Monday, October 11, 2010

Everybody loves a good event

Reunions, cocktail parties, mixers, gala dinners. Everyone gets a good amount of invitations to fundraising events that take months to plan and melt away in a matter of hours. Organizers want a venue that fits the audience, but it seems everyone knows of at least one organization that got too fancy with their venue and threw away their profits.

As I work on alumni development for Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy/ Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School, Hebrew Academy of Morris County and Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union, most alumni expect some kind of get-together. And they should. It is the most concrete way to reconnect alumni with their day school experience.

But how far does it have to go? One of my schools wanted to have a gala event for its alumni, but the younger alumni wanted to have a small get-together at a restaurant. Having this grant from Avi Chai means we have the freedom to give several ideas a shot. This year we are going to try a small gathering in New York City for young adults, and perhaps next year we will have a gala dinner that will attract alumni from Italy to Israel and everywhere in between. (Click here to see our event page!)

Last week, Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union held its second Back to School Benefit to raise money for the Alumni Scholarship Fund, which provides scholarships for families in need. More than 100 alumni, spouses and friends joined together in New York City for drinks, a raffle and reconnecting. See an account here. The event grossed more than $10,000 and brought the total money raised for the 2010 scholarship campaign close to $45,000.

An event doesn’t make that much money. There is overhead, costs for the venue, decorations, raffle prizes, etc. The money earned at the event probably accounts for 10 percent of the $45,000 raised for the fund.

Even with the prospect of poor economic returns, reunions and gatherings are crucial to any successful alumni program. The prospect of reunions has inspired the cleanup of the alumni database at two of my schools. Reunions recognize alumni for their accomplishments since graduation and allow them to kvell about their jobs, spouses and kids. They cultivate leaders who will hopefully stay with the alumni outreach effort after the event is over. They are both a motivator and a way of saying thank you to the volunteers who work hard to forward alumni development at the school. They say to alumni: “We want to see you. You are still a part of our community.” Alumni hear that.

Recently one of the women on the alumni committee at Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy/ Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School was telling me that her sister in law flew from Canada for her high school reunion. I’m familiar with that event, having quizzed some of my neighbors. The alumni get together in the cafeteria and have wraps from a local eatery. Attendance is huge and that school’s reunions are renowned.

As much as I appreciate Sager Solomon Schechter Day School, I’m not flying back to Chicago anytime soon for wraps in the lunchroom. So what gets these alumni to shell out plane fare? The experience. The memories. The feeling of belonging to something that is greater than themselves.

I’m shepherding a group of alumni who are working on their 10-year reunion. They aren’t interested in pizza in the lunchroom. They’re looking for sushi and cocktails. Oh, for about $25 per person. Will they settle on something less lavish to include more of their former classmates? We’ll see.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Technology News from Boca Raton

Some new and exciting things have been happening in the Boca Raton Technology Jewish Schools in terms of Technology!

Hillel Day School:
We have begun a collaborative project between the 7th grade English teacher and the computer teacher using a Web 2.0 tool called Glogster (edu.glogster.com). The students have a project about memories for which they will using Glogster to create an online poster instead of a scrapbook which they used to do in the past. This is a pilot year for the project and both teachers are very excited about what the outcomes of this project will be. Because the project will be in an online format, students will be able to add video and sound components to their project that they did not have a chance to do in the past.
In the first grade class, students have been using the software Kidspiration, a program we are using to visually explore words. The students were assigned a letter to work with and they were assigned to look for words that begun with that letter.
In addition to those two projects I have been working with the Hebrew
teachers at Hillel in finding ways to integrate technology into their Hebrew curriculum. The picture to the right is from a SmartBoard Training we held a few weeks ago. This week we will hold our second SmartBoard workshop.


Weinbaum Yeshiva High School:
At WYHS I have continued to work one-on-one with teachers and we have also formed a group of teachers interested in learning about Web 2.0 tools and how they can use them with their students. This group of teachers meets every two weeks for about an hour and we discuss their use of technology in the classroom. In addition, I have also been working with the Hebrew teachers finding ways to use technology to make student's more engaged with the Hebrew language. For the past three weeks we have been learning VoiceThread, a tool where students and teachers can collaborate and even more so, they collaborate through speech which is great for language development.

