Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Step One - Part B in Integration of Technology

The schools have entered into part B of Step One. They have identified the first cohort of teachers that the Shared Integration Specialist will work with. The first step will be to visit the classrooms to get a more in-depth appreciative understanding of how technology is impacting the classroom. She will also meet individually with each teacher. During the individual meetings she will be able to collaboratively develop with each of the teachers a plan of action.

The schools have identified their first priority as listed below:

 Donna Klein Jewish Academy has identified the high school.
 Hillel Day School of Boca Raton has identified the early childhood.
 Weinbaum Yeshiva High School has identified teachers in different areas of the high school.

This first process will involve teachers in both Judaic and Secular classes.
The excitement in each of the schools to advance the integration of technology is electrifying. The teachers want to address the needs of their students in the field of technology. They witness that the students are proficient in using technology from the perspective of a four-year old to a high school senior.

Another form of integration of technology is to share the expertise from one school to another. Our first venture had one of the High School Math teachers’ at Donna Klein Jewish Academy present how technology can enhance the learning of Algebra, Geometry, Calculus and Statistics. Our second venture will be to have the head of the IT department at Weinbaum Yeshiva High School work with the Videography department at Donna Klein Jewish Academy on the MAC/Apple. Our third venture will be with a head teacher at Hillel Day School of Boca Raton share her expertise on the use of SmartBoard in the elementary classroom.

And so we begin.....

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Step One in Integration of Technology

The New Year 5770 brings with it the excitement of new pursuits. The “big buzz for 5770” is in the integration of technology into the various subject areas in the three (3) Jewish day schools in Boca Raton Florida.

An eleven (11) step process has been outlined in advancing the integration of technology into the classroom. Step A in our first step had the teachers take an online survey where they assessed their knowledge of technology and what their individual needs are. The survey was sent to Early Childhood, Elementary, Middle and High School teachers. Step B will be the “Shared” Technology Integration Specialist visiting the classrooms to get a more in-depth appreciative understanding of how technology is impacting the classroom.

Survey results: Why use technology in the classroom?

A number of teacher motivations:

1. Desire to address various learning styles.
2. Belief that students will benefit from exposure.
3. Provide access to resources beyond the school.
4. Ability to increase students’ access to course material.
5. Ability to manage administrative tasks more effectively.
6. Availability of classroom equipment.
7. Encouragement from students.
8. Ability to facilitate communication with students.
9. Reliability of technology at the school.
10. Inspiration from peers.

Some student motivations:

1. Engaging students in learning activities using technology that require them to analyze information, think creatively, make predications and draw conclusions.
2. Students can showcase their learning using technology rather than traditional paper reports.

We welcome feedback on our quest

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The bigger conversation

Confident in the knowledge that this grant has created the opportunity for us to reshape the future of our schools and possibly the entire community, I decided that in addition to the strong task force that was appointed, we needed the insight of people who had been through many years and many businesses models. Seven people were asked to spend 90 minutes on an August afternoon sharing their thoughts about our future; all agreed to participate even from out of town. Only two of them had any direct contact with the schools, all others where either supporters of other day schools or had spoken openly about their lack of support for day school education. They came to the meeting because it was intriguing to be asked their business opinions for application to the Jewish community, because they like each other, and because our family has built up enough social capital to ask for this kind of attention. My goal was not only to listen to their thoughts but to test the idea that people who are asked to share their expertise without being asked for anything else are happy to do so. We so rarely ask people who are extremely successful to really think about challenges in our Jewish community they way they think about their business challenges. The meeting was very successful and they voluntarily asked to be kept apprised of our progress. Additionally, I am confident they would participate again for other similar challenges because they had a great time sharing their thought with each other. I plan on doing so to address the high cost of tuition next time.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Saul Mirowitz/Solomon Schechter Day School Collaboration

Our first conversations were basic. How old are your kids? What is it about your school that inspires you?

