There’s just no polite way of saying this: Until a few days ago, the teachers’ lounge at Verona High School was a dump. Filled with a listless collection of furniture that had seen better days, the lounge seemed to belong to a different building than the classrooms and labs that surrounded it.
But VHS’ teachers begin school today in a room that looks a whole lot more inviting, thanks to a group of parent volunteers and area businesses. And it was all done for a cost that makes one of those budget TV makeover shows look extravagant: $1,204.
“It was a lot of fun–and a lot of hard work,” says Lynn Karydes, the interior design professional tapped by the VHS SCA to plan the makeover.
The SCA had cast a cold eye on the lounge during a facilities tour earlier in the year and decided that something needed to be done. SCA President Laurie Brandt found $1,000 in the parent group’s budget and when school let out, Karydes got to work. The mother of a VHS junior and the owner of her own design firm since 2002, she sourced cabinets at Green Demolitions, a kitchen recycler in Fairfield. “The tag said $750 but I got it for $500,” said Karydes. The granite counter top set her back just $50. “I couldn’t have done that at Home Depot,” she added.
The counter top wasn’t the right size, so George Cortese, the father of a VHS 2011 graduate and the owner of Cortese Kitchens & Baths, took it to be cut down at Apex Marble & Granite. The Cedar Grove business did the work for free. The paint that spruced up the table, chair and walls was donated by Rich DiGeronimo, a Verona resident who owns Red Star Paint & Decorating in Montclair. Karydes made a list of other things that were needed and when Brandt sent it to high school parents, they responded with donated items and a bit more cash. The school district’s facilities director, Paul McDevitt, installed the new cabinets and then Karydes and fellow volunteers Diane Conboy and Holly Denton got to work.
Teachers generally use the lounge as a place to make their calls to parents. But there was no private space or quiet place in the old room. Karydes turned an under-utilized coat closet into a modern-day phone booth. There’s a computer workstation and an inviting sofa, and a kitchenette instead of two microwaves precariously balanced on a metal shelf. After the table and chairs were repainted, Karydes recovered the seats with fabric she had leftover from her business.
The big reveal came when the teachers returned to work. “They were so happy and so appreciative,” says Karydes. “Because the space looks so professional it reinforces the hard work that they are doing.”