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The stately townhomes and converted carriage houses, with their window boxes of Algerian ivy winking over splendidly preserved original details — the Grecian columns, the soaring Romanesque windows offering a glimpse of curated furniture — connote a certain level of not just wealth and taste but respectability. These are houses not just for people who have money, but people who have values.
Of course, New York being New York, many families also left, making room for new families, who paid ever-higher prices for the same handful of properties. But even as the bankers got more bankerly and the wives got more fashionable, the neighborhood remained much the same.
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Insulated by its status as a historic district, it was unable to grow up, only out, and this Peter Pan quality was part of its charm for transplants from places like Manhattan. Not long after, Prosky announced her retirement and the rector of the church, which oversees the school, met with the Grace Church School Advisory Board, a volunteer body made up of parents and members of the church, and formed a search committee to find her replacement.
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The children pressed leaves into paper, explored textures, and danced the Wiggle Worm. The world was a simmering, seething cauldron, one that was only going to get hotter and harder to survive in. If this felt true in general, it felt especially true to the residents of Brooklyn Heights, whose small universe had recently gotten a lot more crowded. The glass towers that sprung up along the waterfront had filled up with families, yet the number of schools remained the same.
In the past, parents could pay their way into Grace Church, which traditionally served as a feed to St. Now this privilege, like all others, seemed in jeopardy. The wait-list for Grace Church started practically in utero, and even if children were lucky enough to land a spot in one of the coveted morning sessions, it was no longer a guarantee of future success.
As the founding director of Kaplan Nursery School, an upstart preschool overseen by the Sutton Place Synagogue, Morgano had done an impressive job of getting the students into competitive institutions like Dalton, Chapin, and Spence. But not this Brooklyn. Among them were Ashley Phyfe, married to a descendant of furniture-maker Duncan Phyfe; Vicky Schippers, whose family had been in the area since land was going for wampum; Christie Coolidge-Totman. As in President Coolidge.
Morgano was intimidated and not a little envious. Now she was in her 50s and had answered the ad in part because the commute would be easier from her home in Park Slope, but the idea of a new challenge — a school that needed to be brought into the present — intrigued her, and she was pleasantly surprised that the salary it offered was commensurate with Manhattan. Money can shield people from a lot of things, but no amount stops parents from worrying about their children.
It was held at the home of a family where the mother was a managing director at Goldman Sachs, in a renovated triplex on Schermerhorn Street with a roof-deck overlooking the Manhattan skyline. They just had one major request: The school wanted Morgano to keep Hope Prosky on as an adviser. Morgano thought this arrangement sounded a little bit claustrophobic. But she said yes, of course. Over the summer, Morgano had cleaned house. The tall, heavy bookcases had been replaced by lighter, lower ones.
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A teepee anchored the Twos room; the stained-glass windows filtered light onto an otherwise spare space. The kitchen, formerly a clatter of tea mugs and shortbread crumbs, had been wiped clean. Everyone was ooh ing and aah ing, but it gave Smith an uneasy feeling. Now, she wondered if the director intended to replace more than just furniture.
Fortunately, the library was still the same. Perched on the very top floor of the building, the Hope Library had been designed and built by a former Grace parent, an architect, and it was a magical little place with warm wood balconies and cozy window seats overlooking a rooftop playground. Smith might have believed her fears about Morgano were the result of imagination running wild, except the entire month of September came and went before she and Morgano had a proper conversation. Morgano looked at the books Smith was holding. But Jones was calm. Jones was always calm — she spent her days wrangling mobs of 3-year-olds, so she had to be.
She urged her to give the new director a shot. Smith was not so optimistic. Things had gotten tense between them, especially after Morgano decided to do away with certain Grace Church traditions, like the Thanksgiving and Medieval Feasts. And, they noted, Morgano herself seemed to have trouble with boundaries. Her fawning over celebrities like Keri Russell whose children attended the school had become a subject of discussion in discreet Brooklyn Heights.
In reality, the conversation may have been five minutes, but five minutes is an eternity to an anxious parent. Hope Prosky, in contrast, had never been impressed by celebrity. As in those Roosevelts, so maybe it was just a different kind of celebrity she was impressed by, and those were fewer and farther between these days. While old-line Wasps still gravitated to the historic district, the demographics of the neighborhood were changing.
Perhaps nowhere was this shift more visually apparent than drop-off at Grace Church School, where Preppy Moms in tennis whites and Power Moms on their way to their jobs at white-shoe law firms increasingly found themselves jostled out of the way by Fashion Moms taking Mommy and Me pictures against the backdrop of brownstone Brooklyn. By the time Morgano signed on as director, the school was lousy with the children of stylists, editors, and designers.
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Of these, the unequivocal belles of the ball were two former Vogue staffers: stylist Jessica Sailer Van Lith and Sylvana Ward Durrett, the special-projects director in charge of the Met Gala, whose company, Maisonette, a sort of Net-a-Porter for children, elevated the entire Brooklyn Lifestyle to new, well, heights. In short order, Amy Morgano became one of them. Specifically, the bankers, lawyers, doctors, and assorted other non-sexy professionals who had long been the bedrock of the Grace Church community, who began to feel like they were being shunted aside for more glamorous newcomers.
While there may have been other factors at work — someone had moved, opening up a spot — the optics rankled. In the winter of , Smith heard something that disturbed the peace in her library aerie: A teacher survey had gone out, asking teachers about their hopes for the coming year, and she had not received one. I just got fired. For Prosky, this was a call to arms. The following month, both she and Smith wrote long letters to the board detailing the ways they felt the new administration was violating the ethos of the school.
Please do not reply to this letter, but rather, attend to the above concerns.
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The committee was sympathetic, but not in the way the women had hoped. The letters were perceived as indicative of an inability to accept change. They got change, but they got more than they wanted. We still have space for a handful of exceptional, mind-blowing items think villa in italy for a week! The biannual Gala and Auction at the Grace Church School has not traditionally been a lavish event: It usually takes place in the basement of the church.
But in , parents arrived to find the room transformed by the same hands as the Met Gala.
Graceful hurricane lamps replaced the harsh overhead lighting, and waiters in tasteful uniforms refilled wineglasses at long tables decorated with peonies and roses while parents bid on auction items that included a dinner at the home of designer Jason Wu. The other half just took the compliment.
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After all, they were good-looking and rich. Redick was new to the neighborhood. To some, the Redicks were the apotheosis of the new element encroaching on the Heights.
Renovations to their apartment included the installation of gold bathroom sinks and wallpaper that was said to be custom-made to match the first Louis Vuitton handbag Redick gave his wife. Her own mom had volunteered at school when she was growing up in Florida, Chelsea said, and she had loads of experience doing toy drives and turkey drives for the various NBA teams her husband had been on. There was a pause. Morgano laughed. Improbably, they had become friends. Not everyone enjoyed these qualities.
For instance: many of the longtime teachers at Grace Church. Then there was the board.