G.N. school faculty to hoop with Harlem Wizards

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Teachers in the Great Neck school district are set to take on their next challenge, but this one won’t be in the classroom.

The Harlem Wizards, a nationally known “show basketball” team, will play against teachers from Great Neck North Middle School and the district’s elementary schools for a fundraiser on Monday.

North Middle School’s Parent Teacher Organization, along with the district’s Shared Decision Making Committee and Student Council Organization, organized the fundraiser.

“I think people are coming just to have a fun time and to have a great school spirit,” said Lori Beth Schwartz, co-president of North Middle School’s PTO. “The kids really do work so hard. And for the teachers, middle school can be a tough time, so it’s a great way to blow off some steam and to come together around a common cause and build friendship bonds across the whole North Middle School family and across the district.”

Schwartz said two members of the PTO’s fundraising team came up with the idea and researched the Harlem Wizards.

She said the organization, which was founded in 1962 by New York sports promoter Howie Davis, offers a “great package” for schools and is very hands-on with helping prepare for the fundraiser.

Before planning the fundraiser, Schwartz said, the organizers had to make sure that teachers were willing to participate.

“Right away we had like 30 teachers emailing us saying they would volunteer,” she said.

Schwartz said that instead of limiting the fundraiser to North Middle School students and faculty, they wanted to get the elementary schools involved as a way to bridge the two levels.

“We thought it would be fun for [elementary school students] to see the teachers they might have,” she said. “It’s really a unifying event to bring our sides together.”

“We love that we got the elementary schools involved,” Schwartz added. “They’re not going to be quite as intimidated going to middle school by getting a friendlier impression.”

She said that while the game is a fundraiser, the funds are not going to a specific project.

Instead, Schwartz said, the PTO collected information from school officials in various departments on what they need most.

“We’re trying to raise the funds and distribute the funds so they touch all the departments and children of the school,” she said.

Schwartz said one of the best parts of the fundraiser is the audience participation.

She said the Harlem Wizards do a great job of engaging with the crowd and giving everyone, from players to audience members, a fun time.

“The Harlem Wizards have a great personality,” Schwartz said. “Everybody’s coming to have fun and they do all kinds of fun things with the audience.”

She said the students may come out of the event enjoying themselves the most, given that they have the chance to see their teachers out of the classroom and on the court.

“Kids love seeing their teachers getting clobbered,” Schwartz said. “They’re excited to see their teachers trying to get past pro basketball players.”

Players from North Middle School will include Principal Gerald Cozine, Assistant Principals Jennifer Andersen and Nancy Gunning and teachers John Amato, Zachary Boyt, Aimee Feifer, Eric Friedman, Jeffrey Jablonowski, Danielle Larson, Cara McCormack, Lauren Neckin, Brendan Nelson, Michael Noberto, Stefanie Oddo, Savannah Puca, Cinthia Serowik, Michelle Sicurella, Christine Sposito and Rachael Weissman.

Teachers playing from E.M. Baker Elementary School will include Anne Alexandrou, David Cheng, Kristin Eberhardt and Lindsey Glad.

John F. Kennedy Elementary School staff who will be playing will include Principal Ronald Gimondo and Assistant Principal Kathleen Murray, as well as teachers Daniel DiSalvo, Lauren Heck and Roger Telsey.

North Middle School teacher Fredric Axelrod and parent Michael Smolens will serve as referees and the team coach will be North Middle School parent Steven Cronin.

Although tickets to see the Harlem Wizards play against district faculty are sold out, Schwartz said there is still a need for parent volunteers.

The fundraiser will take place on Monday, Jan. 23, at 7 p.m. at the North Middle School gym, at 77 Polo Road.

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