Armstrong says she will leave Solomon Schechter this summer

BY MIKE SHERWIN OF THE JEWISH LIGHT STAFF

By next school year, students at the Solomon Schechter Day School won’t be greeted at the door in the morning by Head of School Gail Armstrong.

Armstrong announced that she will not renew her two-year contract as head of school, which runs through the end of the school year in June, in order to spend more time with her family.

“I’m at a point in my life where making the difficult decision to have more time to spend, in a caretaking role with my family, has become a priority,” Armstrong said.

“This was a difficult decision,” she said. “This has been a labor of love for a great number of years of my life.”

Armstrong notified the school’s board of her decision at its meeting in mid-December, and the board has created a search committee to find a new head of school.

James Guller, school board president, said the committee has been working over the past month.

“We’re both posting the position so people can find us, and we’re being proactive in networking to identify those excellent candidates who might not know they should be looking,” he said.

Guller said he expects the search process will take a couple of months to be completed.

“We will have next year’s solution in place before the end of the school year,” Guller said. “Hopefully it will be a permanent solution, but if not, we’ll have an interim solution in place by then.”

Guller said that while the pool of qualified Jewish day school educators is relatively small, the committee has been successful in finding candidates.

“Nationwide, there is a shortage of day school educators and leaders in these types of administrative roles. However, we have identified qualified candidates and we look forward to finding the one who will be a great fit for our school so we can bring them on board,” he said.

Armstrong has served as head of school since June 2005, after serving the 2004-2005 year as acting head of school. She has worked at the school for 16 years in a variety of roles, first as a teacher and then as coordinator and then principal of the middle school.

Rabbi Emeritus Bernard Lipnick of Congregation B’nai Amoona worked with the school board when Armstrong was named head of school. He said Armstrong was “the natural choice” at the time and that she will be missed at Schechter.

“This is a tremendous loss for the school,” Lipnick said.

He noted that Armstrong was instrumental in establishing Schechter’s middle school nine years ago.

“The original concept of Schechter was as an elementary school. To go into a middle school was a tremendous and courageous push into the unknown, but because of her devotion, her expertise and her knowledge, she made it happen. Now we have a thriving middle school,” Lipnick said.

Guller echoed those sentiments, saying, “She really has been a huge asset to the kids and parents at Schechter, and to the school itself.”

Guller said that in addition to helping establish the middle school, Armstrong has led the school through its first reaccreditation from the Independent Schools Association of the Central States. During Armstrong’s tenure, the school has also been awarded the School Improvement Journey Grant from the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education.

Armstrong said leaving the school has caused mixed emotions.

“It’s a school I’ve grown up with,” she said.

“In many ways they have become a part of my family, so leaving is very bittersweet.”

“It’s for the right reasons, but it’s hard to leave a whole family behind.”

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