Forty Plus years ago on October 16, 1967, the Hye Bardez Committee appointed by the Armenian Church of the Holy Martyrs visionary Parish Council with the staunch support of Pastor Rev. Fr. Vartan Megherian, opened the doors of the Hye-Bardez Nursery to eight pre-kindergarteners.
From this humble nucleus evolved the Hye Bardez Nursery and Kindergarten in 1972. In the bicentennial year of 1976, with the addition of a first grade, it became known henceforth as the Holy Martyrs Armenian Day School- HMADS - the first in the Greater Metropolitan Area.
Upon fulfilling the stringent requirements stipulated by the NYS Department of Elementary Education and thorough examination of classroom facilities, faculty, curriculum, students’ academic and health records, the Board of Regents awarded the school a Provisional Charter in 1979. In 1982, after a waiting period of three years, HMADS earned an Absolute Charter (a form of accreditation).
The purpose of the school was to provide a high caliber education following the curriculum approved by the NYS Department of Elementary Education with an Armenian Studies Program; thus enhancing the knowledge and appreciation for the Armenian language and culture.
HMADS embraces children during the crucial formative years 3 to 12 (pre-K to 6th grade), when the foundations for love of learning, good work habits, moral, ethical and spiritual values are developed. These attributes are so essential in the present world which is inundated with pitfalls and temptations.
The long range plans for HMADS is to add at least grades 7 & 8 so that students can enjoy two more years in its warm and caring environment.
A library, science and computer laboratories and larger administrative offices are on the school’s wish list. With the anxiously awaited expansion of our church facilities these dreams can be realized.
The success of this unique school can be attributed to the cooperative spirit, inspirational faith and oneness of purpose of energetic principals, caring teaching staff, dedicated School Board members, hardworking fund raising committees, generous benefactors, devoted parents and the efforts of countless volunteers.
209-15 Horace Harding Expressway, Bayside/Oakland Gardens, New York, 11364, U.S.A.
Tel in USA: 718-225-4826
Christmas celebrations HMADS style
Zarmine Boghosian (in Azad-Hye Directory)
An interview with Zarminé Boghosian, principal of the Holy Martyrs Armenian Day School day school of Bayside.
The interview was conducted by Ms. Taleen Babayan of the Armenian Mirror Spectator -Watertown, MA –USA, on the eve of the school’s 25th Graduation in 2007.
Can you please talk about the founding of the Holy Martyrs Armenian Day School (HMADS)?
Back in 1966 a group of parishioners of the Armenian Church of the Holy Martyrs in Bayside, NY with its extremely supportive pastor, the late Father Vartan Megherian, felt the importance of a daily Armenian School. On October16, 1967 Hye Bardez opened its doors to 8 students. Year after year based on the encouragement of the parents classes were added to reach to elementary 6th grade. The HMADS held its first 6th grade graduation in 1982.
The HMADS uses the Holy Martyrs Church facilities for classes and activities. A fair share of costs relative to its usage is borne by the school (HMADS). To avoid legal problems or lawsuits the separation of the church and the school was passed in 1977. The school filed legal papers as an educational institution qualifying it for tax exemption. Federal tax exempt was approved by the IRS in 1981. Upon fulfilling the requirements stipulated by the New York State Education Department an Absolute Charter was awarded to the Holy Martyrs Armenian Day School by the Boards of Regents of the New York State Education Department in 1982.
The first principal of the Day School was late Mrs. Sara Anoushian Dadourian, (1978-1985), Mae Kazandjian (1985-1987), (2001-2003), Sophie Kerbeykian ( 2003- 2006)
For the past 20 years I have been involved with HMADS directly and indirectly. I was appointed by the school Board back in 1987. After 13 years of service as principal, I served one more year as Administrative Consultant to Mrs. Mae Kazandjian. Finally, as of September 2006, after five years of semi retirement, once again I was invited to take the position.
What has changed since HMADS was founded?
