“Uncommon Connections” – Looking Forward to the 2015 NAJDSC

image001Conference week is almost upon us!

One week from today, I will be headed up to Philadelphia to be sure I am ready to go for the 2015 North American Jewish Day School Conference, beginning Sunday, March 8th. This will be my first time as cohost, having had the wonderful opportunity to attend as a school head in 2011, 2012 and 2013.  (Last year, the field had two national conferences, Schechter (and me with it) having been a cohost of iJED.)

From Schechter’s part of the planning, I want to acknowledge Ilisa Cappell, Schechter’s Associate Director, for her tireless efforts on the conference’s Planning and Leadership Committees and for working so hard with Marc Kramer, RAVSAK‘s Executive Director, to develop a track at the conference for small schools.

In addition to my hosting duties, I will have the pleasure of presenting twice:

  • I will be co-presenting with Harry Bloom of PEJE on how small schools can leverage their resources to effectively recruit and retain families.
  • I will also be presenting on how schools can use “nings” to enhance professional culture, improve professional development and, thus, fulfill the promise of 21st century learning.

[I will send out links to both presentations once they go live.]

I am further thrilled to have chances to connect, celebrate, and dream with our Schechter shutterstock_796445201community (including our friends in the Jewish Montessori Society), our growing edJEWcon community and all the formal and informal opportunities to learn, reflect and share with old colleagues and new friends that make these experiences so powerful.

We are proud of the work we have done with our sister networks to create what we hope will be a meaningful learning experience for all participants. We have all worked hard to ensure the quality of content while trying to maximize access.  Schechter will have a strong showing and we look forward to our annual opportunity to be together. But in addition to the networking, the learning, the socializing, and the celebrating, we also hope this conference shows what happens when networks work together for the greater good, deepening and strengthening our collective service to the field.

See you in Philly!

The Jewish Education Olde Thyme Radio Hour: “Matterness” w/Allison Fine

There is one truth about our schools that is universal regardless of the size, age, or location – it is never boring to be a Jewish day school!  A related corollary is that there never seems to be a down or calm period anymore.  There is a season for each activity and it can sometimes feel like you are racing from one peak to the next, with no time to breathe between.  (Unless the weather conspires to shut you down!  However, school closures create their own unique pressures as so many of you are presently experiencing.)  As soon as you successfully launch your year, you are already focused on recruiting and retaining families for the next.  As soon as you close one campaign, next year’s campaign readies to begin.  As soon as your board begins to function at high capacity, it becomes time to cultivate new members.  As soon as you hire your last staff person and close your professional development calendar, the work of evaluation and planning the next year’s calendar launches.

And so on.

It can be a real challenge even finding an hour to read, to think, or engage in conversation with colleagues about big picture issues.  That is why it is such a pleasure for me to share this podcast with my friend and gifted educator Rabbi Marc Baker and to work on it with the good folks at ELI Talks.  It is our opportunity to take that hour to discuss important issues of the day and to engage others in the conversation.  We opened this second podcast with a discussion of the challenges extended snow days present to schools and whether they can become opportunities to challenge the traditional model of schools with bounded times and spaces.  But our main focus was our very first guest, author Allison Fine, and a conversation about her new book, “Matterness,” and its implications for the field.

It is not a #humblebrag to suggest that we would do this podcast with no audience. Truthfully, we aren’t even sure what kind of audience we have!  We genuinely appreciate the gift of time the podcast gives us to learn and discuss and we hope that those who are listening (or watching after the fact) enjoy the conversation half as much as we do.

As always, you are welcome to share your feedback as commentary on this blog or on the ELI Talks YouTube page!

Notes:

Here are the links to the two blog posts Marc discussed in our intro:

http://www.tovana.com/blog

http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/education-everywhere

Here is the video I discussed during our interview (shout out to Silvia Tolisano who shared it with me):

The Musical Chairs of Greener Grass: The JDS HOS Search Process

musical-chairs

I came across this comic strip last week while I was busy with one of my new tasks – coaching candidates and schools through the head of school (HOS) search process.  As I have been deepening my engagement with candidates, search committee chairs and executive recruiters, a number of thoughts have occurred to me and I thought since this is (still) the season, they were worth sharing out for feedback and discussion.

The Most Inexact of Sciences

Up until this year, my experience with the JDS HOS search process was exclusively as a candidate.  Over the course of my career, I have applied for a variety of positions.  I applied for RAVSAK schools; I applied for Schechter schools.  I applied at large schools; I applied at small schools.  I applied to schools that used a variety of executive search firms; I applied to schools that ran their search processes in-house.  I was a finalist for some positions and I never made it past the initial screening call for others.  In the end, I felt blessed when offered jobs and I felt disappointed when not offered other ones.

