The crowd at the Woodstock Day School Thursday, September 10, was larger than usual for an opening day for a new school year because of a concurrent ribbon cutting ceremony for the campus’ new Early Childhood and K/1 Building, as well as the chance to cheer on WDS’ new Head of School since July, Dr. Kara Stern.
“It’s the ripest moment of the year right now,” she said before cutting through a massive ribbon with the help of board president Barry Price, assemblyman Kevin Cahill, and her own three children, all now attending the day school. “It’s a time for new friends, new ideas, as well as your new head of school and a new parent, too.”
As Paul Simon’s infectiously upbeat 1970 hit “Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard” sounded out over the rush of students to classes, and congratulations of parents and well-wishers, we spoke with Stern.
“We’ve had a place in West Shokan for eleven years but we were in Queens before this,” she said after noting how her kindergartner, second grader and fourth grader weren’t too happy they’d have to be with a babysitter that night as mom met with her board and attended to other school functions (Stern also has an older child, now a sophomore in college). “I spent the summer learning all about our campus, watching and participating in how our Summer Adventure programs run, and determining an entry plan.”
The latter, the new head of school elaborated, meant interviewing all the Woodstock Day School’s board members, teachers, and volunteers.
“I asked the same questions of everyone: What brought you to the school, what core values do you feel the school has, what key challenges does WDS face, and what’s your favorite spot on campus,” the affable and upbeat Dr. Stern said. “It ended up being a great entry and allowed me to find out what a cohesive and strong community the day school is.”
Continuing, the new head of school said how important it was to her, and the general school, that Woodstock Day become an ever greater part of the community it serves.
“I’m really interested in the way schools operate within communities and can be used as a different form of community center,” Dr. Stern said. “There are great organizations here that we’re talking about partnering with WDS in new ways. We’ve brought in a new challenge grant to upgrade our offerings in math and science and want to work with outreach in the community to aid in this.”
Even later, Dr. Stern sent a list of upcoming public events at the campus located on Glasco Turnpike just over the Woodstock line in Saugerties. They ranged from the showing of three new films made by WDS students, using the school’s new state-of-the-art Media Lab, at the upcoming Woodstock Film Festival to an October 8 Open House for the entire community, from 4 p.m.-5 p.m., as well as the twice-annual Buildings and Grounds Day on Sunday, November 15, when all on hand will work together to prep the campus for winter.
“As things are planned, I will continue to send information,” Dr. Stern added. “All the best!”