These simple conversations took enormous courage. The Saul Mirowitz Day School and the Solomon Schechter Day School had an eight year history of distancing from one another. With new leadership and a willingness to reach out, the conversation was ready to begin.

Quietly, my Board Chair and I met with the Board Chair and Head of Solomon Schechter Day School to get to know one another and begin a process to which we could not see an end.

The conversation progressed rapidly to hit the heart of the matter. Why do you believe it’s important to sustain your school despite the enormous effort it takes to raise money each year? Why not just merge our schools? And how can we save money and sustain both institutions?

Within six months of meetings, the two schools began to create a plan. The goal: to elevate the functioning of both schools, leverage our dollars, and sustain the philosophic and denominational integrity of each institution. The results: a collaborative atmosphere among the day school community, a willingness to reach out, and a potentially exemplary model for other institutions.

As we move forward, we find that the hardest work has just begun. Now we need to make difficult decisions together, come to agreement, and carve out time from the work of running schools to put our plan into action.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

First Steps in Integration of Technology


As one of the recipients of the Avi Chai Cost Savings Grants the South Palm Beach County's three Jewish Day Schools, Donna Klein Jewish Academy, Hillel Day School of Boca Raton and Weinbaum Yeshiva High School have hired a Shared Technology Integration Specialist, Kathie Yuz, who will work on integrating curriculum development with an emphasis on Judaica.

Kathie Yuz is a technology specialist who worked at CAJE-Miami for the last 22 years and assisted the Jewish Day Schools of South Florida "to get wired for the 21st Century."

Some of the other areas that we will be working on improving and implementing are:

  • Assessing teachers knowledge and needs.
  • Design - Determining appropriate strategies.
  • Development - "The Lesson Plan"
  • Implementation - "The Lesson Checklist"
  • Evaluation and Redesign - On Implementing Technology
  • Creating a Shared Technology Vision
  • To Acquire and Budget for Consistent and Adequate Funding
  • Setting up a mini-district for joint purchasing.
  • Provision of consistent and reliable technology support.
  • Create an engaged community of schools.
  • Encompass Ongoing Professional Learning

This grant will impact close to 1,400 students and 220 teachers. As the 2009/10 academic school year approaches we are excited to embark on this project and look forward to hearing from our constituents and to sharing our progress.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

First Steps

We’ve had a rush of excitement at Akiba and Yavneh with the announcement of the Avi Chai grant. Both school boards unanimously passed resolutions that committed our schools to a process of cooperation and resource sharing. In order to facilitate this, we’ve been assembling a team of great minds, business people and community leaders to help guide us through this transition.

In several brainstorming sessions, various minds have defined the qualities we need in a task force chair, and its members. Should the person be vested in both schools? Should he or she be Jewish? Should he or she be a recognized leader in the community? After thoughtful deliberation we concluded that the chair would have the following responsibilities:

  • Lead selection of committee members
  • Organizing and managing the committee, calling meetings as appropriate and in a timely manner
  • Direct communication with the board, community, school staff and other stakeholders.
  • Delivering the benchmarks specified within the Avi Chai Grant. These include:
  1. Negotiating, engaging and managing the organizational consultant
  2. Reviewing, evaluating and presenting to both school Boards the consultant recommendations for a shared organizational structure that maximizes operational synergies and improves overall performance.
  3. Delivering the implementation of a new school management software
  4. Approve new job descriptions, manage search process to staff those positions as needed

Our first choice for the chair of the task force was a successful retired corporate executive who is not directly associated with the schools but is deeply committed to Jewish education. He was unable to commit to this task because of his already saturated schedule, but will participate in a less-demanding role. After doubling our search efforts, we took a tried-and-true play from the business playbook and promoted from within – giving already established leaders in our community an opportunity to participate. As a result we chose Jaynie Schultz, who has vast community experience to keep the group organized.

