Catching Up With: Lisa Ripperger

I am so happy to be in touch with Lisa Ripperger, who surprised some of us by jetting off to Dubai in 2018 from her 12-year gig helming PS 234. After a quick back and forth on email, I came away with this gem of an update, below, attached to this note: “Am off tonight for a long weekend retreat in Surat, India. I hope to be offline while I am away. But I’m back in Dubai by Monday morning.” Wonderful.

Where and starting when did you live or work in Tribeca? And what did you do here?
I came to Tribeca in July 2006 to be the principal of PS 234.

When did you leave and why?
I left 234 in August 2018 to move to Dubai to become the principal of a fairly new, American progressive school.

What are you doing now?
I am now the principal of the Clarion School in Dubai, UAE.

Are you happy doing what you are doing now?
It’s really exciting to grow a new school. In many ways the community of families, value-wise, is very similar to Tribeca. We have students who represent 45 nationalities, so I am constantly making connections to cultural awareness work we did as a staff at 234. It’s exhilarating work.

What do you miss the most about Tribeca?
1. The well established, connected community. The people made PS 234 and Tribeca so extraordinary.
2. I miss how well our teachers taught social studies.
3. I miss the sound of the bell tower ringing.
4. I miss the children of 234 knocking on my window grate at all hours of the day and night and talking to me through the grate.

What don’t you miss at all?
The rats in our school garden on Greenwich Street.

When were you last here? And why?
I came back to NYC in June for my niece Lauren’s 8th grade graduation. But I came to 234 during that trip to visit with as many people as possible, see the 5th graders before their graduation and be part of Andrew Steele’s retirement party.

Where did you move from? Where are you originally from?
I moved to New York after college in 1991 and called NYC my home since then. I grew up in Chicago and then Michigan and went to college in Boston.

If you had a night/day/weekend here, what would you do?
Hmmmm, that’s hard. I love walking around Tribeca, especially up Greenwich. I’d want to visit PS 234 of course. Take a SoulCycle class. I seriously miss SoulCycle in Dubai! I’d enjoy running from the school up to Pier 40 and back again. I miss the Hudson.

What’s a single moment that you loved about working here?
I have so many moments of pride from being a part of the 234 community.
1. The 10th Anniversary of 9/11
2. Our student demonstration against standardized testing
3. Getting locked in the school yard gates (twice) when no one else was at school!
4. Our community gathering in response to gun violence in schools
5. Every single classroom celebration.
6. Laughing with Elizabeth, Erica and Kara.

Do you have any souvenirs of Tribeca?
I wear a gold bracelet which the 234 staff gave me as a goodbye gift that has the coordinates of PS 234. I put it on when I left 234 and I haven’t taken it off. I absolutely love it. I also have two beautiful scrapbooks made by the PS 234 community of cards, photos and letters to me. These are well displayed in my living room in Dubai. The pages are dog-eared as I frequently read through the beautiful messages from children, teachers and parents.

So… what’s the future hold for you? What’s next?
That’s such a fascinating question. What leaving the United States is most teaching me to do is to have no expectations. This is a super hard thing to learn because it’s completely against all that I learned culturally growing up. So, for right now, I am truly enjoying living in the UAE. It’s a place with deep cultural heritage and beautiful natural environments to explore. I am enjoying learning about the desert, mountain and mangrove ecosystems of the UAE and how the Emiratis traditionally lived here.

I learned a great deal from the teachers and school leaders at 234 and I live differently as a result of our school community. Every day I try to take what I learned from that community and share it with my new one.



  1. She looks so happy! It’s wonderful to see…

  2. How many times was 234 mentioned in this post? You gotta let it go sometime. Try 567.

  3. Great piece Pam! I’m glad to see Lisa doing so well.

  4. Beautiful piece and always great to read and hear updates from and about people who helped shape our community. Lisa and educators overall are so impactful – most important 12 years of helping our future leaders mold into better human beings. Thanks for the update.

  5. Lisa is truly an amazing individual and did more for this community than pretty much anyone else could ever hope to. But come on, just say you took the job for the $ instead of remarking about the culture and natural beauty of the UAE.

  6. Yes, Dubai/UAE and culture normally don’t show up near each other. Unless you are talking about mall culture or capital punishment culture :)