She is more than just Assistant (to the) Head of School
Executive assistant. The name itself oozes prestige. Someone in such a professional role is buttoned-up, extremely regimented, and fiercely no-nonsense. Watch Alexandra Schratter for a mere 20 minutes, and it becomes clear that she is none of these.
When Travis Brownley (her direct boss and MA’s Head of School) passes through her office, she is quick with a self-demeaning joke about the spelling of “constituency.” When checking a cabinet and noticing a protruding box, she kicks it back into place with a nonchalant flick of the high heel. When talking to Academic Dean KaTrina Wenzel about organizing items in various drawers, she self-diagnoses “severe OCD” before saying, only half-jokingly, “I am psychotic.” Walk into her office and you’ll be greeted with a smile, whether you’re young or old, which is important because Schratter herself is practically a grandmother: “I have grey hair now,” pointing to some objectively brown hair on the side of her head. She laments, “I’m going to be celebrating my ten-year high school reunion,” before saying pensively, “I’ll probably skip it. I’m getting old.”.
As the last of five siblings, being old is a young concept for Schratter, who still recalls her days of being “thrown in the car” to attend her siblings’ various endeavors. While she wasn’t given the choice back then, her parents must have known the type of life Schratter would want to live: a life of helping others. Following 1600 “brutal” hours —she chuckles at the memory— wearing scrubs at Cosmetology school in San Mateo (her dream since doing makeup for weddings at age 16) and a subsequent successful salon opening, Schratter moved to the big city of San Francisco where she became a family assistant. Her infectiously cheerful nature must have rubbed off on whoever was lucky enough have her working for them because she smiles while recalling, “these people are like my second parents now.”
Fortunately for Schratter, jobs like these gave her ample time off to pursue some, shall we say, unique hobbies.: “I love skulls,” she says with the knowing smile of someone who has come to appreciate a slight yet distinctly quirky side, “Not creepy ones. I have a bunch of glass resin skulls and all my dish towels are skulls.”
“Because they look cool?”
She nods, leaning back in her chair: “Because they look cool.”
In addition to her arguably ghoulish collective habits, Schratter makes a point to utilize all the beautiful scenery the Bay Area and Northern California have to offer: “I lived (in Pinecrest, outside Yosemite) for six months out of the year for five years. I worked at the summer camp I grew up going to [which was home to] many of my best memories from childhood.” She adds that if she could have that job forever, she would take it in a heartbeat.
Add to this frequent trips to local mountains and Linda Mar beach with her dog and you can start to get a sense for her uncontainable spirit.
It wasn’t until a subsequent job, however, a similar bit of familial assistance work but one that contained more errands or “lazy favors” as she calls them, that Schratter discovered her “travel bug” that has been pestering her ever since.
“The Philippines,” she says as her face lights up, “is an awesome place to travel because while it’s such an attraction, it’s not just geared to tourists yet.” For most people, the itinerary of a vacation to the Philippines would look something like the schedule of The Bachelor, with romantic trips to the beach and fine local cuisine; a classic island getaway. While Schratter did make time to bike around the archipelago, the trip, like her, was far from average.
“We worked at an orphanage for eight days,” she recalls with a slight shift of seriousness in her usual playful tone. “The adoption world in other countries can… and often does turn into a black market to sell kids illegally.” She pauses, holding her hands outstretched helplessly, “I’m usually really good at not crying in situations when you’re not supposed to cry, but the second we walked out the door the first day I was hysterical because the stories are so sad, but they are so happy.”
One particular boy, Jono, sticks out.
“He was brought in by a social worker after three years on the streets by himself,” Schratter says with a distraught gaze, almost as if she feels the pain of those kids’ lives. “At the park, he was eating out of the trash and I was like ‘Jono, what are you doing?’ But that’s what he had to do to survive for so many years.”
Schratter came back grounded.
“I need to live less and have less. I’m not a minimalist at all but it’s just like wild stuff like when we go out to eat and you don’t like your food you send it back, and at the orphanage, no kid even left a grain of rice on the plate.” More than that, though, she returned longing for a sense of fulfillment that could only be achieved by reaching more people in her life: “The ad said work for this amazing woman who’s changing her community,” Shratter gestures her hands small circle, “I got so excited because Travis reaches so many.”
She usually likes to “fly under the radar,” but her commitment to using less and giving more back have already made Schratter, the ex-Mr. Pickles-lover, (it just doesn’t do it for her anymore) the budding seamstress, (if she doesn’t get too frustrated and quit) the now fianceé (a proposal she predicted to her boyfriend’s face on practically their third date) and most importantly the MA “freshman” the epitome of what the school strives to be.