Donna Klein Jewish Academy:
At DKJA we have been moving along with Google Apps for Education. I have held numerous workshops with the administration, staff, and the faculty where we have been learning how to use the various Google Tools such as Docs, Calendar, Forms, and Sites. The school is also testing the use of Cloud Computing, which has been very beneficial in the Digital Portfolios project we have begun this year with the English Department. I have also continued to work one-on-one with teachers on specific questions or projects they are working on.
A few weeks ago, I was also involved in delivering a workshop to parents on Cyber-bullying and Social Networks. I delivered this very well received workshop with my colleague Michael Luetjen, the computer teacher at DKJA.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Welcome back to school!

All three schools are almost back in session. Just in time to go on vacation for almost all the month of September for the Jewish Holidays.

The summer was very quite here in Boca Raton. I was fortunate enough to attend a technology conference with two other colleagues from Donna Klein Jewish Academy during the month of June. The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) http://www.iste.org/
The conference was great as we got to learn about what other schools around the country and the world are doing in terms of technology integration. We participated in Google Earth workshops, Video production Workshops, we learned about podcasting and visual communication. We all came back fired up to bring new ideas to the school.

During the month of August I have been working on setting goals for myself for the year and figuring out what are the projects that I will be working on at each school during the year.
Aside from what I am doing at each school, I have continued to update the collaborative wiki I have set for all three schools and I am hoping it will be a go to place for teachers this year to find resources and eventually post their own.

Donna Klein Jewish Academy
At DKJA we are looking to improve collaboration amongst faculty and students. Therefore, we will be introducing Google Apps to the staff and the students throughout the year. I will be training the Technology Facilitator Team on Google Docs during the month of September and then they will train small groups of teachers starting in October. The goal of the training is to expose the teachers to Google Docs, and to get them to begin collaborating on documents with their colleagues and to introduce this wonderful tool to their students.
A big part of what we want to accomplish this year is to pilot a digital portfolio project in the English department and we believe that the Google platform will enable this project to succeed. I will be posting on the progress of this during the year.
In addition to the digital portfolio project and Google Apps, I will be working with the teachers at the school helping them to learn new tools as well as in technology infused project-based learning.

Weinbaum Yeshiva High School
WYHS has not started classes yet, but teachers are back to work. Earlier this week I hosted two workshops for interested teachers. I introduced Blogging and Podcasting to the teachers in two short workshops were I showed them what they both are and we brainstormed how they can use these tools with their students.
We have also selected a group of teachers that I will be working with to help them infuse their curriculum with technology (where needed).

Hillel Day School
At Hillel we will continue to work on the technology standards and begin implementing them. The teachers that were working with me on the technology committee have started thinking what they want to work on with their students that the computer teacher can help them out with. For example, the English teacher is beginning the year teaching her students MLA formatting for a paper. The computer teacher will then teach them how to format a paper, how to insert headers and footers during her class.
With the first graders we will begin the year making a classroom alphabet book using the kidspiration software. Students will each be assigned a letter of the alphabet and then will come to the lab to create a concept map with images that correspond with the letter they are assigned. ex: A Apple, alligator etc....


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

NNJKIDS Month is a success!

Northern New Jersey Kehillot Investing In Day Schools (NNJKIDS) kicked off its second year with a community-wide awareness and fundraising month encompassing synagogues, day schools and a large network of local businesses. This new initiative, known as NNJKIDS Month, was implemented in May 2010. We are very proud to announce that it was a huge success.

NNJKIDS is a unified effort that includes day schools of all denominations in the Northern New Jersey area. During the month of May, NNJKIDS embarked on a community-wide program involving all constituents within the Northern New Jersey area in an effort to reinforce the idea that the success of NNJKIDS is crucial to all members of the community. Towards that end, NNJKIDS secured $100,000 in matching funds for all donations and increases made in May. We are pleased to report that, due to new sign-ups along with increases to existing pledges, the $100,000 was fully matched.