Many changes! Everything is now computerized. State Tests to home-works, Parents Handbook and more are available through internet. More and more our young parents have college degrees, they are professionals, and their expectations are different. “Armenianism” and/or preserving Armenian heritage is not their first or foremost priority as it used to be. However, in general, the students are high achievers. The parents are on top of their children to see their children to be as best as they can be. Our classes have about seven to ten students. It is basically one on one private tutoring. At the beginning of the school night HMADS holds Curriculum Night. I told the parents that their children are receiving royal treatment! There is competition; I see it in my grandchildren too. Young parents are so eager to enroll their children in so many programs from ballet to karate or other sports. You have to minimize or focus on one or two hobbies. I think that today’s children are not given the opportunity to enjoy their childhood. As an educator I am concerned about that, there are too many activities besides the TV programs and internet. But all in all we have parents who volunteer and are willing to do everything for their children’s school.
Although from one decade to another names change, the mission of this school remains the same. To bring up a generation who are cognizant to their roots and prepared for the American main stream. The school owes a lot to all those who had the vision for this setting and to all who are continuing on the footsteps of the founding fathers. From School Board members to Education Committee members numerous names have come and gone to enrich the life of the school and to leave their names to be remembered. Every year the school gratefully acknowledges the contributions of a list of benefactors, especially those who have funds in the ACEF (Armenian Church Endowment Fund) under the name of a loved one or their family name. On top of that list comes: Mr. Dadour Dadourian who initiated the idea of having an endowment fund (1979) Mr. Souren M. Allalemdjian, Suren D. Fesjian, Edward Peters, George G. Bashian, Edward Gulbenkian are names to be remembered as the founding fathers of this school. There are so many names, I wish I can list them all.
A grateful and sincere appreciation goes to Mr. Irwin Wayne Uran who on June 14, 1996 donated one million dollar to the ACEF in memory of his mother Mrs. Rose Uran, proceeds of which along with other donors’ total comes to the school. Late Mr. Charles Davitian was instrumental in introducing HMADS to Mr. Uran.
Currently the school board chair is Mr. Arek Nisanyan, a former parent. The fundraising wing of the School Board is Friends of HMADS – initiated and founded 13 years ago by Mr. Nurhan Adarian – then the co-chair of the School Board. Today, under the chairmanship of Mr. H. Malikyan, the Friends of HMADS continues to organize several fundraising events to maintain a solid financial base for the school.
I am happy to announce the birth of an HMADS Alumni Association on the eve of the school’s 25th graduation!! On June 1st the group is organizing a Benefactors and Volunteers appreciation cocktail on the occasion of the schools’ 40th anniversary and 25th graduation. It’s our responsibility to pass the legacy to them by introducing to the names of all those who had pivotal role in the history of this school.
How challenging is it to run an Armenian-every day school in a society where assimilation is inevitable?
It’s an ongoing struggle & challenge from all angles! To keep the enrollment, budget, curriculum and of course to preserve the language and culture!! The school is not an isolated entity. It’s the continuation of home environment and our churches and organizations should be the next step/venue for a healthy environment for our children to practice what they have acquired from their family and school. The students after graduating from Armenian schools (Every Day or one Day) should be welcomed and encouraged to assume special roles in their respective Armenian circles.
It’s an ongoing struggle and pressure for us as educators and for our students. It’s a challenge for all of us- to keep our children aware of who they are, as we expect them to learn Armenian, to know the history but at the same time not be weak or fall behind in American education as they go into the mainstream.
What is the structure of the curriculum at HMADS? How are the teachers prepared?
The school follows the NY State Curriculum for elementary schools. All of our teachers are specialized in education and certified from the Board of Education. All subjects are taught in English. Armenian Language/History instruction is one period a day. There are three Armenian teachers. One teacher for Nursery- Prek, second for K-2nd, and third for grades 3-6. Once a week students have Armenian Music, Physical Education, and computers. The school also offers French, Spanish, music, and karate classes as after school activities. The school has always been fortunate in the selection of qualified teachers.
What vision do you have for the school in ten years?
We are the only Day School on the East Coast – if I am not mistaken- that is housed in a half-century old Armenian Church: The Armenian Church of the Holy Martyrs of Bayside, NY!
One of our most revered poets Hovhannes Shiraz versed it so meaningfully when he said tha: The Armenian church is the Bell (Zankag) and the Armenian School is the clapper (Lezvag).
