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Obituary - May 25, 2019

Elsa R. Wasserman

Dr. Elsa R. Wasserman, who spent most of the last 15 years in Ajijic, died May 14 after suffering a stroke at her home in Goleta, California.

pg10aWasserman was born in Boston, Massachusetts on May 6, 1937 to Milton and Charlotte Robinson of Brookline, Massachusetts. Her father was a florist at the Boston Flower Market, having taken over the business from his father. Her mother, Charlotte, was a housewife.

Wasserman served the Cambridge Public Schools in many capacities. She headed the staff development efforts overseeing the introduction of new methods into the schools; she was acting principal of Cambridge Rindge and Latin School and was instrumental in the development of two alternative high schools in Cambridge, the Pilot School and the Cluster School.  Because of her acumen as an educator and as a principled person, she was consulted by superintendents and educators throughout her years in Cambridge.

In 1989, Boston University hired Wasserman as principal of Chelsea High School in Boston. This was the most daunting and high profile task of her career, assiduously tracked by the Boston press.  BU had just taken over the Chelsea Public Schools and soon after, the town went into receivership with the state. WGBH in Boston documented Wasserman’s endeavors in “Hard Times at Chelsea High.” During her tenure, graduation rates and other important metrics improved.

Wasserman then moved into the position of assistant superintendent in Maynard, Massachusetts. She introduced Standards Based Learning, a move that would be followed by all states. After leaving Maynard, she worked as an education consultant for the National Center on Education and the Economy in Washington, D.C., developing a program for America’s Choice that would greatly alter the collaborative framework of educators within a school.

Wasserman’s final act as a professional was working as a social worker on Cape Cod specializing in the methodologies of Dr. Marsha Linehan’s Dialectical Behavioral Therapy.

Wasserman received her MEd and her EdD from Boston University. Her doctorate thesis focused on the collaborative work she completed with Dr. Lawrence Kohlberg of Harvard University. A rich professional and personal relationship and their efforts and work together produced the implementation of several cutting-edge approaches to public education that resulted in democratic participation for all stakeholders in the school environment.

Wasserman married Oscar Wasserman and together had three children: Aaron (wife, Ana, and children, Lukas and Zachary) Wasserman of Ft. Worth, Texas, Shoshanna Richek (children, Eric and Dael Szuch) of Charleston, South Carolina, and Michael (wife, Liat, and children, Sarina and Leora) Wasserman of Santa Barbara, California.  Elsa and Oscar remained friends and family following their divorce. She loved her grandchildren, taking them on extraordinary trips to Alaska and the Galapagos Islands which enriched the relationship among the cousins who lived so far apart.

During her years in Ajijic, Wasserman developed deep bonds with many locals and expats alike. In particular, she created a second family with the Garcia-Garays: Angie, Alex, Alejandra and Ivan.  Recently, a granddaughter was born to the Garcia family and was named Elsa in honor of their adopted grandmother.

Close family and friends gathered in Santa Barbara to celebrate their love for Elsa.

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