NNJKIDS Month increased awareness and raised funds via the following approach:

• Local Business:
Local vendors were asked to contribute $100 to be listed as a “participating sponsor” or $500 to be listed as a “featured sponsor” These businesses agreed to promote NNJKIDS Month by placing posters and Tzedakah boxes in their stores in addition to informational panel cards. Some business owners agreed to help raise funds by selling “donation tickets,” of various denominations.

• Schools:
Participation included school-wide Shavuot Learn-a-thon programs in which students signed up sponsors to donate money NNJKIDS based upon the number of hours that they learned on Shavuot. The schools promoted this program to the parent body along with a letter describing NNJKIDS and its importance. In addition, schools agreed that all classroom Tzedakah collections during the month of May would be donated to NNJKIDS.

• Synagogues:
Rabbonim spoke from the pulpit about NNJKIDS to promote both the program and NNJKIDS Month. Posters and fliers were placed in synagogue lobbies and NNJKIDS Month was promoted via synagogue newsletters. Many synagogues hosted “sign-up days” when NNJKIDS volunteers set up tables in synagogue lobbies and promoted the program to congregants.

• Public Relations:
In addition to the above, NNJKIDS Month was promoted via its enhanced website, articles and Op-Ed pieces in the local community newspaper – The Jewish Standard, posts to the TeaneckShuls Yahoo group and distribution of NNJKIDS car magnets.

Overall, NNJKIDS Month produced spectacular results including increasing its donor base to over 1,200 members and generating an additional $250,000 to the fund which increased the annualized output to $700,000. These numbers include over $20,000 raised via the schools’ Shavuot Learn-a-thon programs and Tzedakah collections. We are particularly gratified by the increased awareness generated by this program and the community-wide participation which is truly the hallmark of NNJKIDS.

Friday, July 23, 2010

What Were You Thinking?

Consulting, Collaboration, and the Value of Difficult Questions
During the winter of last year, we had our first bout of hard learning during the collaboration process. Our grant, as originally drafted, focused the bulk of our energies on the outright compacting and relocation of business offices and integration of selected business systems for both the Saul Mirowitz Day School and Solomon Schechter of St. Louis.

Lesson #1—Decision Making is Both Subtle and Critical
Once we took a breather from the celebration of having won an Avi-Chai grant, we got a few quick lessons in process. Our schools are physically separated by all of ten minutes, yet we lived in very different worlds. One is just coming out of startup phase, while the other is solidly in its “middle age.” One relies heavily on professional staff for most functions, while the other uses a sweep of lay volunteers, staff and outsourced services. Even our decision making was different, with the Heads of both schools and their board members playing differing roles in driving the course of daily operations.

As we prepared to move from concept to strategic planning about how to implement the grant, we noticed these differences in a very obvious way. One school of thought wanted to move straight forward, reinventing business systems that would serve both schools. Another felt this was unrealistic, and zeroed in on the component of our grant that involved joint utilization of technology that would enable us to function more effectively. As the pull between these two options became more palpable, we realized that we would need some good facilitation support, as budgeted in the grant, to focus our next step.

Lesson #2—The Answers Aren’t Always so Obvious
From the outset, our two schools had involved a partner in the role of CAJE-St. Louis to accompany us in the grant process. CAJE-STL’s Executive Director, Sonia Dobinsky, had moved through the paces of our discussions, serving as our central spoke of communication and ad hoc business consultant. She suggested that we bring an outside perspective who could help us to break through the impasse as we moved towards action. We looked towards the corporate community, seeking a facilitator who had broad experience in both the business and for profit worlds. Our facilitator was very efficient in her use of time, convening several high level conversations as well as on-site visits to both of our schools. When we joined for a face-to-face debriefing, she led with this question: “What were you thinking when you proposed a back office merger? I would never have reached this conclusion independently if I looked at your operations.”