Since that decision Jaynie has organized a group of business leaders with massive organizational experience and no direct ties to the schools to have a one-time meeting to craft a “straw man” organizational structure and identify key cultural issues the task force and schools should anticipate. Once our full time consultant is engaged and presents their recommendations, we will take advantage of the business-culture insights of these leaders and merge NBOA’s. Additionally the task force as originally conceived is nearly complete and will include three people directly associated with the schools and two with broader perspectives.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Day School Cooperation to Yield Cost Savings

The AVI CHAI Foundation is awarding grants to six collaborative initiatives across North America designed to cut costs involved in day school education. Day school collaborations are one way to help address the issues of high day school costs that inevitably result in high tuitions.

Back in September 2008, AVI CHAI released a Request for Proposals for Day School Cooperation and Cost savings for the purpose of encourage new cooperative ventures among day schools, whether at the corporate/administrative level or in the core educational program. Ultimately, the goal was to produce cost savings.

After receiving more than 53 applications from school across North America, AVI CHAI’s Trustees decided to award six grants for a total of $540,000 dollars over the next two years. The funding is intended to cover the temporary costs involved in implementing the cooperative arrangements as well as the costs of consultants, where needed, to help concretize the implementation of the plans.

The grant recipients, all day school collaborations, sometime with the involvement of the local central agency of Federation, are:

1. Akiba Academy, a modern Orthodox day school with students in pre-school through eighth grade, and Yavneh Academy, a modern Orthodox high school, both located on the same campus in Dallas, Texas, will work to completely merge and integrate their back office operations.

2. The Columbus Torah Academy, an Orthodox K-12 day school, and the Columbus Jewish Day School, a K-6 Community day school, both located in Columbus Ohio, will be working with the Columbus Jewish Federation to develop a staff sharing structure for various back office functions, with a focus on their accounting and human resource departments.

3. The Solomon Schechter Day School of St. Louis, with students in kindergarten through eighth grade, and the Saul Mirowitz Day School, a Reform day school for students in grades K-5, located in St. Louis, Missouri, will work towards a merger of their business offices and a full integration of their accounting and development software.

4. The Kehila Jewish Community Day School, a K-6 community day school, and the Hamilton Jewish Academy, an Orthodox day school serving students from preschool through grade eight, in Hamilton, Ontario, will join their middle schools and create the Hamilton Hebrew Middle School, offering students secular studies and the choice of either a cultural or source-based Judaic studies track.

5. Donna Klein Jewish Academy, Hillel Day School of Boca Raton, and Weinbaum Yeshiva High School of Boca Raton, all located in South Florida will share a Technology Integration Specialist who will work on integrated curriculum development with an emphasis on Judaics.

6. The Partnership for Jewish Learning and Life of the MetroWest Federation in New Jersey is leading an effort of the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy, the Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School, the Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex & Union, and the Nathan Bohrer – Abraham Kaufman Hebrew Academy of Morris County, to develop an innovative approach to building alumni networks and development opportunities.

“Day schools across America are threatened by escalating costs, which lead to increasing tuitions,” explains Yossi Prager, AVI CHAI’s executive director in North America. “Some schools are already seeing the impact of rising tuitions in reduced enrollment. We are trying to encourage schools to consider ways to take advantage of efficiencies and economies of scale while maintaining their high educational quality.”

Recognizing that at times it costs money to save money, and that schools may not be in the position to make those initial investments, AVI CHAI’s grant is intended to help schools over the hump. For each of the approved grants, cost-savings should become apparent within one to two years post-implementation, if not sooner.

“We view these six initiatives as experiments designed to yield greater economies of scale that will lower costs,” Prager continues. “We anticipate a double benefit: first, immediate success for the benefit of the participating schools and communities and second, lessons that we hope will ultimately reduce the cost of day school education in other communities as well.”

To that end, the foundation has started a blog (dayschoolcostsavings.blogspot.com) where the grant recipients will document their experiences and provide monthly updates about their progress, lessons learned as well unforeseen challenges along the way and how they address them.