by Monique P. Yazigi
(2170 words) Copyright New York Times Company Oct 3, 1999
EDES GILBERT saw it all. For 15 years as the headmistress of the Spence School, she saw the parents who lobbied for their 7-year-olds to be assigned to classes with children who weren’t their friends but whose parents were rich and prominent — in the hopes that the students would become friends and so would the parents.
She saw the jockeying to volunteer on the ”right” parent committees. ”Mothers would be upset because they weren’t put on a committee with someone who would give them that social leg up,” said Mrs. Gilbert, who retired in 1998 from Spence, the prestigious Upper East Side girls’ school. ”Mothers would throw a hissy fit.”
And she saw how back-to-school night, when parents flood the school to meet teachers and rub elbows with other parents, often had the aura of a competitive Park Avenue cocktail party: some adults networkfuriously to set up play dates for their daughters with the offspring of prominent parents, who include Sigourney Weaver, Michael Bloomberg, Katie Couric and Ronald O. Perelman.