The Transparency Files: Evaluation of Self

Before moving into what will be a series of “Transparency Files” blog posts which will begin with my own evaluation, then move to reveal the results of this year’s Parent Survey, follow with a discussion on this year’s standardized testing, and conclude with a conversation about next year’s faculty and schedule, let me take a moment to provide an update and a request.

It is with mixed feelings of sadness and appreciation that I have to announce the following transitions with regard to our present faculty.  Due to her husband’s pending orders with our United States military at the end of the calendar year, we will be saying good-bye to Mrs. Kristi O’Neill in Grade One.  We thank her for the time spent in teaching in our Preschool and Day School and look forward to her subbing plentifully until they leave Jacksonville for parts as yet unknown.  We will also be saying good-bye to our Mrs. Rogo in Grade Three after 10 wonderfully enthusiastic and passionate years.  Marjie Rogozinski has been the picture of optimism and creativity over her decade teaching in our school and as she vehemently insists she is NOT retiring…merely transitioning!  We look forward to seeing her smile grace our hallways and classrooms for years to come.

The search process to replace both irreplaceable teachers is underway.  It will consist of multiple interviews with myself and multiple faculty, collaborative lesson planning, and observed model lessons – all to ensure that the newest members of our team are best fits for the school we have worked so hard to become.  I look forward to announcing our decisions in short order.  Any parent with questions or concerns is welcome to email or see me at their earliest convenience.

And now let is awkwardly dance away from discussion of others to discussion of self…

…we are in that “evaluation” time of year.  I have the responsibility for performing the evaluation of staff and faculty each year.  Fittingly, they have an opportunity to do the same of me.  Our annual Faculty Survey presents current teachers and staff with the opportunity to provide anonymous feedback of my performance as head of school.  It is sent unedited to the Head Support & Evaluation Committee as part of their data collection for my evaluation.  Other data points for that evaluation include 360 evaluations from colleagues and my own self-evaluation.

[To see a discussion of my evaluation from last year, feel free and click here.]  My self-evaluation is based on new goals I have created myself for this year.  You will not find a complete laundry list of my day to day responsibilities.  Here are the relevant components from my self-evaluation for the 2011-2012 academic year:

Jon’s Self-Evaluation “Students” (5/11/12):

 A few of my goals overwhelmed the others in what was a year of many new initiatives (KoleinuJax, Singapore Math, etc.) and important projects (the “Task Force”, FCIS Re-Accreditation, the “50th”, etc.).  Our Faculty did make revisions to the standards and benchmarks that were created in 2010-2011 in time for their inclusion in admissions packets for 2011-2012.  This will become an annual process of ongoing curriculum revision for faculty.

We had a positive transition into Singapore Math, although additional training should have been provided throughout the course of the academic year.  ITBS scores in this area are up and teacher attitudes about our Lower School Math program are much more optimistic.  We will need to invest more time next year in transitioning new teachers to the curriculum and providing more training for returning teachers so we can continue to improve our delivery of this new curriculum.

We now have two year’s worth of data from our Annual Parent & Faculty Surveys, which will be used to identify areas of growth throughout our school.  We also did a first annual 9th Grade Alumni Survey.  It did yield less than a 50% response…we will seek better next year.  What did come back, however, was overwhelmingly positive!

A change in personnel brought a new “21st Century Librarian” to our team that has much enriched our “21st Century Learning” team!

Among our biggest successes, has been our work with KoleinuJax to provide services and resources to parents, students and teachers of special needs students in our school.  The rate of assessment, observation and services delivered is way up.  Our ability to meet the needs of diverse learners and special needs students is much-improved and looks to be even stronger in the years to come.


Jon’s Self-Evaluation “Faculty” (5/11/12):

I have felt the most compromised in terms of my time management to work effectively on growth in this arena.  I do think there has been improvement in areas tangible (the bulletin board in the Faculty Lounge) and intangible (I do think morale this year is high), but with my time stretched so thin, I have not been available to be present with my faculty, as I would have liked to have.  The relationships that needed building did not get the time they needed for that nurturance.  Although some projects are complete, new responsibilities lie ahead – I will seek to do better despite the challenges.

