For several years, school leaders from small Jewish communities with day schools have found that we learn best by learning from one another. In the nuanced environments in which we work, there is often innovation born from necessity as we face unique challenges and have small/nimble administrative models. We have also learned that being within a host school for our gatherings is an ideal setting to share our work and be inspired by the work of a colleague’s school.

We have worked together with Prizmah, and the networks that existed before Prizmah, to ensure that our time together is effective in moving our thinking forward with practical strategies that we share freely across our cohort. In November in Austin, TX at the Austin Jewish Academy, we experienced one of the strongest opportunities for professional growth for heads and administrative leaders. This was the experience for both first time participants and for those who have been in the network for a decade. There was a tremendous amount of sharing and learning, and we all left feeling like the time we spent together was absolutely worth all that it takes to be away from home and school.

We know that being a head of school can be a lonely and challenging job. We know that all administrators wear many hats. Feeling supported and connected with people who “get it” is a key component for successful leadership, and we invite more of you to attend our next gathering. We hope that you find some meaningful connections to our work through the things we documented together, and encourage you to reach out to people whose ideas and programs are represented below as a source of inspiration in this important work together.

Sam Chestnut
Head of School
The Lippman School
Akron, OH

Leveraging the Success of the Small School

Small schools have so much to be proud of. There was a lot of celebrating our successful programs and a full willingness to share with the field.

  • B’nai Shalom is using a program from Google Suite to help collect data to see revenue in every grade; Helps to inform decisions of teacher ratio and costs per student. Reach out to Susan Seigel.
  • Lerner has implemented a program that Beth had used when she was at MetroWest of a transparent tuition assistance program. Reach out to Beth Null.
  • Hillel Tampa has created a Culture of Chesed program. Reach out to Allison Oaks.
  • Beth Hillel has introduced proficiency based learning cohorts for students. They also have an Individual Student Success program. Reach out to Kathryn Jenssen.
  • Bornblum has a program called Mishpachot. It divides the entire school into families for a variety of activities and programs.  Also a great middle school leadership opportunity. Reach out to Daniel Weiss.
  • Wornick has Havurot for adults. Reach out to Annie O’Donnell.
  • NE Miles has a Young Scientist program as part of outreach to help attract new families. Reach out to Debra Abolafia.
  • Jewish Academy Orlando is implementing a Positive Psychology program. Twenty four weeks with one character strength each week. Reach out to Alan Rusonik.
  • Hebrew Day School Ann Arbor has a positive staff culture program. They share habits for communication, work agreements and do a lot of celebrating and appreciating. They also each write a My User Manual. Reach out to Jen Rosenberg.
  • Harkam Gaon high school  is using online courses so homework is almost minimal . Reach out Debora Parks.
  • Seattle Jewish Community School has an integrated curriculum and intentional multi-age classrooms. Reach out to Ron Waldman.
  • Lippman, Ezra, B’nai Shalom Fridel and NE Miles have a middle school Alliance for a Social Justice Curriculum that includes annual grade level trips. Any of the heads at these schools can speak to the program. Reach out to Melanie Waynik for specific information.
  • B’nai Israel has a full Teva program for nursery-1st and is adding a grade each year. They have also  built a strong community partners program. Reach out to Debby Kinman-Ford.
  • Lerner has a compassion project that focuses on team building for the staff and for the board and results in a family project and full community celebration. Reach out to Tal Lewin Wittle.
  • The Lippman School went through a total revisioning of their Judaic studies program to be sure it was aligning with the values and mission of the school. They used outside consultants and data to determine next steps. They also have a complete problem based learning component to the curriculum. Reach out to Sam Chestnut.
  • Austin Jewish Academy has a robust project based learning program, outdoor classroom experiences and memorializes each project done the science education center. Reach out to Chris Aguero.

Continue Reading: The Role of the Head of School