A girl hands a light-filled glass ball to her Head of School.

From the Head of School: On Peace

December 20, 2019

Dear IDEAL Families:

Yesterday morning, during our rehearsal for the annual Peace and Light Ceremony, from the moment the students gathered the community together with a moment of silence to the final hymn, December’s word of the month, Peace, resonated. 

It resonated in the joyous--and even, at times, boisterous--celebration of students after they successfully completed their songs. It resonated in the respectful way students listened to those selected as readers. And it resonated in the way students came together in harmony when they performed. 

At IDEAL, peace takes many forms, sometimes quiet and sometimes loud, sometimes in the classroom and sometimes in the hallways or before or after school. Peace can look like a Lower School assembly where students discuss the Word of the Month, or peace can sound like the eighth graders delivering their unique IDEAL Talks with confidence and poise. Peace can look like the one-act plays in the Upper School or a large group of Middle School boys cheering on the Middle School Girls Basketball Team at an away game. It can even look like a caring coach commending and refocusing a team after a difficult loss. 

Peace can be found in the fifth grade classroom with students proudly displaying their Esperanza Rising projects, in a first grade publishing party featuring personal narratives, or in an eighth grade English class in the midst of a Socratic seminar on To Kill a Mockingbird. Peace can also become the sole purpose of student work, as is the case with the group of High School students who go by the name R.A.K, meaning Radical Art of Kindness, and act as “peacemakers through art.” Peace can look like Lower School students making placemats to decorate the space at the free lunch program at B’nai Jeshurun or Upper School students in advisory groups making decisions on charitable organizations to partner with for their MLK Day of Service.

Regardless of the form peace takes in any given moment at IDEAL, peace is an intentional goal of our faculty and staff, who work together to craft a peaceful and nurturing learning environment where all community members are embraced for their full identities. Throughout December, I have had the privilege of conducting one on one check-ins with our faculty and staff and have been so impressed with their reflections, ideas, and suggestions for how we can continue to grow together as a community. Almost every single conversation has begun with faculty sharing their support for our mission and our students and their appreciation for being a part of an inclusive and inspiring team. Their ideas for improvement and growth have focused on professional development and schedule. I am appreciative, as well, of the members of my administrative team who are responding with thought and care to these suggestions.

I am grateful, too, for all you give to IDEAL. Your participation in planning events like the Block Party, Family Fun Food Night, and class parties and your service on admissions panels and on Board or Parents Association committees further our work to cultivate the growth of our community. As I conclude individual meetings with faculty in January, I’d like to invite you to the school to share your ideas and questions. In addition to the curriculum coffees planned for January 13 (Grades K-5), 14 (Grades 6-8), and 15 (Grades 9-12), I’d welcome individual conversations with you as parents. Please let me know if you’d like to come in to chat about any IDEAL topic on your mind, large or small.

I look forward to seeing you all very soon at our Peace and Light Ceremony and wish you all a peaceful holiday season and New Year.


Janet, handwritten, in script

Janet Wolfe
Head of School
The IDEAL School of Manhattan

Several adults sit at a long table. One is talking  to the others, another stands and listens.

Parent Workshop

On Tuesday, October 15, anti-bias educator and school consultant Sara Wicht led a workshop titled Building Family and Community Engagement with IDEAL families. The interactive meeting introduced foundational pieces of anti-bias, social justice teaching that will apply to our family and community engagement.

Attendees had an opportunity to think about their own intersectionality and the intersectionality of their children and how current routines and learning goals lean on strengths and grow challenges. Families were introduced to IDEAL’s goals with regards to the social justice domains: Identity, Diversity, Justice, and Action, which teachers have been exploring and embedding within and across the curriculum.

Ms. Wicht has been facilitating training and planning conversations with IDEAL faculty and staff since August to support our school’s social justice practice. She engaged with small groups of faculty on Tuesday and led a full faculty meeting on Wednesday afternoon, building on her work with parents.

Ms. Wicht provided her slideshow for parents who were unable to attend. Download it here. You can learn more about Sara Wicht here.

A mother holds her child who has face paint and holds white and blue balloons. They are at a professional soccer match.

Soccer Fundraiser Scores a Goal for IDEAL

Many thanks to IDEAL parent Matt Steinberg, who organized An IDEAL Day of Major League Soccer last Saturday, September 14. Over 80 members of the IDEAL community came together to watch the New York City Football Club defeat the San Jose Quakes. IDEAL students took the field for photos at halftime and again after the game when they were able to kick a goal! To cap off the day, team players signed autographs and stood for pictures with our group. The fundraiser earned more than $4,000 for the Pioneer Fund in a great kickoff to the giving season. See photos from the day on Facebook.

Two young, male IDEAL students with hands on hips and a tree in the background

This article by Katelin Walling was published in the March 2019 edition of Big Apple Parent.

The IDEAL School of Manhattan Provides an Inclusive Learning Environment with a Focus on Social Justice

At this inclusive, independent school on the Upper West Side, children with special needs learn alongside their neurotypical peers.

The IDEAL School of Manhattan, a coed, independent school on the Upper West Side provides an inclusive learning environment for its students. Plus, with a focus on social justice and service learning, students learn the importance of celebrating everyone's differences. 

"Both my children have a real strong understanding of people’s differences…and how everybody is stronger when they’re all working together,” says Jeff Frank, father of Milo, a fifth-grader, and Eira, a first-grader, who are enrolled at The IDEAL School of Manhattan, located on the Upper West Side. He credits their understanding to the school’s community and educational philosophy.

The IDEAL School is an inclusive, coed, independent school for kindergarten through 12th grades. It was founded by three families of children with Down syndrome who wanted their children to learn alongside neurotypical peers, according to Joseph Kemp, director of communications for The IDEAL School.  

While neither of Frank’s children have Individualized Education Programs, he says they both needed a little extra instruction, which they weren’t getting at their previous school. When he and his wife were looking for a new school for their children, “IDEAL became an ideal choice because we really enjoyed the idea of having an individualized learning center, so every child is working at their own pace regardless of their obstacles or their learning needs,” Frank says.

The IDEAL School of Manhattan reinforces the message of inclusivity through its social justice and service learning programs. “Inclusion becomes, essentially, a civil rights issue, so I think it makes sense that their social justice curriculum is very much at the center of their emphasis on inclusion,” Frank says. “All the messages that you would teach in inclusion about respect, about communication, about cooperation, all of those things lend themselves to the social justice curriculum. …It teaches children that they have to support each other and be allies even when the issue isn’t affecting them directly.” And it’s something he says his children have internalized.

“Even more so than my wife’s and my appreciation for IDEAL, I think my children love it most. They look forward to going to school every day,” Frank says. “When my son first visited IDEAL, he walked away saying, ‘I feel like these children are just like me, these are my people.’”