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Retired head of Solomon Schechter Academy finds it hard to stay away

By Tess Townsend

Publication: The Day

Published March 04. 2014 4:00AM
Sean D. Elliot The Day
Karen Rosenberg, the recently retired Head of School at the Solomon Schechter Academy, in the school's library Monday.
Longtime leader of Solomon Schechter Academy still helping out 10 hours a week

New London - Members of the Solomon Schechter Academy community know her as the committed educational leader who whistled in the hallways between visits to classrooms.

Karen Rosenberg recently retired from her position as Head of School, but she still can't tear away from the small Jewish day academy that she says is "such a part of me."

Rosenberg started as a teacher at SSA in 1984. She took the helm as Head of School 27 years ago, retiring in November. She now works 10 hours a week providing support for the pre-kindergarten through sixth-grade school that has 35 students.

"To just leave the school cold would be just too hard for me," she says.

Rosenberg's career with SSA started as a whim. An SSA staff member who knew Rosenberg suggested her for an open position, knowing that Rosenberg had teaching experience. Rosenberg was not seeking work, but accepted the part-time job intending for it to be temporary.

During Rosenberg's tenure, the school underwent renovations and additions, physically and also through the expansion of its curriculum. Arts and science programs have been expanded and physical education classes added.

Teachers speak of working alongside Rosenberg with fondness.

Sally Ravenelle, who has taught at SSA for 21 years and also works as Head of Secular Studies, remembers her former boss whistling in the hallways.

She says the recent retiree kept a stash of Hershey's Kisses in a special spot for any teacher having a bad day.

Rachel Maran LaMarco attended SSA from kindergarten through sixth grade, returning to the school for a brief stint as an art teacher this past fall. She calls the school "an extension of my family."

"I was surprised when Mrs. Rosenberg said she was retiring because I didn't think she'd ever step down because she's so focused on the students and the school," says LaMarco, who now lives in Oregon.

Rosenberg originally planned to retire next year in order to coordinate it with the June 2015 retirement of her husband, Temple Emanu-El Rabbi Aaron Rosenberg.

She says financial pressure on the school is a factor in her gradual departure. The school has been shrinking in size, having peaked at more than 90 students in the 1990s.

Rosenberg also recognized the readiness of her successor, long-time SSA teacher Tracy Todd.

Rosenberg's parting is bittersweet for the SSA community. On Saturday, about 300 SSA staff, students, alumni and families from around the country gathered at Congregation Beth El Synagogue to thank the former head of school for her contributions. The SSA student-led Shabbat service was divided into sections devoted to different years of Rosenberg's career.

The question for Rosenberg now is how to spend her newly free time. She says she may continue part time at the school into next year, or she might seek outside volunteer opportunities.

Whatever the logistics, Rosenberg plans to fill in as the academy's "bubby," Yiddish for grandmother.

"I would do anything for the school. It's in my blood. It's such a part of me," she says.

t.townsend@theday.com

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