The church has plans to expand and more and more in our society I see the need for a private Armenian School. The need for this kind of setting is imperative for children who are high achievers and to parents who are really concerned about the quality of the education of their children and at the same time maintaining “Armenianism” in their blood. The school is very important and Armenians all along have been known for that so I hope the community prospers and the church expansion plans go faster so we can have extra classes to raise it up to at least Middle School/ Junior High. This way we may secure stronger base for our children. Opening classes for junior high will help the students and the parents because the students have to face one adjustment period from junior high to high school as they transfer to a non-Armenian school. That’s my dream. At every graduation I say, hopefully by next year we can add a seventh and eighth grade. Otherwise how our community will be able to secure Bible readers in Armenian, servers at alter or leaders of tomorrow who are well versed and well saturated with both cultures.
A few years ago The New York Daily News did a comparison of private day schools in New York City, I recall HMADS ranked very well…
Back in July 1, 1999 the NY Daily News published an assessment comparing all the results of test scores (private/non-public and public schools). HMADS was ranked number 1 in Queens private schools and was ranked sixth among the five boroughs. This is a huge credit to our school. I hope to see the same standards continue year after year in this school. I call HMADS the jewel of the Armenian Community in NY area. I hope it keeps up with its reputation.
HMADS had its annual Armenian Heritage Week. Can you please elaborate?
I think I introduced two traditional events that is geared towards emphasizing Science and celebration of Armenian culture. For the past 19 years annually HMADS holds Science fair in March and Armenian Heritage week in April- usually the week of April 24. Students are encouraged to learn new vocabulary both in Armenian and English related to their units/topics. Each year for heritage week a them is chosen. One year literature, another year is music and students learn about prominent Armenians related to their chosen area. One year was dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Church in America. Students with a pseudo train ride went from city to city in the United states to “discover” the Armenian church of a given city. This year’s focus was on The Capitals of Historical Armenia. The classrooms were transformed into mini cities of Tigranakerd, Erebuni, Vagharshabad/Etchmiadsin, Cilician cities and today’s Yerevan. Each student was given a passport to go on a trip to other historical cities located next to their classrooms.
As they went to each room, the tour guides of the hosting class explain what city they are visiting. Everyone learned a lot, along with their homeroom teachers. Hayr Soorp Vahan Hovhannesian joined us too. We prepared a special passport for him too. Overall it was a great learning experience. Children were learning from other children and they were learning by teaching their peers about their cities. The culmination for the Armenian Heritage Week was Musical Night, spring concert celebration!. In the Church auditorium on display were all the samples of artworks that the students prepared to represent each ancient Armenian city. We had grandparents’ needle work coming from Marash, Aintab, Kilis and other artifacts from Cilicia.. As we celebrated Armenian Heritage Week we invited grandparents to see their grand-children in their classrooms. Grandparents’ day was tied with the Primate’s annual home-blessing visit. After the “Dunorhnek” grandparents and guests were treated to a morning breakfast reception. Grandchildren offered flowers and thank you cards to each grandparent. All in all a meaningful “The Year of the Church and Family” was celebrated in high class combining the elements of respecting our grand-parents, celebrating heritage in bringing the church and family together.
The HMADS is an educational institution and the community should understand that this is a community school and is not funded or owned by one donor or one particular organization. It is the collective efforts of a group gave birth to this school. Back in 1987-88 during the school’s 20th anniversary celebration we came up with a slogan: “Fruits for Our Roots”. I frequently refer to that idea. We all are trying to stay close to our roots and at the same time help the blossoming young to become productive individuals, the healthy seeds to safeguard a fruitful life for our future. We want to raise healthy thinkers, healthy, energetic and vibrant representatives of our community. As I look back and see how much effort has been put. It’s an ongoing struggle and pressure, for children to learn Armenian and to know their history but at the same time not be weak in American education as they go into the mainstream.
Thank you Taleen for this opportunity! It means a lot for the school. As I turn the pages of four-decades of existence of this school, an outburst of deep gratitude fills my heart. Undoubtedly, each member of our community – including you- has a special place in that history and very special share for gratitude. It’s not a secret that their continuous moral and financial support invaluably contributes to the fulfillment of our mission in educating the young generation for a better future for our nation.