What was most consistent across these search experiences was the incredible inconsistency.  Everything was very different from school to school, without any discerning pattern.  Schools asked that I teach students and/or parents and/or teachers and/or no one.  At different times I was asked to prepare…

  • divrei Torah for faculty.
  • …PowerPoint presentations for the board.
  • possible marketing plans.
  • possible development plans.
  • analyses of the current school based on supporting documents.
  • analyses of the current school without supporting documents.
  • inspirational speeches about my vision of education.
  • etc.

In deference to time and space limitations, I will refrain from detailing further variances in everything from which stakeholder groups I did and did not meet with, how long I did or did not visit, and the ways in which I was and was not treated.  Suffice it to say that there was an extraordinary degree of difference between one school’s search process and another.

Looking at it now, I can see that on the one hand it makes sense and is actually helpful. Each school is different and experiencing different approaches to the search process can help the candidate discern a cultural fit.  Plus, the experienced and/or coached candidate knows what questions to ask and which people to see so as to ensure they have the information they need to make an informed decision.

On the other hand it, looking at it from a 20,000 foot perspective, shouldn’t a process as critical to school success as identifying the “best-fit leader” should have some data-driven standardization to increase the odds?  [I am not sure it is a financial issue.  Some of the most thorough and affirming (even if I didn’t get the job) processes I went through were at small schools who handled their searches in-house.]

All It Takes Is One (Human) Mistake

One theme that runs through all my experiences and conversations is the impression that it can actually all come down to one ill-timed smirk, one distracted conversation with an unknown influencer, or one offhand comment to a sensitive stakeholder.

Once, I came down with a pretty bad head cold the day before I was to fly out for a finalist visit and had to decide whether to gut it out or to reschedule.  I opted to stock up on over the counter meds and go for it.  The air pressure on the plane took out my hearing for the entire finalist visit!  Even though I felt lousy, I thought I had done well.  When I was informed that I had not gotten the job, part of the feedback I received was that there people who had felt that I had spoken so loudly [because I couldn’t hear myself speak!] that it raised concern that parents and teachers would think that I was an angry person.

Now was that the (only) reason why I didn’t get the job?  Who knows?  I would like to think not, but like so many candidates before me, those are the types of stories that stick with you as you go through the rounds.

The Missing Peace

Now that I am working with the schools as well as the candidates, I have noticed another phenomenon.  Schools often search for a new leader to fill the missing 30% of the prior leader.  If you read the job descriptions for most HOS positions, you will see a list of attributes, skills and experiences that I cannot imagine any one human being possessing.  Let’s say the best of candidates might have about 70% of the complete set.  In large schools, you can try to complement the remaining 30% by rounding out the administrative team.  In small schools, you can try to complement by using lay leadership and volunteers, but that tends to be a riskier proposition.

This may be one reason there is both a crisis in small schools and in HOS wellness.

The pressure to be everything to everyone can be extremely challenging for the leader, no matter how much coaching s/he receives.

The temptation to seek what’s missing in the next leader can lead a school back and forth and back again trying to continually fill a gap that can never fully be filled.

Grass is Greener

To be fair this happens on both ends.  Let’s say any headship has about 70% of all the things one could hope and dream for in a position – salary, lay support, faculty excellence, fundraising capacity, etc.  In a world of scarcity, one can also be tempted to seek that which is missing in your current headship, thereby perpetuating a search for something that doesn’t exist.

There is no perfect school and there are no perfect heads.

 

To be clear, I have certainly moved from position to position for the purpose of furthering my career.  And schools have every right to expect the best from their heads and to seek new leadership if and when they feel new leadership is called for.  At the level of the individual leader or school, it all seems fairly straightforward.

And yet…

I do wonder at what cost to the field this elaborate game of musical chairs is taking?  If the average length of tenure for a head of school (2.7 years) is less than that of a successful change of school culture (3-5 years)…

…well at some point in every person’s career and in each school’s search, the music will stop and there won’t be a seat left in the game.

Who wins then?

We Have a Shared Dream

MLK Day of Service“My people were brought to America in chains,” Martin Luther King Jr. told the American Jewish Congress’ Biennial in 1958. “Your people were driven here to escape the chains fashioned for them in Europe.  Our unity is born of our common struggle for centuries, not only to rid ourselves of bondage, but to make oppression of any people by others an impossibility.”

Each year, as Jewish day schools prepare to honor the legacy of Dr. King with special programming and content, I am reminded of how important it is that we prepare our students to live in the world outside the Jewish community.  This year, in light of current events both at home (which I wrote about a few weeks ago) and abroad, I am especially reminded.

