From Our CEO: November Edition

Prizmah: Center For Jewish Day Schools is now four months old. Our team, brought together from five organizations, has been active in delivering a range of core programs and services to more than 100 schools, involving both professional and lay leaders.

These services include leadership development, admissions, recruitment, fundraising, professional development, HaYidion journal, blogs, Prizmah conference planning, and student programs, such as the upcoming Moot Beit Din.

Prizmah’s team is actively engaged in problem-solving with individual schools to meet their specific needs. Sometimes this involves bringing expert advice from Prizmah or others serving the day school field. Often, the best answers come from identifying peers across the country who have faced similar challenges. At Prizmah, we have the opportunity to connect with colleagues from across North America and across the Jewish world on our shared issues.

As we shape the organization for the longer term, our direction will be set through our engagement with schools, your involvement in Prizmah’s programs and services, and the feedback and insights you provide to enable our team to learn how we can best serve the field.

Since Prizmah launched, we have constantly sought input, through participants in current services, school visits, “virtual coffee” video meetings with small groups of schools, and other meetings. We are continually enhancing our understanding about what matters to schools and how Prizmah can serve them. We want to hear more.

Many issues are emerging, helping to shape the themes that we will focus on right now and those we’ll address in the future. First, we appreciate the central role of schools’ professional leadership. It is a lonely job, meaning connections with peers are invaluable. Finding and supporting high-quality leaders, and backing them with strong boards and resources to succeed, define the key to success. We want to build on what exists to better support professional and lay leaders alike.

Second, we need to build on existing programs in support of financial vitality. This includes greater sharing of successes (and, I believe, failures) so that others may benefit. We also have heard loudly the need for better data, research, and evaluation of existing models, all of which would help move work forward for schools and communities.

Overwhelmingly, we hear about schools’ desire to engage with others across the day school field. At the same time, being respected for your particular beliefs and having space to engage with your direct peers matters deeply.

Data, knowledge, and strategic insights on many key issues resonate in our conversations. We also will identify specific clusters of need, such as how smaller schools can thrive, the needs of high schools and their students, and others. Curriculum, pedagogy, and supply of quality teachers (generally and specifically in Ivrit and Jewish studies) are high on your agenda. Our ability to work together to build the case for day schools stands out, as it will enable us to better motivate parents and community leaders, and bring in donors to support our schools.

We are processing all this feedback. Over the coming weeks and months, you will see new ways in which we are working to deliver key services to respond to the needs. And we will develop our plans to provide the gathering place where professionals and lay leaders can share and learn from each other around the full range of issues. We promise to engage actively with schools, develop and enhance the programs and services that we believe we can best deliver, and work with partners so that schools and communities can meet their diverse needs.

We hope you, professional and lay colleagues, will join us at the Prizmah Conference on February 5–7, 2017, in Chicago to work together to enhance our schools. Our team is working hard to develop the conference experience that will be most valuable to you.

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