Middle School Assistant Principal Karen Chalif Interview

Interviewed by, Melina Kohilakis

(Joined the district for the 2021-22 school year.)

What brought you to the Blind Brook School District?

Chalif: Before Blind Brook I was in a school in brooklyn, I was in a 6th through 12th grade school. And I grew up in a suburb like Rye Brook but on Long Island. So I really wanted to move out of the city and I wanted to be in the middle school and so I was just really looking all over and I really honestly didn’t know anything about the blind brook before I came here I was just applying to open position’s and I saw Blind Brook had an open position so then I applied for it but then through my research and my interviews I was really drawn to the sense of community here. It’s a small district and it’s close knit and everyone kind of just looks out for each other. I reached out to a “teacher” connection I had and I was talking to her about this process and she’s like where are you going and I go Blind Brook. And she ended up growing up there! That just made it feel like the right fit when that happened so I would be like that would be the moment where I was just like wow this seems like the right fit.

When you were considering coming to Blind Brook, were you at all considered about the turnover in administration?

Chalif: When I was looking at a bunch of different schools and I was applying and it seemed like a lot of schools had the situation where they had turnover. Yes I mean the short answer is yes it was something I thought about, but what made me feel okay about that with the sense that there wasn’t that turnover in the faculty. So I looked at the faculty and I saw teachers who were here for 5 years, 10 years, 20 years. They’re staying for some reason. And that showed me more than that this is the place where people enjoy being cuz if there was that same turnover in the teachers and then that would have been more shocking like this is the place that people want to get away from. But that’s not what I saw. My boss Mr. Horowitz was a teacher here for so many years and then he was the assistant principal and now he’s the principal and so yes he’s new to that position, but this is because he grew up in this school. So did Mr. Greenwald in high school, so although they are newer in those roles, they were part of Blind Brook all along, so this helped quell my concerns.

What are your ideas for making Blind Brook better?

Chalif: Well I’ve only been here for like four months and I have liked it so far. Like my focus is on getting to know the community I think one of the things that I focus on in my role is making sure that every student feels welcome in this building. And that is not to say that Blind Brook hasn’t been doing this already, it is just something that I am focused on. And part of the way I want to do that is creating more district-wide things, right like I’m a Middle School AP and the High School AP and Principal are there, and so is the elementary school’s, but I think that we can do a lot of cross school things. And I think that bringing high schoolers to talk to middle schoolers about a topic or talk to Elementary School students. Because Blind Brook  being one of the smaller districts, how we can build those cross school, cross grade connections as well as creating our own connections in the high school and middle school is important.

What do you want to remain the same at Blind Brook?

Chalif: I think the sense of loyalty is what I wouldn’t want to change at all. When I mentioned before about the teachers giving their careers to Blind Brook and families that have child after child come to school here, shows that this is a place that people want to be and that is something I do not want to change. I would like this loyalty and devotion to the community to remain.

If you could pinpoint one weakness in Blind Brook School District, what would it be?

Chalif: One of the things I think about a lot because I came from the school that I was working in before and even my high school, was a bigger school. I grew up in a school that had 250 students in a grade, So not super big, but bigger than Blind Brook. Part of what I think about is the balance of close-knit Community, love the close-knit communities, but also give another perspective. Out of Rye Brook, out of New York perspective on life. That is something that i would encourage Blind Brook and my position in that conversation to help grow not just the conversations within the school but how come we build different perspectives in for our students so that when you go to away to college in a year or a year and a half from now are more prepared for the world outside of Rye Brook. Again, I’ve been here for a month so it’s not something that I’m sure Blind Brook does this right but I think that is something that we can continue to reflect on and build on overtime. 

How would you address the previous challenge?

Chalif: The biggest thing that I would say would be just to make connections and have conversation so a lot of what I do is look at what other schools do. A lot of what I do is reach out to other schools the same size and ask if they have programs where they are connected to other schools. Can we partner with a sister school or brother’s school and do whether it’s letter-writing or chat or a discussion. But coming up with those ideas that’s where I would start right like I wouldn’t jump right into saying like we need to do this now it’s more like what other schools are doing by collecting data, what would work for us, serving the students, is this something they would be involved with, surveying the parents to see if they would be interested.Then, making a plan to implement some of those ideas of would be the next step.