While we coughed a few times, it was the best advice we had received to date in the collaboration process. We needed someone who could look at our operations from a high level of elevation and zero in on the highest return areas for our work. Based upon our consultant's input, we are starting with shared technology and business systems. After an admittedly slow start, we just received contracts for an SAS (software as subscription) online suite that will accommodate critical donor relation functions, school management and seamless integration with our current billing software. We will reach a level of quality in our business systems that we have never before approached. Best of all, the contract came in nearly $10,000 lower then it would have cost us to implement separately.

Moving Ahead
In the end, it was hard for us to have an outsider come in and challenge our assumptions. While our “what were you thinking moment” caused chagrin, we can now see that we’ve been well served by moving deliberatively, by working to clarify the needs of both schools and by making sure to spend each dollar of our grant to maximum effectiveness. We’re pleased to be moving forward with the knowledge that we are headed in the right direction.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Technology Workshop

All three schools are either closed for the summer, teachers are finishing grading their finals, inputting grades into the school systems, and the smell of sunscreen is what lingers through the hallways. Some teachers have been brave enough to continue learning and growing as professionals through two different workshops that we have planned for them.
At DKJA, we had an administrators workshop where we discussed the integration of digital portfolios into the curriculum starting next year. Digital portfolios are a way to engage students with their learning, personal branding and self-marketing, and assessment.We had a conversation with the administrators about the benefits of digital portfolios and their reactions were VERY positive. We will hopefully be implementing digital portfolios in the English department next year and any other teacher interested is also welcome to try it out. We will be using Google Apps for Educators.During our session, we also discussed the uses of Blogging in the classroom as well as for the school administrators. We brainstormed about ways that blogging can be used for marketing, development, communication with parents, etc. We hope to begin using blogs in some capacity next year.

Here are a few snapshots from our workshop:




Now, for an even more exciting event, and I saw exciting because it involves Collaboration amongst two of the schools. WYHS and DKJA teachers got together to learn how to use the SmartBoard. Some teachers were veteran users, while some were learning about the software and the SmartBoard for the first time. The teachers loved learning the different ways they can use the SmartBoard interactively with their students. We hope that these trouper teachers will bring their creativity and their new 21st Century skills into their classrooms next year.
Here are a few snapshots from the SmartBoard Training:
















In the meantime, have a good summer.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Technology Collaboration Continues

Collaboration. That has been my goal as the Technology Integration Specialist for the three schools I work for here in Boca Raton. But collaboration is not always as simple as we think it can be. It requires work, time, patience, tolerance. Wikipedia defines collaboration as: "a recursive process where two or more people or organizations work together in an intersection of common goals — for example, an intellectual endeavor that is creative in nature—by sharing knowledge, learning and building consensus."
Collaboration example number 1: Three Jewish Day Schools have come together to help their teachers learn how to integrate technology into the curriculum. That is why they have hired me. This is very simple.
Collaboration example number 2: I was hired to work one-on-one with teachers at the three schools in order to train them how to integrate technology into the curriculum effectively. This is not so simple.
Working with teachers has been the biggest challenge of my job. Without the teachers my goals are not met and my program is unsuccessful. Our collaboration relies on both parties, coming together to share knowledge, learn, implement, and share.
Even though it has been challenging, I have had a few breakthroughs.

Here is what has been going on with the Day School Cost Savings Boca Raton initiative.

After Pesach, the Math department heads from Weinbaum Yeshiva and the Donna Klein met to discuss the use of the SmartBoard. The teacher from WY came to DK to experience first hand the use of the SmartBoard so that she can better understand the use of this tool. Guess what? She loved it and we have already selected a fer teahers from the Math department that will get trained in the use of the SmartBoard.

The Technology Committee for The Hillel Day School of Boca Raton has been meeting for the past three weeks. During our first meeting we discussed the importance of being technologically literate and the meaning of that as well as the importance of educating students to be digitally aware and safe. Our last two meetings have been about identifying the skills we want the students to develop. I have started to put together a document of standards that I will be sharing with my comittee on the next meeting in order to receive any feedback as well as to move on to the next phase of the project which is to build a curriculum for the computer teacher, a curriculum that will be integrated with the regular classroom teachers.