We did a terrific job this year in providing deeper and more frequent professional development.  In addition to our annual Tal AM training for Jewish Studies Teachers in Grades 1-5, we provided training for a MS Rabbinics Teacher, ongoing coaching and support from our 21st Century Learning Team, peer sharing through interactive faculty meetings and presentations, all culminating in the great success that was edJEWcon 5772.0

One area we did not get to that I would like to address next years is the creation of new assessment tools.  We did create a new rubric for 21st century teaching that was piloted as part of formal observations.  Next year, I look forward to shared leadership of supervision with both the 21st Century Learning Team and peer evaluation.


Jon’s Self-Evaluation “Parents” (5/11/12):

I did spend a significant amount of time this year working with the clergy on a variety of “Academy”-related another projects.  The synagogue launched a “Camp Shabbat” program that I have helped flesh out and participated in.  I have participated in a variety of other synagogue-based programs and worked hard to involve all our clergy in school-based programs.

We (Jaimee and I) began inviting different groups of parents representing all facets of congregational life for Shabbat and holiday observances at our home.  It is always tricky because you don’t want to leave anyone out, so we are doing our best to be as inclusive as possible.


I will be sharing the unedited version of my self-evalation as well as the unedited version of their evaluation of me on our Faculty Ning.  Hopefully it will spark further opportunities for conversation and growth.

Next week?  The Annual Parent Survey!


An edJEWcon Reflection



How’s that for an honest and succinct reflection!  But that is truly how I feel coming out of an experience unlike any I have ever had.  I feel equal parts “proud parent”, “exhausted midwife”, “exhilarated student”, and “inspired principal”.

First, here are some facts:

We had twenty-one amazing school teams for this first conference on 21st century Jewish day school education:

We had amazing sponsors:

We had amazing partners:

We had amazing major keynotes: Heidi Hayes Jacobs and Angela Maiers.

We had one extra-special partner, Mike Fisher, without whom the conference would not not have been the same.

I had a team unlike no other.  I use the word “midwife” to partially describe my experience, because truthfully this was conceived prior to my arrival.  It began with Andrea Hernandez and moved forward with Silvia Tolisano.  I was blessed to arrive in the right time and in the right place.  I’ve played my part, but without the foundation they built over the last four years, none of this would have been possible.  Our story and the story of edJEWcon 5772.0 is partially contained in our opening keynote:

You can begin to grasp the impact of the conference by flipping through the blogs written by the school teams (here) and the partners (here).  Angela Maiers shocked the house and stimulated the most amount of tweets and “ah’s” when she showed us a site that tracks Twitter activity that showed us that our conference of under 100 had reached over 117,000 people within 24 hours.  The outpouring of positivity is extraordinary.  The proud parent in me is thrilled to see so many firsts – first blog posts written and first Tweets abound.  It is a cornucopia of shehecheyanu moments – blessings of firsts and blessings for having been there in that place and at that time.

My full live blog of Heidi Hayes Jacobs’ keynote (here) is a series of exclamation points from a breathless schoolgirl.  [Much less sophisticated than Mike Fisher’s! (here)]  Here is the exhilarated student in me:

