Former Assistant to the Head of High School Valerie Velo takes a Postmates order from Mehdi Lacombe, '19, in 2018. Velo joined the school the previous year. (Photo by Jack Christian '19)

Longtime Country Day administrator leaves to focus on health, family

This school year, Country Day  has lost Valerie Velo, a staff member liked by students and staff alike. Grace Strumpfer, ’17, will take her place.

After joining Country Day in 2017,  Velo has held many roles: Assistant to  the Head of High School, Assistant to the Athletic Director, Student Council Adviser, AP Coordinator and International Student Coordinator.

“I’m kind of an office nerd;  organization is my jam,” she said.

Velo chose to leave the Country Day community to focus on her health and family.

“I grappled with this decision for months,” she said. “There were so many factors.”

Although it’s extremely hard for her to leave the Country Day community, Velo is grateful for her time on campus.

“Everyone is just really genuine here — they really care. I’ll really miss that,” Velo said.

Velo particularly cherishes the relationships she built with students and faculty. To foster such comfortable relationships is unusual in a job, Velo said.

“She’s really kind, helpful and sweet,” Fan said. “Always willing to help people if they have problems.”

Fan describes Velo as the “key” to the school: “she keeps it running,” he said.

When it came to getting help with extra time or dealing with language barriers, Velo was a constant presence, offering whatever was needed.

Head of High School Brooke Wells praised Velo’s qualities and in her time on campus.

“She’s positive, caring and very intelligent,” Wells said. “Great responsibility and attention to detail.”

English teacher Jane Bauman describes Velo as the “Queen of CavNET” for her organization and familiarity with the software.

Velo’s positive spirit and work ethic will be  missed by Country Day faculty and staff.

“I’ll miss her personality. She’s got this wonderful spirit about her,” said Athletic Director Matt Vargo. Vargo also praised Velo’s organization and work ethic.

Similarly, Bauman describes Velo as “friendly, cheerful and thoughtful.”

These positive qualities often showcased themselves on campus, whether it was her thoughtfulness of faculty and student dietary restrictions, or even her creativity in an April Fool’s day joke.

Students also recall the constant helpful presence of “Mrs. Velo” on campus.

Junior Kaitlyn Dias has known Valerie Velo since she first arrived at Country Day.

“She’s very fun and outgoing,” she said. Dias recalls often discussing pets in her frequent, friendly conversations with Velo.

As an international student, senior John Fan received considerable help from Velo, the International Student Coordinator.

Taking on this role in students’ lives is one of Velo’s favorite parts of her job.

“I get this unique perspective into all your lives and [my] role is unlike any other adult in your life,” Velo said. I get to be a place of support and kindness and I get to help nurture you all along in a really unique way.”

In the wake of Velo’s departure, the school has a new hire taking on some of her administrative responsibilities.

“We’ve hired Grace Strumpfer, who was a long-term sub last year,” Wells said.

Strumpfer, who recently began her job, is serving as Assistant to the Head of High School, Assistant to the Athletic Director and International Student Coordinator. AP Coordinator, another role of Velo’s, has been  passed on to Director of College Counseling Alicia Perla.

“I’ll still be around,” Velo said. She will remain a part of the Country Day community as a parent — Velo’s daughter, Grace, is beginning first grade at Country Day this year. 

 “It has truly been a magical experience watching you guys grow up over the past 7 years. You all hold a special place in my heart.”

— By Saheb Gulati

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