View Full Version : All NYC Q&A with Mandell School's Gabriella Rowe

04-30-2013, 12:03 PM
From DNAinfo.com (http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20130429/upper-west-side/mandell-school-charts-new-course-by-staying-inquisitive) by Emily Frost:

Growing up, Gabriella Rowe vowed she'd break away from the family business, The Mandell School, a private nursery and kindergarten on the Upper West Side founded by her grandfather Max Mandell in 1939.

Rowe broke with a tradition that had produced three generations of teachers in her family, and instead pursued a career as a banker and management consultant.

Her work had her traveling almost 300 days a year, a life that she couldn't sustain when she became pregnant with her first child almost 14 years ago. It was a life-changing event that coincided with the death of her grandfather.

Rowe changed tack and went to study education at the graduate school at Bank Street College, helped her mother run the school, and eventually took over leading the school. This included its major 2008 expansion to a pre-K to 8 program and the school's move in 2010 to a brand new building on Columbus Avenue at West 98th Street.

“I feel privileged to be here," Rowe, 47, said.

With spring finally in bloom, Rowe is excited by the school's 8,000-square-foot terrace that opened in the fall of 2012 and currently houses a Tilapia pond and chicken coop, with a garden large enough to yield pounds of vegetables on its way.

While some schools would leave the space open for running and uninterrupted play, Rowe said, she and the teachers wanted something different.

"The space itself sets us apart, but it's also what we do with it," she said.

City-dwelling children, Rowe observed, "don't get the same opportunity to be in nature."

Environmental and global consciousness and a farm-to-table ethos are at the center of the school’s curriculum, from learning about fair trade in 3rd grade to finding global warming solutions in 8th grade.

Since Mandell’s new school was built from scratch, she had the freedom to think big. The cafeteria has a living wall filled with vegetables, stemming for Rowe’s desire to have it feel like “an Italian garden.”

There is a professional-grade black box theater, a gym whose fourth wall is a floor to ceiling window, an indoor hydroponic garden, and enough classrooms to have a teacher-student ratio of 7 or 8 to 1.

Rowe spoke to DNAinfo.com New York about the philosophies that underscore her leadership, as well as the school’s future.

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