  • What an extraordinary thrill to have Heidi Hayes Jacobs speaking at our school and at edJEWcon!
  • She opened by giving a shout out to the MJGDS Middle School!
  • The Hebrew root for “teach” is also to “learn”.
  • “Strategic Replacement” – Remember it!
  • All MS students have been paired with an adult to help them use TodaysMeet – edJEWcon.  We are all now all on TodaysMeet and beginning to dialogue.  She is sharing why TodaysMeet is better for some functions than Twitter.  It is closed and temporary.
  • You can save the transcript and use it in the future!
  • Next bookmark is the Curriculum
  • People are now moving into groups of three or four for an activity. is a new site for many.  It is also an app for the iPad.
  • The goal for everyone is to leave “emotionally disturbed”!
  • Who owns the learning?  The student!
  • The back-channel conversation on TodaysMeet is dynamic.  I am selfishly proud of our students who are contributing great feedback
  • Heads of schools should have steering wheels to give them illusion of control.
  • …this is about adult discomfort.  Ammend your mission statemetnts and be honest about what year are your educating your children for.
  • “Democratized socially created knowledge”
  • All students should learn to create their own app before they graduate.
  • No one learns in a straight line.
  • What you study matters.  Content matters.  And it cannot wait.
  • Text messaging as note taking – great idea.
  • Quality counts.  The tools are great, but we still have to teach quality – quality blogs, quality movie-making, quality Skype – quality, quality, quality.
  • We should eliminate Facuty Meetings and turn them into opportunities for teachers to explore new tools.
  • Teachers have to be learners in order to teachers.
  • There is no closure!

As for the inspired principal?  I’m over the moon.

This was a tremendous validation for our faculty, parents, students, stakeholders, and our community that the path we have chosen is indeed the right one.  This “21st century learning” thing is no fad and no slogan.  We can become a school who prepares our students to be successful in these modern times.  Or not (as Heidi Hayes Jacobs would say).  We can provide our students with authentic tasks that motivate them to learn and be their best.  Or not.  We can recognize what technology allows us to do.  Or not.  We can take the ideas, suggestions and inspiration from edJEWcon and use them to move our school down the 21st century learning road.  Or not.

We could start planning for edJEWcon 5773.1.  Or not.

What do you think?



It seems reasonable that since we are in the season of housecleaning in order to get ready for Passover, I would take care of some housecleaning of my own by providing updates on important activities:

We have successfully completed this year’s standardized testing!  Congrats to all our students and teachers for getting all those bubbles bubbled in properly with #2 pencils! We eagerly await our results and using those results to improve.  For a thorough review out how our school treats the testing process, please click here.

For useful suggestions on preparing to facilitate or participate in an active, engaging Passover Seder experience, please click here.

Still awaiting our official FCIS (Florida Council of Independent Schools) report to share with y’all…

Cannot be more excited for next week’s “No Office Day – Part II: The Student-Principal Swap” taking place on Wednesday!  The idea was the subject of last week’s blog post, here, and the reflection will hopefully be the subject of next week’s.

edJEWcon has officially been born!  We had our first webinar yesterday with all 21 school teams and a webinar for our 13 patterning agencies is coming soon.  It was so extraordinary see this dream become a reality and the excitement for the conference was (and is) palpable.  The website for edJEWcon has really taken off and, in the spirit of transparency, you can relive the webinar on the site, see the expanded list of schools, read up on the speakers, etc.  The temptation for hyperbole is strong within me, but it is hard not to hope that this might be a game-changing event – for the field and for our school.

Final piece of housecleaning…the Task Force for Creating an “Academy” at the Jacksonville Jewish Center (click here for background) officially wrapped up its yearlong project last night!  Although the governing principles and strategic plans still have a few more votes to pass through, the basic structure for the launch of the new Galinsky Academy on July 1, 2012 is in place.  Here is the scoop (from an article in the March 2012 Jacksonville Jewish News):

The Jacksonville Jewish Center is please to announce the launch of The Galinsky Academy.

The Academy is named for Samuel and Esther Galinsky, of blessed memory, who gave the largest gift of Jewish education in the history of the Jacksonville Jewish Center.

The Academy will bring together, under one umbrella, all of the school of the Jacksonville Jewish Center.

The JJC Preschool, the Bernard and Alice Selevan Religious School, the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School and the Makom Hebrew High will work together under Academy Head, Dr. Jon Mitzmacher to fulfill the mission of offering the highest-quality Jewish educational experience for children from “Shalom Baby” through high school graduation.  By leveraging the resources of all four schools, parents can feel confident that their children will benefit from the most cutting-edge Jewish educational programming available.