At WYHS I have started a blogging project with a teacher and her class. Each week she will be posting a story or something about what they are learning in class, she teaches Torah She BeAl Pe, and the girls have the option to comment. We just launched this project last week so we are in the beginning phases. The girls have already commented on her first post and posted very insightful comments. The participation on the blog is not mandatory, but they do get extra credit for participating. The idea of the project is to bring the learning outside of class and to continue with the dialogue beyond the classroom walls. The girls were very excited when we introduced the project. Lets just hope the excitment continues! But that is up to how we keep them engaged with the content!

Monday, April 19, 2010

NNJKIDS - a communal approach to funding day school tuition

One of the most significant challenges facing our community today is the issue of Day School affordability. Northern New Jersey Kehillot Investing In Day Schools (NNJKIDS) is a crucial first step in a broader long-term initiative to assure access to a high quality dual curriculum and to make day schools affordable for Jewish families in Bergen County, New Jersey. Established in May 2009, the funds collected through NNJKIDS help mitigate tuition increases and provide critical assistance to meet burgeoning scholarship needs which are currently in excess of $7 million dollars. NNJKIDS is a unified effort that includes day schools of all denominations in the Northern New Jersey area. Orthodox and conservative synagogues have joined in launching and promoting this program. To strengthen the synagogue to school affiliation, funds collected from the members of synagogues are allocated to schools in that denomination, unless otherwise indicated by donor. Funds are allocated on a per capita basis, based on the number of preK-8 students in each school residing in Northern New Jersey. Distributions occur quarterly.

Thanks to united community support, over 1,000 people have already contributed to NNJKIDS, and we have distributed over $300,000 to the network of day schools during our first two quarters. These crucial funds have already mitigated tuition increases for the 2010/2011 school year.

NNJKIDS is a project of Jewish Education For Generations (JEFG) – an organization established in 2009 to work across our entire day school network and the broader community to identify and execute solutions to the challenge facing day school parents. At this point, JEFG is the only such integrated, nondenominational network in the United States. Many aspects of this agenda involve partnerships with other organizations such as UJA, YU and Avi Chai Foundation, which see JEFG as a unique platform to drive new ideas and approaches.

Currently, JEFG initiatives include the following:

1. NNJKIDS (Northern NJ Kehillot Investing in Day Schools) - a broad-based community fund for Jewish education that is a foundational element of changing the communal mindset to view education as the responsibility of all - not just of parents. Funds raised through NNJKIDS will be directed toward burgeoning scholarship needs and help mitigate tuition increases. Key elements of the program are as follows:
- Goal of 100% participation
- Individuals sign up for monthly debit from a checking account or credit card
- Suggested minimum is simple - $1 per day, or $30 per month
- Those who can, are encouraged to give more - those who cannot, may give at any level
- Funds are distributed on a per capita basis to area Day Schools each quarter

2. ENDOWMENT SUPER FUND - We have entered into a partnership with UJA NNJ to pursue the creation of a large Endowment Fund that would be directed toward lowering the financial burden of Jewish education. Similar funds are being raised in a number of other communities. If successful, this Endowment would be a game-changer in addressing affordability.

3. BENCHMARKING INITIATIVE - Individual schools continually work to find savings wherever possible while maintaining educational quality. Beyond these efforts, we have collaborated with the Azrieli Graduate School of Yeshiva University to benchmark the cost base / revenue drivers of our schools and have identified opportunities for cost savings and revenue generation across the network . This approach is widely utilized in the private sector, but this is the first time it has been applied across an entire network of yeshivot.

The next NNJKIDS quarterly distribution to schools is scheduled to take place in May, 2010. At our one year anniversary, we are excited and encouraged by the support of our community and our partners including Avi Chai Foundation, whose generous grant allows us to pay for the day to day expenses of running NNJKIDS. For more information, please visit www.nnjkids.org.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

We've got the questions. Have you got answers?

