Monday, February 22, 2010

A wiki for three


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:

Leadership Cultivation

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