Bruce Horovitz, former executive director of the Center said, “The Galinsky gift was very significant on so many levels.  It was certainly never on our radar and came as a complete surprise.  The fact that Samuel and Esther Galinsky, who had no children of their own, would choose to make an everlasting impact on Jewish education speaks volumes.  The gift came at a time of enormous need for the JJC schools and allowed the Center to continue and even expand our educational initiatives. The Galinsky gift continues to have a major impact on Jewish education, and we are forever grateful for their kindness and generosity to the entire Jewish community.”

Esther Galinsky contributed to a multitude of charitable organizations.  Because of her modest nature, her charitable giving went mostly unrecognized in her lifetime.

When she was homebound, in her later years, she especially enjoyed the periodic visits from the Day School students on their mitzvah trips.

Dr. Mitzmacher said, “Galinsky Academy will be a salad bowl, not a melting pot, of 21st century Jewish education.  Each school will retain its unique brand and structure while benefiting from the expertise of the others.”

For the more visual-minded, you can get a taste of the values we hope Galinsky Academy will inculcate in its students by enjoying this Wordle from an early visioning exercise:


Quality Comments

I spend about an hour each Friday morning commenting on our student’s blogfolios.  Having begun last year with our Middle School, we now have active student blogfolios for students in Grades 3-8.  [You can click here to access the ones for students in Grades 5-8.]  I start at the beginning and make my way through as many as I can.  During that hour, I can see which spelling words are being emphasized in a particular grade.  I can see which kinds of writing forms and mechanics are being introduced.  I learn which holidays (secular and Jewish) are being prepared for, celebrated or commemorated.  I see samples of their best work across the curricula.

But what I enjoy seeing the most is the range of creativity and differentiation that expresses itself through their aesthetic design, the features they choose to include (and leave out), and the voluntary writing.

This is what we talk about when we focus (not obsessively!) on students’ ability to create meaningful work.  It isn’t just about motivation – we can imagine that more easily.  But when you look closer, it really is about doing their best work and reflecting about it.  Look at how much time they spend editing.  Look at how they share peer feedback, revise, collaborate, publish and reflect.

Seriously.  Look at it.  Take whatever time you would have spent reading my typically wordy and repetitive post and not only read one of their posts…post a comment!  It brings them such joy…pick a few at random and make their day.  Just click here and begin!


Notions from #NAJDSCONF 5772

This seems to be the weeks of sequels!  Last week, I revised my love of Wordle with a second-annual graphic summary of a year’s worth of blog posts (here).  I am still waiting for comments (hint, hint parents & teachers!) to see how comparing the first and second Wordles reveals anything about a shift in emphasis or direction.  I love hearing that someone is reading the blog…I really love when someone comments on the blog.

This week, I will try to creatively share and reflect on my experiences in Atlanta from which I just returned from the North American Jewish Day School Conference.  This year’s theme was “Current Landscapes, Changing Horizons” and you can read all about the conference and find links to presentations and materials from the conference, here.  You can check out all the official conference tweets, which includes links, photos and videos not on the website, here.

Coming on the heels of another reflective blog post about Jewish day school conference attendance (here), I don’t want to be repetitive.  I did a fair amount of tweeting from the conference, which you can check out, by either clicking above to follow me on Twitter, or by clicking, here.  And you will find pictures, videos and thoughts from the conference that I may not get to in this blog post.

I attended the conference with our school’s 21st Century Learning Coordinator Andrea Hernandez and we co-presented a session on the first day called “21st Century Learning in Jewish Day Schools – A Conversation”.  It was well attended and augured well for the rest of our conference experience.  If you would like to see the presentation, you can click here and scroll down to the entry entitled “NAJDS”.

