such an obnoxiously cynical message.

6:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't it amazing that a great story like this gets only 8 posts, yet other posts on District 15 get over 200!!

I guess those trying to improve the orthodox & public school communities are few at best. The rest are just looking to create a divide. WHY???

12:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, we all can agree on the fact that what the kids are doing at Number 6 School, with the help of their principals, is great. There is no record to correct, and hence, so few comments. Happy New Year!

1:50 PM  
Blogger Arghya Chakraborty said...

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8:25 AM  
Anonymous Cerita Panas said...

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8:21 PM  

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