The Sefcik family of Ringoes, New Jersey, went sailing near Williamsburg while in town showing their oldest daughter the College of William & Mary.
W&M is a small liberal arts university, with 5,000 undergrads and 2,500 graduate students. The size is still daunting to incoming freshmen who find the place overwhelming. That shouldn’t be a problem for Erika Sefcik since she goes to Hunterdon Central, a regional high school with 4, 000 students.
“Four middle school feed into it, plus people outside of the district who pay tuition. Each grade has 800 to 900 people. I don’t know all of them. We have five buildings on the campus and have to walk 8 to 10 minutes between buildings to get to some classes, even in thunderstorms.” Her mom Karen and I kidded about how it was probably uphill both ways in the snow. “And they have shoes,” she joked.
Erika continued, “We don’t have any big lecture halls like you find in college. The classes are 25 or 30, sometimes smaller. I’ve taken classes as small as 14 or 18 because so many students dropped out along the way. No, they don’t consolidate the smaller classes after that. Rarely do we have assemblies with that many kids, certainly not the entire school. They say Hunterdon is bigger than some small colleges, but obviously not as big as a university.
“We’re on an 80-minute block schedule with A and B class days, unlike traditional semesters where you take the same course every day at the same time. We get 45 minutes for lunch, which everyone takes at the same time, 10:30. That’s midway exactly between the time school starts at 7:30 and we get out at 3:30.”
She and her parents agree it would be better for teenagers’ sleep cycle to start class at 9 am, but that’s not going to happen in New Jersey. “The bus picks us up at 6:40 and we get to school by 7:10 and have to wait for classes to start.”
I’m a big believer in large schools. Ever since the Columbine shootings, school architects have had a field day designing small schools that cost millions more than necessary. Erika will be ready for college academically and socially, but also in terms of size and scale.
Erika’s dad Alan has an intriguing career. “I’m director of compensation and benefits for Este Lauder in the United States. We have 11,000 employees among 70,000 worldwide, and yet we account for 30 percent of all sales. The New Jersey legislature is looking at the $15 federal minimum wage, which would cause us real problems. Keep in mind that the $15 is only for companies with federal contracts, so we’re not obligated yet.”
Over the horizon came Air Force One, flying low and slow from Andrews Air Force Base to Langley Air Force Base where the crew practices touch-and-go landings once a month. Everyone was awed.
Karen and Alan looked at buying an old house on the Jersey Shore. “At the end of the day, we decided to buy new instead,” Alan said. “That worked out because when Hurricane Sandy hit, we had three feet of water under the house but it had been built four feet off the ground. We were saved.”
“And lucky too,” Karen added. “We lost a detached garage and got quick attention from the insurance company. Other people went months without any results. Some of them are still desperate.”
Law School Sail
Earlier, Mary Kay Dineen and Stewart Wechtler took friends sailing from W&M Law School. They’re both retired physicians, and Stewart went on to get his law degree.
Paul Marcus served twice as interim law dean, so I asked him about the turmoil years ago when they went through five or six deans in ten years. “Well, two of them went on to become college presidents, so that was okay.” One of them was Taylor Reveley, still serving as W&M president.
Mike Heck turned out to be an adroit helmsman, navigating 3-foot swells with great care and direction. It was a beautiful day all around.
Let’s Go Sail
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