On Day 2, I had the pleasure to be a part of a panel discussion hosted by DeLeT on the topic of “Teacher Leadership”.  The rest of that day was spent exclusively with the Schechter Day School Network.  Sitting next to Andrea, I was captivated by a new app she was using and I immediately purchased it and started playing with.  As she says on her blog post from the conference,

 I am trying to build fluency with my iPad, so I used the Corkulus app to take notes. Not only do I feel that the practice was good for my iPad fluency, I am happy with the notes that I am able to share, not only here on my blog, but I was able to email the notes to the person sitting next to me, as well as others who were not at the session.

I spent the rest of the conference playing with it and loving it!  So, for something different, here is my summary of Day 2 of the conference via Corkulous:

Depending on how you are viewing this, I realize it may be a little blurry (even after clicking on it).  If you cannot blow it up, and would like to see it (or if you have the app and want me to email it to you in format), please feel free and email me directly.  It includes thoughts from a text study, the new branding initiative for the Schechter Network and DeLeT.

On Day 3, I had the honor of playing a (very) small part in Michael Mino’s morning keynote.  I don’t have permission to share the presentation, but I can share my small part of it, which you can find here under the heading “Mobile Learning”.

I spent lots of time networking about edJEWcon!  I suspect we will be fully enrolled by the end of the month.  I look forward to announcing the schools and partners who will be joining us for this exciting opportunity.  Our thanks again to The AVI CHAI Foundation for their generous support.  Stay tuned!

I closed the conference by live blogging a fascinating session on Games-Based Learning facilitated by Barry Joseph.  Here is my Corkulous-produced live blog from the session:

We are in the process of exploring bringing gaming theory into our repertoire of 21st century skills and literacies.  We are engaged in serious conversation with a few thought-partners in this field and look to make some announcements of new initiatives soon.

After the conference ended, I stayed on for an extra night to participate in a board meeting for the Schechter Day School Network.  Despite all the negative press, the future for Schechter is quite optimistic.  We struggle, as all Jewish and private schools do, in a down economy and increased competition.  But we also offer a unique and valued product.  Good things are coming.

All in all, it was a wonderful opportunity to learn, share, reflect, connect, collaborate, present and feel the power of being with over 600 people who care deeply about securing the Jewish future.  I plan to bring the positive energy and innovative ideas I got from this year’s conference back to help secure our own school’s future.

But tonight I rest…


Wordle Up – The Sequel

Please click here for my blog post about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Jewish community.

I’m off on Sunday for the North American Jewish Day School Conference in Atlanta!  (Click here for my reflections on last year’s conference.)  I am one of many official live-blogger’s for the conference, so please look for posts next week.  You can also follow the action on Twitter.  You can follow me @Jon_Mitzmacher or the conference @najdsconf.  I will share an overall reflective blog post on the experience afterwards.

My first Wordle appeared as a means to summarize my blog post and appeared about a year ago:

I thought it would be a fun way to see what the “State of the School” is by comparing the above Wordle to the one below, which is based on this year’s collections of blogs:

Interesting hmmmm?  What do you think it reveals (if anything) about our priorities this school year?  Please comment!


21st Century Conference Attendance – One Head’s Meta Experience

I spent this past Sunday through Tuesday attending the Day School Leadership Training Institute’s (DSLTI) Alumni Retreat in West Palm Beach, Florida.  It was the first conference I have attended this season, with at least two more coming up.  I will be in Atlanta, GA in January attending (and presenting) at the North American Jewish Day School Conference and we will be hosting edJEWcon 5772.0, right here at our school in May.  There have been years, when in addition to those, there might be other Jewish or secular conferences in education I have attended or presented at.  That is, admittedly, a lot of time to be out of my school and (particularly in this economy) a lot financial resources being spent for me to attend theses conferences and retreats.  It raises the very legitimate question, “Is it worth it for the school to have you attend or present at all of these conferences”?  My teachers, parents, students, board members, donors, etc., all have a very legitimate right to ask what benefits come from this investment.