We have been continuing our efforts to reach out to our alumni at the MetroWest Jewish day schools. In March we used Survey Monkey to send out surveys to all of the email addresses we had for alumni. Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy/ Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School’s survey went first, Hebrew Academy of Morris County was second to release its survey and Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union went last. We sent out an email through Constant Contact letting alumni know about the survey. Each school’s email was branded with their logo. For an example, click here.

The survey touched on aspects of every one of our key areas: Programming, outreach, leadership cultivation, fundraising, communication, recognition and database.

Originally we had hoped to ask for information about three different things: Alumni contact information, alumni programming preferences, and where alumni get their information so that we could make sure we are using our resources to target those same media. Unfortunately, the first draft of the surveys was way too long, so we cut the media portion in favor of a shorter, more manageable survey. A future survey will likely include questions about where alumni get their information and an evaluation of our communications with them.

The schools are in different positions in terms of maintaining contact with their alumni, so the rate of return was different for each, ranging from a 5 percent response rate to a 22 percent response rate. At Hebrew Academy of Morris County, a pre-K through 8th grade school in Randolph, NJ, we identified 17 new alumni from the survey and nine newly found non-grads who left before 5th grade for a total of 26 new alumni. From that list we captured about 20 new/updated email addresses. Our two larger schools -- Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy/ Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School and Solomon Schechter of Essex and Union -- are still parsing their data.

While we were hoping for more postal and email addresses, we got solid data on what our alumni would like to see from us and how responsive they might be to our messages. Alumni overwhelmingly favored class reunions over school-wide reunions. They were mostly on the younger end; 10 years out of school or less. They are interested in news about their former classmates and news about former teachers. Networking events took third place. Contrary to surveys that indicate millennials are interested in social service projects, our young alumni population did not seem interested in such an event.

So now the fun begins! We will be using the data to plan programs that will engage our alumni and reconnect them with our schools. We will also be enlisting the help of the alumni who were interested in volunteering to plan programs and reach out to their alumni friends and relatives.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Updates from the HJMS Development Committee

The HJMS development committee has been working on various social programs to help the students and families coming from the two schools to get to know each other better.
  • A Friday morning Kabalat Shabbat program which involved grade 5 students from both the HHA and Kehila was successful. All feedback was positive and students got a chance to see what a typical Friday program is at the HJMS.
  • A Shabbat dinner for families of all three schools (HHA/Kehila/HJMS) was planned and executed. Students from each of the schools prepared songs and presentations. The parents were able to spend some time together and get to know each other better.
  • The committee is planning some more social (outside of school) events for the near future for both parents & students. Last night about 20 parents from both schools got together at a local coffee shop to get to know each other and discuss developments.

The following is a snapshot of what has been going on in the new HJMS Dual Track Judaic Studies classes this year since December. (primarily grade 6 as this is the grade that has the new unique dual track pilot curriculum):

  • Chanukah: Both tracks collaborated on a video about Jewish pride that was shown at the Chanukah dinner. The students utilized interviewing and other research and communication skills.
  • Tu Bishvat: Both tracks did an integrated project about conservation in Judaism. Each student developed a wishing tree in which they placed a wish. They could make any wish they wanted; however, they were encouraged to make their wish about integrating conservation into their daily lives. Each student wrote a journal entry about the experience. PowerPoint was used in this project.
  • Purim: All of the students are studying the natural versus the miracle.
  • Passover: The class created their own Hagadah with all commentaries by the students themselves.
  • The Source-based track did a project about the origins of their Jewish name. The students used Multi Media to make their presentations.
  • The Cultural track has been studying Torah and Ethics. They have focused on various mitzvot. The upcoming focus for this track is on self e.g. my own personal connection to God and a healthy self-esteem).
  • In Jewish History, the students have been continuing to study ancient Israeli history. They have been looking at the book of Samuel, and at visuals of life in Israel. They also have been learning about all of the history of the Israel and the modern Jewish State of Israel.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Technology Collaboration Begins