It is not that diversity is absent in the Jewish schools.  One typically finds a range of national origins, ethnicities and social classes within the walls of the school and students have ample opporunity to learn how to get along in a diverse community.  However, when it comes to racial diversity, I feel we have a special responsibility in light of the historic relationship between the Jewish community and the civil rights movement (see “Selma” for example.  Seriously…go see it).  Although we make an effort to expose our students to the larger world around them, the simple fact is that they do spend most of their days in a wholly Jewish environment.  However, the Jewish values of kehillah (community) and tikkun olam (repairing the world) extend beyond the Jewish community.  Our educational responsibility is prepare our students to be citizens of the city, state, nation, and world in which they live.

You’ll find this reflected in our choice of library books and posters in which we do our best to present a range of cultures.  You will see it expressed in the “hidden curriculum” by how we devote school time in both general and Jewish studies to learn about, experience, and commemorate the wonderful holidays of our shared cultures.  As we study the life of Dr. King and his continued impact on our society, we are reminded of the words of the prophet Isaiah (42:6-7), “I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have appointed you as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, and from the prison those who sit in darkness.”

May Monday’s holiday be a reminder that we live in a world still in need of healing and an opporunity to do our small part in its repair.

Wellness in a Stressful World

I talk to a lot of heads of school.

That’s a big part of my job.  I have things to share and things to learn.  I have advice to offer and advice to take.  I spend a significant amount of time each day talking with leaders of Jewish schools.  And the one thing I can say with great confidence, is that regardless of whether they head a large school or small; a successful school or one which struggles; whether they have been in the position for five months or fifty years…they are not bored!

is-it-friday-yet-704781-mI think we associate “stress” with negative situations, but I am not so sure that is always the case.  I think there are some settings, some professions, some situations that even when functioning at or near their best are inherently stressful and, thus, create significant wellness concerns for those entrusted with leadership.  I am confident that Jewish schools are one such address.

Let’s skip an enumeration of why leading Jewish schools is stressful.  Let’s assume there be some connection between stress and burnout.  Let’s take as a given that one cannot take care of others when one cannot take care of oneself.  Let’s hope you can make changes to improve wellness.  Let’s be honest and admit that despite having attending two different conferences on this topic that you haven’t yet made those changes.  (OK, that one was just for me.)

We’ve all seen this, yes?

And yet I still get to work by 7:00 AM, am still checking email at 10:00 PM, still not going to the gym, still grabbing a donut from the faculty room, etc., etc.

How can we better understand what is going on?

In their book, “SWITCH – How to Change Things When Change is Hard”, Chip Heath and Dan Heath talk about “immunity to change”.  Essentially the behaviors we say want to change are serving some purpose and until we can figure out what that is, we will struggle to replace them.  I say I want to make healthy eating choices…I say I want to get more sleep…I say I want to exercise more…I say I want to achieve greater school-home balance.

How do I dream the new dream?

 

What do you think?

I would love to hear from those who have thought about this topic.  I would love to hear even more from those who have done something about it.  What are you doing to address wellness either for yourself or your school (or your organization)?  What has worked that you can share and what are you struggling with that we can learn from?

There are 525,600 minutes in one year.  However, when you consider that approximately 175,200 minutes of that time will be spent sleeping, 16,425 minutes spent eating, and if you’re in education, 72,000 minutes spent in school…well, you have less than half that total to spend on the rest of your life.

It is essential to do the important things first—if you leave them until last, you might run out of time.

The Jewish Education Olde Thyme Radio Hour

As part of my ongoing attempt to practice what I preach, I recently participated in what I (we) hope will be just the first in a regular podcast.  You will see quietly clearly that it was a first!  🙂  As part of our debrief, we would love feedback, which you can provide here on my blog or on the ELI on Air YouTube channel itself.

We have great plans for future podcasts that include guests and more voices from the field…stay tuned for more information.

Enjoy!