I had thought (prior to the retreat) about writing a blog post describing what I would learn from the DSLTI Retreat with suggestions of ways it might impact my practice.  But then I remembered that I am supposed be Mr. 21st Century Learning and couldn’t I employ another method for delivering that content?

So…my first order of business was to ensure that I captured my experience of the retreat utilizing 21st century technologies.  We quickly developed a Twitter #hashtag to organize a back-channel for the retreat; for us to comment, and collaborate, and – for me – to experiment with using Twitter for my own personal professional development.  Every time I would have written a note, or typed a note, I sent a tweet.  For those who already follow me on Twitter (and you can click on the “Follow” button on my blog if you’d like to), it provided them with a running live experience of who I was listening to, what I was thinking, what questions it raised, and some cases what I was seeing (as I attached pictures to my tweets using my iPhone).

Whether you have a Twitter account or not, you can review the entire #DSLTI Twitter feed simply by clicking here or by going to and searching for “#DSLTI”.  (You will notice that the conversation has continued past the conference – which means it was and will be a meaningful professional development vehicle.)  But for a taste, I am going to simply show you my tweets from the retreat.  [Warning: I have given this to you as snapshots – NONE of the links will work.  You would have to get that from going directly to Twitter.]  This is one answer to the question of what the experience meant to me:

So besides tweeting from the retreat, I also took “notes”.  Using the “Note Taker HD” app on my iPad, I was able incorporate my hand-written notes, typed notes, and photos.  Again, it may not all be legible (I am a doctor now) and it all may not make sense because I wasn’t writing it for public display, I do think it is useful to show for two reasons.  One, as above, is to ensure no one thought I spent my time sipping drinks by the pool.  But, it is also to provide some meta-analysis about the experience of attending a conference and how 21st century learning has impacted my experience.  It may also stimulate some thought about whether we need to train teachers or students about how they can adapt new ways of “taking notes” in a 21st century learning context.  Here’s what I came up:

The third thing I did was enter each new book I was stimulated to buy onto my Shelfari page, which you can see to your right on my blog as a widget or by clicking here.

I came back front the retreat jazzed up about what I had learned, how I had learned, and how I hope to have my practice informed by new learning.  I hope this blog post does a fraction of any of those things for you!

And if you are interested in where #DSLTI goes from here?  Follow us on Twitter!


Is my school any better now that I’m a doctor?

Because isn’t that the only question that really matters to anyone outside my family?

Yes, I take a tremendous amount of personal pride in having reached this academic achievement.  It took me 8 years (6 of them ABD) to successfully defend my Ed.D. dissertation at the Jewish Theological Seminary – which was accomplished (pending minor revisions) this past Monday.  During that time, I helped found one Jewish day school and assumed the headship of a second.  When I started, my wife and I were a recently married couple living in an apartment in the Upper West Side of Manhattan.  When I finished, we were a family of four living in a house in Jacksonville, Florida.  But what matter does it make outside of my own world?  My parents are kvelling, but am I a better head of school having gone through this experience?  Are the schools I have been blessed with the opportunity to run any better off?  (And, therefore, would I recommend that other heads of school, principals, etc., pursue doctorates of their own for the purpose of improving their craft?)

I can only blog for myself, but as challenging as the process was, the answer has been an unequivocal, “yes”!

My research questions were how do theories of educational leadership help understand the founding of a new Jewish day school, and how does the head of school’s understanding and implementation of leadership theories impact the founding and growth of a new Jewish day school.  You can see that I had the opportunity to make my work the subject of my doctoral research and, therefore, I was not only able to further my own education, but (hopefully) I was able to contribute to the school(s) I was employed to head.  Had I chosen a different research topic, perhaps, I would feel differently, but I’m not entirely sure.  The discipline of doing doctoral research in education – the books I have read, the methodology I have mastered, the academic vernacular I have had to learn to write in, the necessity to defend my work to tenured professors of education – all of this has undoubtedly caused me to reflect more deeply on practice and, thus, made me a better practitioner.

