The Spark! February/March 2023

A Note from Sam Gelbert, Program and Marketing Coordinator
Dear Parents,
I’m thrilled to present this month’s special edition of The Spark, featuring Katie Kheel, Claude Meliarenne, and Lisa Stark. Please join me in congratulating Katie and Claude on their co-ownership of Discovery Programs, and congratulating Lisa on retiring after 50 incredible years as founder and Executive Director. You will learn more about each of these leaders and Discovery’s rich history in education and community-building in the sections below.
All the best,
Sam Gelbert
A Note from The Director
Dear Parents,
I am excited to announce that Claude Meliarenne and I have now taken over ownership of Discovery Programs through a deal with the Founder and Executive Director, Lisa Stark. Some of you may have never met Lisa because she started to step back more
from the company on a day-to-day basis in the last 6 years. For those of you who have been in the Discovery family longer or were even a student of Discovery as children yourselves, you may recall Lisa’s everyday presence. Lisa, an extraordinary visionary with an eye for detail, founded what would later become Discovery Programs in 1973. To learn more about Discovery’s history, click here. Lisa’s visions of high quality early childhood and after school classes, engaging teachers, and the importance of connection and community are still the central pillars of the program today.
I first came to Discovery in 2007 as an assistant dance teacher, having wanted to pursue dance again after spending years working in advertising and legal office environments. I vividly remember Lisa interviewing me in her office and I had a strong sense of her ideals for the program. Over those first few years, I began teaching more in the program and helped administratively while I was pregnant with my daughter, Sabrina. I learned an immense amount during that time from Lisa and former directors, Stella Moon and Elaine Winter.
In 2010, I was asked by Lisa and Claude to be the Director. I was a young mother myself and had connected with both staff and families during those few years. I didn’t think I had the capability, but I agreed to the role on a temporary basis while we searched for a permanent Director. I worked closely with our Educational Consultant, Marsha Greenberg. From that point on, I never really looked back. My role became permanent, and I slowly integrated Discovery into all parts of my life. I live here on the Upper West Side and Sabrina grew up in the program taking several classes. I began to find my second home and family here at Discovery and put my heart into the everyday workings of the program.
The last few years have been tough between the renovation and pandemic, but Claude, myself, and other integral staff including the Gym Director, Mary Cain, worked hard to keep Discovery open and moving forward. We believed that Discovery and its community of people, from staff to children, parents and caregivers, was something really special. 
The number of children, families, caregivers, staff, and others that Discovery has touched over its 50 years is vast and immeasurable. In the almost fifteen years that I worked at Discovery I have made many special friendships and I continue to stay in touch with several staff members and families who have moved on or outgrown the program.
We will be celebrating this transition, Lisa’s legacy and the company’s 50th anniversary later this year. I look forward to working closely with Claude on this next exciting chapter in Discovery’s future, continuing the same strong pillars of the program and bringing forth new endeavors as well.
With gratitude,
Katie Kheel

A Note from Lisa Stark, Founder of Discovery Programs
When I was invited to teach ballet at the Walden School of Continuing Education in January 1973, and then to direct the entire program beginning in 1975, little did I dream that it would grow into the multi-faceted and wildly successful Discovery Programs, which is going on its 50th year! During this time, I have had the privilege of working with hundreds of the most talented and giving teachers who have built Discovery’s reputation and have been the foundation of our success. Over the past 50 years, thousands of children have attended Discovery’s early childhood education, movement, sports, and arts classes, including the children of students we taught so many years ago. With our long standing, devoted teachers and our multigenerational participation, Discovery Programs is truly a family.
This concept of the Discovery family is even more true as I proudly and officially announce that Claude Meliarenne and Katie Kheel have permanently taken over the reins of Discovery Programs. Claude grew up at Discovery, entering our famed track program at the age of nine and coming back after college in 1995 to work with me and run Discovery’s business office. Katie, having been on staff since 2007, started as one of our most beloved ballet instructors and has been seamlessly and gracefully managing the program over the past 13 years.
Claude and Katie have extraordinary gifts as directors, each bringing their own unique talents that excellently complement the other. The faculty love working with them because they are there for our teachers from the moment they arrive until the moment they leave. And our children, parents, and caregivers receive that same personalized attention and respect. Katie and Claude are universally loved. I am honored that they will be leading Discovery into the next 50 years as they have the talents and insight to develop wonderful new programs for children. It brings me such joy to know that Discovery will continue into the future and create important and precious memories for all of the children to come.  
“Discovering Discovery”
Claude Meliarenne, Discovery Programs Co-Owner & Business Manager 

Sam Gelbert, our Program and Marketing Coordinator, asked me to write a few paragraphs about what Discovery has meant to me for the monthly Spark newsletter. After momentarily thinking about it, I realized that I could write several books about my 43-year involvement as both a student and staff member! I have been impacted by so many wonderful people who have worked here and continue to do so; from our founder, Lisa Stark, to all the wonderful teachers, coaches, admin, and maintenance staff members. I know that my words could not adequately express how well Discovery has transformed me and several generations of children, parents, grandparents, and caregivers…but I will try.

I still distinctively remember my first day at Discovery as a student–I told my mom that I could not wait to go back and have fun again! Coincidentally, last Friday, I asked one of our dads how his daughter was enjoying gymnastics and he replied that “she cannot wait every week to come back!” I realized that even though our programming has evolved significantly over the last 50 years, some things just do not change. Lisa Stark’s vision for engaging children’s programming back in the early ’70s clearly continues today.
I started working at Discovery right out of college as the business manager and I was only supposed to
stay for a few months…and 28 years later I am still at it. Lisa and I worked closely together on the
behind-the-scenes administrative tasks involved in keeping the school running. We were in a cozy, but
small, space off-site. I learned so much from Lisa during those early days–her beliefs and teachings are a big part of who I am today. It was a true gift spending time with her. One of Lisa’s many talents was knowing how to hire the very best staff to work at Discovery. Her decision making was deliberate, and her priority was making sure that the children would be taught by the very best educators in their fields. I believe this is the quintessential reason for her success over many decades.
For the last 10 years, I have had the pleasure of working at the school more often and I really enjoy
coming in every day, seeing the smiling children, and interacting with them. It has made my time at
Discovery even more special. I look forward to taking our program to new heights with Katie Kheel, my
co-owner and very good friend. As the new owners of Discovery, Katie and I will continue to bring all
the wonderful aspects that we have both learned from Lisa and her legacy of providing an exceptional
experience for the kids will continue seamlessly. I have no doubt that with Discovery’s strong foundation and special community in place, our beloved program will prosper for another 50 years!

Photo Op: Winter Dance Concert

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