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Parent Volunteers Give VHS A Makeover


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Reclaimed cabinets became a new kitchenette.

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.

What the room looked like before.

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.”

The old closet became a quiet space for phone calls to parents.

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citranohttps://myveronanj.com
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Forbes.com. Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected].


  1. As a former teacher at VHS and current Tennis Coach I would like to thank the SCA for the wonderful gift! The efforts of Mrs. Karydes and all of the volunteers brings a smile to my face just entering the now WARM, INVITING, and FUNCTIONAL ROOM.

  2. Thank you, SCA, for sponsoring this project, and for your continued beautification efforts around the common areas of the school. Our only problem with the faculty room now is that so many want to enjoy it that reservations might become required for lunch! As a faculty, we are fortunate to have consistently supportive parents who show appreciation for all of the great things happening at VHS.

  3. The transition is amazing! Thank you to the SCA and all the community members who came together to make it happen. What a wonderful way to begin a new school year!

  4. I would just like to extend my sincere thanks to the SCA for the AMAZING job they did with our faculty room. It was such a wonderful surprise to come back to school and see such a beautiful room to enjoy lunch and conversation with peers in. Thank you for your constant generosity and support.

  5. Thank you very much, SCA! The room looks amazing. It definitely gives VHS a more “homey” feel for the time we are teaching during the school year.

  6. I have taught at Verona High School for over 35 years and the faculty room has never looked as wonderful as it does today. I cannot thank the SCA, community members and hard-working volunteers enough for this amazing makeover. You are all the absolute best:) Thank you!! Thank you!!!! Thank you!!!!!!!

  7. Thank you so much for the renovation. The room looks great and a place I will absolutely use. The amount of time it took to paint, install cabinets, and create a professional feeling teacher’s room must have been enormous. Your collaboration with local businesses shows the dedication that the community and the SCA has for us as teachers.

    This is great!

  8. MANY thanks to the SCA from another long-time VHS teacher. Please know that your efforts are greatly appreciated. There wasn’t a single person I saw in the first few days who didn’t excitedly ask “Have you seen the faculty room yet?” Those photos do not even do justice to how complete the “makeover” was. That kind of community support is just one of the things that makes Verona such a great place to work.

  9. Thank-you to the SCA and the very special ladies who donated their time and hard work in creating a beautiful space for the staff to decompress and enjoy. The transformation is amazing and has definitely provided another reason to enjoy our jobs as educators. It is apparent that the extent of your thoughtfulness, dedication and support can only come from the “hearts” of the Verona community! Thank-you from the bottom of our hearts!

  10. Thank you so much for making our faculty room so comfortable and inviting. I know that a lot of hard work and time was spent updating this room and really appreciate all of the effort that was given. I have already eaten lunch more in there this week then I have in the past 2 years. The support that you have shown us reminds me why I chose to work in this wonderful school district. Thank you again!

  11. What a world of difference!! Thank you so much to the SCA & all of the volunteers who took time out of their summer to give VHS teachers a faculty room to be proud of!

  12. Thanks to the VHS SCA for the dedication of your time, talents, and treasure in overhauling a part of the school which was in much need of an overhaul. Since I have started teaching, I have lost count of the number of SCA projects which have significantly improved the appearance of our school: Landscaping, work to improve the front and side entryways…the list goes on.

    The students and educators of VHS are proud of our school building and your work has amplified that pride.


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