Joan Weber said it all at the last meeting of the Board of Education on Monday night June 18 when she announced “a seismic shift in the landscape of Scarsdale High School.” She was referring to the departures of SHS Co-Principals Fred Goldberg and Kelly Hamm, a pair she compared to greats like Barnum and Bailey, Gilbert and Sullivan, Ben and Jerry and Bert and Ernie.
Together the two of have served Scarsdale for 46 years, and for the last two, they have led the school in the absence of a principal. After an extensive search, Kenneth Bonamo was selected to be the next SHS Principal -- but he will have four big shoes to fill.
According to Weber, Hamm started out at SHS as a social studies teacher in 1980 arriving here with a BA from Georgetown and two master’s degrees. He went on to become history department chair, assistant principal and co-principal, where he became “indispensable to the school community.” Hamm was noted for his skill at creating the school schedule, his ability to find alternate solutions to challenging problems and the work he did to facilitate the school’s transition from the AP to the AT curriculum. Using comments she gathered from the community, SHS PTA President Vivienne Braun called Hamm “quiet and unassuming,” and noted that he is indefatigable, often staying at school long after others have gone home.
Fred Goldberg had already worked as a teacher and administrator before joining the staff of SHS 14 years ago as assistant principal. Weber noted that Goldberg had a “unique blend of talents” and a “literary and mathematical” mind, that he used to manage a diversity of responsibilities at the school. He was well known for his job as school disciplinarian and “led with empathy” and “provided a sense of belonging to students who might not have connected.” In addition to dealing with parents and students and greeting incoming students each morning at the Post Road entrance, Goldberg chaired the pupil study team, created a supervisory forum for department chairs and was a key player in the CSE process. Again, quoting from community members, Vivienne Braun called Goldberg “wise but playful” and credited him with staying one step ahead of students who were just about to get out of line. He seemed to be everywhere – often seen at school events and even at the Scarsdale Train Station one morning where he stopped students who were about to board the train on senior cut day. One student said Goldberg was “the fairest guy in the school” and another advised, “If you get called into his office just look him in the eye and treat him like an adult and he’ll do the same.”
Wistful goodbyes were also given to two veteran teachers at the high school; physics teacher Pat Jablonowskiand “Madame” Mary Liz Mace of the French department. Kelly Hamm’s genuine regard and affection for both were evident in the warm tributes he gave.
A challenger of gender stereotypes, Ms. Jablonowski was the only female physics teacher and one of the only female science teachers in the school. Speaking of her role in the “idiosyncratic” physics department, Hamm said she “ruled the physics roost” and brought “order to anarchy.” He noted her eternally youthful spirit and said that she will not stop working after her retirement from SHS, but go on to use her knowledge of physics to develop technological tools to teach the subject. PTA President Braun said that Jablonowski’s students said she was “extremely friendly and easy to approach,” “always available for extra help,” “devoted to her students and concerned for her colleagues, kind, caring and positive,” and to some student’s dismay, “never absent.”
The entire French department came to the meeting to honor Madame Mace who has taught in Scarsdale since 1979, first at the Middle School and then moving to the High School in 1986. Weber said that Mace delayed retiring because she thought she had “the best job in the world.”
According to Hamm, Mace liked work so much that she never took a day off, even after breaking her arm. She always returned graded papers the next day, whether students wanted them or not! She continued to grow and learn during the course of her career and adopted wikis and online learning into the curriculum. She was well known for the “Mace Method,” her verb conjugation drills, terrifying many who can still recite French verb tenses though they left high school decades ago.
Speaking for the students, Braun said that Mace had a “quick wit and always kept class interesting,” and “was caring and continued to care even after students were no longer in her class.”
In a surprising turn of events, Weber announced that Dr. David Mendelowitz, a Dean at the high school, will retire this year. Mendelowitz has been out for several weeks due to illness and as a result of the sudden timing of his decision no remarks were prepared for the meeting.
Mendelowitz earned a PhD in Counseling at St. Johns University and came to SHS in 1997 after working as a school counselor in Sleepy Hollow and Horace Greeley. He had a wonderful rapport with students and their parents and got involved with many school activities including Signifer, Senior Options, the Drug and Alcohol Task Force and many more.
Andrea O’Gorman, Directory of the Counseling Department, offered the following about Mendelowitz: "Dr. Mendelowitz has spent over thirty years as a counselor working with adolescents. He has been a champion for students, and has kept their best interests at the forefront of his work. Additionally, Dr. Mendelowitz has mentored counselors new to the field through his work at the graduate level. While we wish him a healthy and happy retirement, we will miss his experience and contribution to our department, school and professional community."
Michael Hiller, a dean in the counseling department, had nothing but praise for his colleague, saying, "Dave has been a fabulous colleague for the past eleven years. He is an innovative thinker, not afraid to think 'out of the box' while consistently supporting the varied needs of adolescents. Dave is a strong student advocate and always encouraged students to make thoughtful and healthy decisions. Impressively, Dave has made a significant impact on the field of counseling as the current president of the Westchester Putnam Rockland Counselors Association and as a professor at Fordham University for aspiring counselors. His passion for encouraging appropriate adolescent development is contagious."
A Scarsdale parent whose daughter was guided by Mendelowitz had nothing but raves for him. She said, “Dr. Mendelowitz is one of the finest and most dedicated educators that our family has known …. he embraces all that we strive for. He is passionate about his students, committed to excellence and helps all his students to attain their individual goals. We wish him well!"
SHS Senior Jenna Karp also had kind words for the departing Dean: "My first memory of Dr. Mendelowitz goes all the way back to Freshman year, when he greeted me with one of his famous "bear hugs" and welcomed me to the High School with a huge smile. Because I was not in Civ-Ed, I was initially worried that I would find the transition to the High School challenging, but soon the warm and friendly way Dr. Mendelowitz conducted his Freshman Seminar quelled all my fears. Ever since, I have not once hesitated to step into his office to say hi, ask a question, or talk about an issue. From the get-go he treated me like an adult, always listening to my concerns and eager to help. Throughout the tumultuous college process, Dr. Mendelowitz answered every one of my questions and calmed not just my fears, but also those of my nervous parents during numerous meetings and telephone conversations. Dr. Mendelowitz made high school so much easier to handle and I feel truly blessed to have had him as a Dean. I am sure that he will be missed."
Share your memories or offer tributes to the retiring SHS staffers in the comments section below:
(Pictured at top: Fred Goldberg and Kelly Hamm)