It all started with an article in the New York Times that caught my attention because it had to do with Seattle (as so many do): A Novel Asks Seattle to Laugh at Itself. And it didn’t take me long to realize that – even better – the protagonist of the book, the woman who’s name appears in its title, is Bernadette Fox. Coincidentally (I hope), the principal of my high school in Seattle is named Bernie Fox.
tl;dr, the New York Times reviewed a Seattle book starring my high school principal.
I finally had a chance to read the book — Where’d You Go Bernadette? — on my flight home at the beginning of Spring Break. And it was only once I actually read it that I realized the novel was linked to my past educational experiences on an even deeper level than coincidental nomenclature.
I was struck in particular by a memo – WYGB is an epistolary novel – penned by a consultant who has been hired to help a school fundraise enough money to buy a new campus. The memo goes on for over two pages, but the following brief excerpt should be more than enough to give you an idea of its general thrust (General Thrust!), as well as an understanding of why I’m bringing it to your attention [bold not my own]:
Our objective is to move the needle on Galer Street [School] and kick it up into the First-Choice Cluster (FCC) for Seattle’s elite. How do we achieve this? What is the secret sauce? …
The first action item is a redesign of the Galer Street logo. Much as I love clip-art handprints, let’s try to find an image that better articulates success. A coat of arms divided into four, with images of the Space Needle, a calculator, a lake (as in Lakeside), and something else, maybe some kind of ball? I’m just throwing out some ideas here, nothing’s set in stone.
I already had an inkling that Maria Semple was speaking to my personal experience when she named her main character Bernie Fox. But this memo – and its proposed logo – sounded all too familiar.
Some brief, necessary background: From first grade to eighth, I attended the Seattle Hebrew Academy. From ninth to twelfth, I attended the Northwest Yeshiva High School. Both schools are small. Both schools provided me with nothing other than a wonderful education. And both schools seem to have followed the memo-drafter’s blueprint to a T. Maybe not quite the suggested quadripartite “coat of arms”, but I think the contrasts between old and new speak for themselves – and perhaps to the schools’ aspirations:
Seattle Hebrew Academy (when I went there*):
Seattle Hebrew Academy (now):
Northwest Yeshiva High School (when I went there):
Northwest Yeshiva High School (now):
Or maybe it’s just that they finally joined the 21st c.
*The old SHA logo is no longer available (or at least searchable) anywhere on the internet (even through the Wayback Machine), so this representation was taken from an old (1998-99 school year) phone book my wonderful mother dug up upon request.