I think that part of the goal of this grant is to get schools not only to collaborate on monetary resources and personnel resources, but to share knowledge and help each other to become better schools. As I have been meeting with teachers and talking to them about their curriculum and what they do or what they would like to accomplish I have realized that these schools can share knowledge amongst each other. I have been working with a Math teacher at one of the schools who I am trying to show why the Smart Board would be useful in her classes. Now, I am not a Math teacher and there is only so much that I can show her. After Pesach break she will be visiting one of the partnering schools and sit in in a few math classes to see first hand how teachers are using this and how it is benefiting their practice. I think that this is what this project is all about. Our goal as schools and educators is to prepare our students for the future, for the so called 21st century that people keep on talking about and this partnership should put us in the right direction towards becoming 21st century schools. So, I am very happy that teachers from different schools will begin to work together and create Personal Learning networks within the community.

Another project I have started to work on is to create technology 'standards' or skills for one of the schools. I have formed a committee of about 6 teachers including the IT director and hopefully some administrators will join us as well, and together we will brainstorm and discuss what are the technology skills that we want students to graduate with. This will hopefully lead to the creation of school standards that will be implemented starting in September. I have a few long term goals with this project. The first is to get classroom teachers involved in having their students as well as themselves meet these standards. The second is to have the technology committee work as technology ambassadors for the school. They will be the teachers that other teachers look up to and might even want to work with when it comes to integrating technology into the curriculum. Lastly, I want the school to transition from having students in the computer lab for 'computer class' 30 minutes a week to a model where the computer lab becomes an open lab and the computer teacher is responsible of working as a technology integrator and not a computer teacher.

Overall working for three schools has been crazy. I find myself running around a lot from school to school and not feeling as though I am getting much accomplished. My current schedule allows me to be at every school once a week and when I go back to that school a week later it seems as though an eternity has gone by. I am thinking on an alternative model.

The wiki site that I created has not had much success but it is a project in the works, Hopefully as I continue to meet with teachers and play around with the site, it will become their go to site in terms of technology integration.

There are other projects that are cooking but I will leave that for another day.
In the meantime I am excited about going to a technology conference in Palm Beach this Friday where I hope to learn new things. What is even more exciting is that I managed to get a few teachers from every school to join me!

Chag kasher v'sameach!


Monday, February 22, 2010

A wiki for three

Hi!

I am the new Technology Integration Specialist for Donna Klein Jewish Academy, Hillel Day School, and Weinbaum Yeshiva. My job is to work with teachers at each school in curriculum and technology integration. I have been working for two weeks already and I have spent most of my time meeting with different teachers so that they get to know me and trying to figure out how we can work together.

I am working with one of the teachers for a digital video project he is doing at the HS and we are working on learning a specific video editing software. I have met with other teachers to figure out ways we can work together whether it is on a specific project for their students or a specific skill they want to work on.

I am having my first group technology training at one of the schools on Monday March 1st so I have spent time trying to find a 'tool' that I can introduce to teachers, hopefully I will be able to find a tool that most of the departments find useful.

I have also build a wiki site for all three schools. The goal of this site is to create a database of tools for teachers to use and also for teachers to share with each other. The ideal goal is to have all teachers become members of this site so that they can add other resources, collaboratively share ideas and resources for technology and curriculum integration, and maybe eve have online conversations about how to improve their teaching.

My goal right now is to work with at least 3 teachers per school on big projects as well as with others on smaller projects or ideas.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

MetroWest Day School Alumni Development

What a whirlwind three months it has been!



I am the new coordinator for MetroWest Day School Alumni Development. My job is to work with Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy/ Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School, Hebrew Academy of Morris County and Solomon Schechter Day School of Essex and Union to locate and engage their more than 3,000 alumni.

My first step was to meet with representatives from each of the schools to inventory their alumni outreach. Each school is in a different place in terms of alumni outreach and development. I spent some time getting to know the schools and their professional and lay leadership.