Once my dissertation is published, I may (or may not) choose to edit it into an academic article or another vehicle for publication.  But because my work actually included an investigation as to to the worthiness of academic degrees in being a head of school, I thought I would share a snippet of my research to close this post:

The importance of credentials  

There was no doubt that my credentials, primarily being an alumnus of the American Jewish University (then called the University of Judaism), a student at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, and a member of the Day School Leadership Training Institute, played a significant role in my hire (as founding head of school).  The hope of the search committee was that I would bring best practices learned from those schools and programs to my job so that the school could be successfully founded.  To the degree that I was able to utilize my leadership skills, I believe this hypothesis has been proven accurate time and time again.  I have little doubt that without the training I received, particularly the experiences of the Day School Leadership Training Institute, I would have fallen on my face from day one.

My experiences were largely spent trying to move the school’s leadership and to understand and endorse the best practices I believed were, in fact, ‘best’ because of what I had learned through my academic and professional programs.  Founding committees should rightly consider the importance of academic credentials and that programs such as DSLTI should continue to be promoted and taken seriously.  There are no guarantees that it will take the specific skills mastered in the specific toolbox of each academic or professional program provides to successfully perform the job of founding a new school.  It is, however, reasonable to assume that the more skills available to the practitioner, the higher the likelihood is for success to occur.  Both the literature review and the data have clearly demonstrated how educational leadership is as much about knowing which skills to apply when then it is about mastering one best specific set of skills.

I do think it is reasonable to make a few conclusions about how academic and professional programs designed to prepare people for the headship could increase the odds for success.  There is great value to emphasizing real-world and real-work situations.  DSLTI does a terrific job presenting mini-case studies for fellows to struggle through in a learning environment prior to confronting them in the workplace.  Mentoring and coaching are essential components.  Opportunities to shadow and reflect with experienced heads would be useful as well.  It is impossible to replicate and role-play every situation that could occur in the headship, but it is possible to shift the emphasis from theory to practice, particularly in professional preparatory programs.  This also holds true for the schools.  New schools and schools preparing for new heads should seriously consider building coaching into the normal practice of professional development.


Discuss. 🙂

Dr. Jon Mitzmacher

edJEWcon 5772.0 – Ride the Wave!

It has been a topsy-turvy week in the life!  I have a lot to be thankful for and will make that the subject of next week’s blog post.  The benefit of rest and reflection will hopefully render me more articulate on the topic than I currently feel capable of.

In the meanwhile, let me thank those heads of school, foundation partners, researchers, and colleagues in the field for their continued interest and support for edJEWcon!  Your emails, tweets, Facebook comments, etc., has helped spark the fire and fuel the applications.

Check out the trailer here:

If you are interested in edJEWcon 5772.0 and want to learn more…click here.  If you are ready to apply while spots still are open…click here.  We are working on creating additional tracks and opportunities for those of y’all who are not part of school teams, but want to be part of the experience.

Our team is in conversation with many interested parties these days and exciting new ventures are brewing!  I have no choice, but to leave that as the simple tease it is.  As ideas become realities, we will have much to share in the upcoming weeks and months. But the snowball is cresting the hilltop…and the educational revolution is underway.  We look forward to playing our part and learning from those walking down the road with us.


It isn’t just good education; it’s good business.

I feel similarly to how many synagogue presidents must feel heading into Kol Nidre this evening as I prepare to write my first business blog nearing the eve of Yom Kippur!  The rationale is hardly the same.  Synagogues reserve Yom Kippur for their annual “High Holiday appeals” because this is the time they have the most people in the seats, not necessarily because the message of fundraising fits with the theme of atonement.  I do not presume that as families are preparing for the holiday that I will have a similarly huge burst in blog readership!

A personal note…

…apropos of the time of year.  Let me take this opportunity to offer my sincerest apologies to anyone whom I may have hurt or offended over the past year.  Let us forgive each other (and ourselves) for our all-too-human foibles and pledge to make this new (Jewish) year one of growth and community-building.

