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 ( 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.