From those meetings we set goals in seven key areas we feel are required to develop a robust alumni program:

Programming
Outreach
Leadership Cultivation
Fundraising
Communication
Recognition
Database


My job is not without challenges. Other Jewish day schools with existing successful alumni outreach programs have long-established high schools. In MetroWest, Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School graduated its first class only nine years ago. Hebrew Academy of Morris County is a preK through grade 8 school. We are cognizant of the difficulty of creating strong affinity for an elementary school.

My three top goals at each of the schools are to find and target young professionals, people who are still close enough to their student experience to make alumni involvement more meaningful. I want to implement programs that create value for both current students and alumni -- integrating the alumni into the school. Finally, I want to create regular avenues of communications and events that are cyclical and constant, such as monthly e-newsletters, Facebook fan pages, set annual reunions and gatherings.

My initial contact with our MetroWest day school alumni will be through a survey. We feel that it is important to have alumni buy-in before planning programs and other initiatives. So we want to find out what alumni want to do, how they would like to be contacted and how they would like to help their schools. We are actively recruiting for steering committees, reunion committees, mentoring programs and other programs.

We are so excited to be a part of this experiment and cannot wait to share more with you as our program develops.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Joint announcement from the Hamilton Hebrew Academy and Kehila Jewish Community Day School made by the Hamilton Jewish Federation in September

Our Hamilton Jewish Community Day Schools have worked together to obtain a grant generously funded by the AVI CHAI Foundation. The grant monies will be used to expand the academic program and establish a New Jewish Middle School. This school will amalgamate the best of both institutions to better serve the entire community and strive for educational excellence and inclusivity of all members of the community. In addition to a common general curriculum, two tracks of Judaic Studies will be offered. Students will discover how Judaism brings meaning to their lives, foster a love of Jewish culture and develop a strong Jewish identity. The goal will be to cultivate informed, passionate and creative members of the Jewish community with a love for Jewish learning and a strong connection to Israel. Children will be given the opportunity to explore classic Jewish texts. Parents will be allowed to choose which track better suits their needs -whether it is a more cultural approach or a more text based approach. By offering two tracks the school will be able to better address the diverse needs of all students - those who will continue their eduction in the public school system as well as those who will be furthering their studies at a Jewish high school in Toronto. The incoming Federation President, together with the leadership of both schools, has worked very hard to develop a framework for this new pilot program. As we move forward, we welcome input from the community and strive for complete inclusivity of all members of our diverse community. This middle school initiative, based at the HHA, represents a true collaborative effort from the individuals in the community striving for excellence in education for our children.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Change and reality

Dear fellow Avi Chai schools,
We are now several months into the process and so much has happened!
1) We have a good start on installing Senior Systems' school management technology.
2) NBOA consultants have completed a site visit and provided us with valuable ideas for our reorganization.
3) Our Steering Committee has tackled tough issues of cost and cooperation with gusto.
4) Rich Shoen, our very able consultant, has really helped us understand our schools and their different cultures from an objective perspective. His insight has kept us on track and focused on what is really important - helping the schools become better-run institutions.

It is amazing to spend so much time talking and talking and then suddenly realizing that these discussions will impact the lives and jobs of many people that we care about deeply, not to mention our children and grandchildren!
While the change process can be daunting, keeping people informed is the key to keeping them focused on doing what needs to be done today while anticipating the future.
It is very different to build than to reorganize.
We have dealt with the challenge of idealism vs. reality. Each of our schools is at very different stages of maturity in both their governance practices and their financial stability. These realities have posed challenges in terms of what each can contribute to the planned integration of our back office services.
Our committee is equally mixed between great risk takers and those more cautious about change. But we all realize that some risk is required if we are to move forward to a more certain future.
Luckily we all fundamentally trust and respect each other personally, and that has made all the difference.
Our final recommendation to the Boards will be a solid hybrid of hope and continuation of what is already strong.
We will be relying heavily on the position of Executive Director and fortunately our funders accept the fact that a true business leader will need to be compensated accordingly.
The next step is buy-in, support and final approval from both Boards of Trustees.
Then the real work begins.

We would love your thoughts on this in terms of skills and talents needed.

Thank you,

Jaynie Schultz Chair