Two decades ago, a group of 20 parents gathered to do something quite extraordinary — launch a new kind of Jewish day school. Our founders had a clear vision of a school that would embrace and celebrate religious diversity; a school whose philosophy would champion a true child-centered educational journey; and a school that would be fully committed to an innovative educational approach. Our founders were aspirational and ambitious — qualities that I am proud to say are a legacy that continues to make Carmel Academy the exceptional school it is today.
There are numerous words that describe our founders: pioneers, visionaries, forward thinkers. The word I choose is daring. Two decades ago, Carmel Academy’s founders dared to dream. As we mark our 20th anniversary I’d like to do so by first honoring the very people who dared to go against the conventional and took the chance on the unknown. Our theme this year is “20 Years of Daring”, which reflects our founders’ pioneering spirit, and the innovative culture that remains a core value of the Carmel Academy educational experience.
Twenty years ago we started as a small school called Westchester Hebrew Academy on a floor of a synagogue with 14 kindergarten and 10 first grade students. Today, as we celebrate this notable anniversary, we do so as we proudly welcome our largest incoming early childhood class this fall and graduate our largest class this upcoming spring — a true testament that our founders’ dream of creating a thriving Jewish day school has come to fruition. Twenty years later, we have graduated 12 classes — close to 200 students — many whom are now young adults taking the roots they planted at Carmel and making a difference in the world.
From its inception, Carmel Academy has had a forward-thinking approach to education — striving to be a beacon of excellence and innovation that draws students, faculty, and thought leaders from near and far. Carmel’s commitment to innovation has earned our school prestigious academic invitations including being one of the first schools in the country to pilot and then adopt the renowned E2K STEM program, as well as being selected to pilot the Judaic and general studies Standards and Benchmark programs. Our innovative mindset has led to groundbreaking programs — ranging from our inclusive PALS program for children with learning disabilities to our Reggio Emilia-inspired transitional kindergarten program.
Our “20 Years of Daring” theme will be integrated into our curriculum, as both students and faculty will be encouraged to take on academic and personal challenges, as well as pursue a variety of endeavors such as studying daring figures in history. In honor of this significant year, we will take a step back into 1997 for a “1997 Day”, gather for a 20th Anniversary Erev Tov Annual Dinner, and formally honor the architects of the school with a Founder’s Day Celebration. We have also designed a 20th Anniversary logo that will be used throughout the year.
What I love about Carmel is that I have the opportunity to continue to envision a Jewish day school that holds the highest standards of education, professionalism and purposeful community. This part of my position is in sync with the ethos of this great institution and one in which I do not take for granted. We begin this school year by honoring our past, celebrating our present and championing our future. This will be a year of reminiscing and celebration, and I look forward to celebrating this wonderful milestone with our entire community.