And now to the topic at hand…

I have been asked by our good friends at the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education (PEJE) to become a guest blogger on the topic off  “How 21st century Jewish education is an issue of financial sustainability?”  First off, thanks to my new, good (and for now virtual) friend Ken Gordon, PEJE’s fantastic Social Media Manager for the opportunity!  I’m excited to wrestle with that question and share my thoughts with colleagues in the field.  [My posts with PEJE will appear here on their home page for blogs impacting the Jewish day school field.  I recommend the page for regular viewing or subscription if you are interested in the field.  I am cross-posting this first one in my own blog as a trial run.]

From PEJE’s 2009 strategic plan, they define “financial sustainability” as “increasing the resources available to schools and professionalizing the development capacity”.  This is part of PEJE’s overall shift in mission from an organization dedicated to growing the number of Jewish day schools to an organization dedicated to sustaining Jewish day schools.  (I’m oversimplifying a bit.)  So…how can being a 21st century Jewish day school increase resources and professionalize development capacity?

As I have been thinking about this question, my initial reaction is to try to avoid providing obvious answers.  If this is, however, to be my introductory blog post on this topic, I do want to share my initial thoughts on the subject because they may be crossing your minds as well.  This was my off-the-top-of-my-head response when Ken first asked me to blog on the topic:

…to me it fits very much with why we feel 21st century learning is so vital – with increased competition from Hebrew charter schools, independent schools, and suburban public schools AND a perilous economy – we have to brand Jewish day schools as being the kind of school most likely to provide a high-quality 21st century learning experience – that we are the future of SECULAR education because we are JEWISH.

Totally flips the script on prospective parents.  “Too Jewish?”  No such thing.  Parents looking for excellence in 21st century education should be more concerned with “Jewish enough?”

Now the truth is that I could not be more passionate about this idea.  Over the last year and change of my current headship, I have seen firsthand the power of 21st century learning in action and have been convinced that this is the only viable path forward for Jewish (particularly non-Orthodox) day schools.  To be financially sustainable really only (!) requires two consistent streams of revenue: tuition and fundraising.  You can only increase tuition revenue by adding students.  You can only add students if you have a great product.  So if embracing 21st century learning values increases the quality of your product, being such a school should drive enrollment and, thus, tuition revenue up.

And I absolutely believe this to be the case.  But as a philosophical concept, it doesn’t really answer the question.  Because all I’ve done is suggest that if you want your school to be really successful it should be a really good school.  You don’t need me to point that out.  The more interesting question, to me, is how being a 21st century Jewish learning institution impacts the business of schooling?  What I am interested in exploring through these occasional blog posts is how we can apply the pedagogies of 21st century learning to the managerial and business aspects of running a Jewish day school to ensure they maximize financial sustainability as defined above.

[Disclosure: I have been the head of two Jewish day schools owned and operated by synagogues.  Neither school has a dedicated “Development Director” or a “Business Manager” or a “Department of Institutional Advancement.”  Both schools outsource a fair amount of their business functions.  I do have an MBA from the American Jewish University, which has come in extraordinarily handy in light of those two prior sentences.  So the good and the bad is that I have, as a head of school, had a fair amount of experience doing development and business operations without a lot of the training.  I am particularly interested in seeing how development directors, business managers, fundraisers, etc., respond to the ideas I am proposing.]

What are the 21st century pedagogies I am suggesting be applied to the business of schooling?

Transparency, collaboration, technology, reflection, global connectedness, authenticity, and prosumerism (which I will define as the paradigm shift wherein the learner is the producer, not the consumer, of content.)

How can these ideas increase the sustainability of Jewish day schools?

Please lend your voice to the conversation – comment freely and often or email me directly ( if you are still a bitsocial media shy.  With your feedback, I look forward to exploring these and other ideas at the nexus of 21st century learning and financial stewardship that will be focus of this yet-to-be-named blog to be published however-often!