Linda Hurwitz may have a few butterflies when she starts work as head of the middle school at Community Day School, but they shouldn’t last for long.
After all, Hurwitz was the first person to hold the job.
Community Day first hired Hurwitz for the job back in 1980, when it started the middle school. She held the position for seven years, until she took a sabbatical in 1987. After her leave, Hurwitz became director of the Holocaust Center of the United Jewish Federation and didn’t return to the school — until now.
“The opportunity came up,” Hurwitz said, adding, “I just felt like if I have it left in me to make a contribution, this is the school I love and this is the age group I love.”
Community Day formally announced Hurwitz’s hiring on Tuesday, the same day school officials announced that acting Lower School Head Rick Sternberg accepted his position on a permanent basis.
Hurwitz actually learned her old job was available accidentally.
“I was working voluntarily with two other teachers on some Holocaust curriculum; I realized how much I was missing education,” she said. “Just as they were leaving they told me [Head of School] Avi [Baran Munro] was looking to get a new head of the middle school. I thought about it and talked to my husband about it; it would be a big change going back to work full time.”
The next morning, she just happened to run into Munro at a dry cleaner, and they talked about the position.
“It was almost beshert,” Hurwitz said. Meant to be.
A trained English teacher and administrator, Hurwitz said she preferred to get back into the work before saying specifically what she would or would not do with the program.
“I can’t say too much yet because I haven’t been in there to see what is going on. My kids have been out of there for four or five years, I have to re-familiarize myself with it. But there is a very good support system. Avi seems to have done a wonderful job giving the school leadership. She has so much in place. It will make my job easier.”
That said, there is one project Hurwitz did not initiate, but is taking a personal interest in: the as-yet uncompleted pop tab Holocaust sculpture.
The idea behind the project was to collect 6 million pop tabs — to represent the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust — to fill glass blocks with the tabs and use the blocks to build a sculpture.
The tabs have been collected, and the blocks are filled, said Hurwitz, who noted she did not initiate the project. All that remains is raising the funds to finance the work.
“We do need to get the pop tab sculpture to fulfill a promise to the community,” Hurwitz said. She sees the project as a way to promote Holocaust education in creative ways, including letting students act as docents.
When Hurwitz first became head of the middle school in 1980 — at the time, the position was called middle school coordinator — she wrote the curriculum for eighth-grade study of the Holocaust. She called that project, “the one thing I’m most proud of” during her first seven years there.
When she starts her second tenure, she added, part of her job will require her to become something of a student herself.
“My goal right now as I learn what the school is, is to become part of this excellent and dedicated team and to contribute.”
Sternberg spent the majority of his career in the Pittsburgh Public Schools starting as math teacher and retiring in 2007 as principal of Grandview Elementary School. He was recognized as a National Distinguished Principal for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 2001.
The interim lower school head since this past spring, Munro approached Sternberg about coming out of retirement and joining the staff on a permanent basis.
“I’m here at CDS for three reasons” Sternberg said in a prepared statement. “Most importantly, I love being around students; secondly, I was too young to retire; and thirdly, I was tired of being Mr. Mom. I now appreciate working mothers who when they come home have family responsibilities.”
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at email@example.com.)