When God’s “Breath of Life” is Snuffed Out

God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and he became a living soul – Genesis 2:7

I was already contemplating how and whether to step into the emotional minefield of the breath-of-lifeMichael Brown case when news of the grand jury’s decision not to indict in the Eric Garner case broke this week.  And now…

I am not an expert in anything related to this and so I wonder what, if anything, I have to contribute to the conversation.  I am a Jewish educator.  I work with Jewish day schools and do my best to help them they be the best schools they can be.  Is there something I can say or offer that will help them be the best they can be in how they choose to address what is going on in our country right now?  Our schools are led by talented and bright professionals and lay leaders who in this day and age have access to a myriad of resources. Sure, I might be aware of one or two they are not and could help by making them available, but it would be hubris to think that I have an answer to address this that they don’t or that they couldn’t easily find.  And yet…

The Spirit of God has made me and the breath of the Almighty has given me life – Job 33:4

Saying nothing at all doesn’t feel right either.  To say nothing would suggest that I have no stake in this issue, that it neither impacts me nor is incumbent upon me to participate in. Even, if I am unclear as to what “participation” ought to be.  As a citizen and as an educator, I do have a stake, I am impacted and I believe it is incumbent upon me to participate.  And I will, like many others, have to struggle to figure out what participation looks like because I am unwilling to remain forever a bystander.  Are we our brother’s keeper?  What does that keeping look like today?  And so…

All the while my breath is in me, the Spirit of God in my nostrils – Job 27:3

Typically when I prepare to write a blog post, I do a little bit of research. I am very rarely, if ever, writing about something that someone else smarter or more experienced hasn’t already discussed elsewhere. But in light of the onslaught of columns and opinions, I wanted to inoculate myself from outside information and speak purely from the heart about what role I believe all schools, and Jewish day schools in particular, should play in educating our students to appreciate and exercise their civic responsibility as members of a democratic society.

I have lived and worked in so-called “red” and “blue” states and I recognize how passionate people are.  I appreciate how emotionally-laden the conversation can become. It is no surprise with the stakes so high that people can become extremely sensitive. Politics can also be personal and defenses automatically are raised.  Watching the discourse fly back and forth on Facebook or Twitter, even with people I know well, can sometimes be disconcerting.  It doesn’t take much for a conversation to veer off course into unkind territory.  And, thus…

Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live. – Ezekiel 37:5

Our responsibility as schools seem simple, straightforward and entirely non-controversial. We should inform our students as to the facts.  We should educate our students as to how our political system works to effect meaningful change. We should teach them the history of American politics. We should instill in them the desire to participate fully in the political process and to proudly exercise their right to vote. We should encourage them to seek truth so that their beliefs and attitudes about how government should work (one of the definitions of “politics”) are rooted in objective reality.  They should learn to be respectful of differing opinions and to always keep an open mind.  I do not believe that we are here to promote a political ideology.  Our students should be largely, if not entirely, unaware of a teacher’s personal political leanings.  We respect that our families represent the full spectrum of political viewpoints.

For me, as an educator, the most difficult trend in political discourse, which impacts our ability to help students “seek truth” is the seeming inability to agree on an objective truth – about just about anything.  This is particularly challenging in schools – like ours – where the ability to develop critical thinking skills is amongst our highest responsibilities.  Facts are facts and opinions are opinions.  Or at least they used to be…

As facts themselves have been called into question, politicized, and debated, it makes it more challenging for schools to play their proper roles.  We want to provide students with the tools and skills they need to discern truth from fiction, fact from opinion.  Armed with facts, they can then form informed opinions.  When we cannot collectively point to a fact and call it “fact”, any hope for intelligent debate fades away.  When we cannot collectively watch a video and agree about what we are seeing, confidence in the system is undermined.  What is a school (or society) to do?

For North American Jewish day schools, current events provide a powerful opportunity to demonstrate how to have complicated and important conversations in accord with our highest values.  We are all made in God’s image, regardless of political affiliation.  At our schools, we will remind our students of that fact while encouraging their informed opinions.

To stay on the sidelines for fear of political correctness would be an abnegation of our responsibility.  So all we can do is our best.  We try to live up to our ideals.  We teach facts. We provide respectful space for opinions.  We encourage civic participation.  We acknowledge that when one of us cannot speak, then none of us can speak.  When one of us cannot vote, then none of us can vote.  And as we learned this week…when one of us cannot breathe, the none of us can easily draw a breath.

For we are all made in the image of “the God in whose hand they breath is in” (Daniel 5:23).

Reflections on the Census: Size Matters

1871-schoolhouse-626265-mSmallness is embedded in the Jewish day school world, the inevitable consequence of geographic and denominational diversity.  For each of the four censuses, approximately 40% of day schools have less than 100 students.  Smallness is self-perpetuating because a small school has a limited curriculum and limited facilities, and this feeds the perception in homes of marginal religiosity that it is preferable to send their children to public school that are tuition-free and have a substantially wider range of educational offerings and extracurricular activities.

– Marvin Schick, A Census of Jewish Day Schools in the United States – 2013-14 (The Avi Chai Foundation, 2014)

There were very few surprises (in my opinion) to what came out this week in the census of Jewish day schools.  That doesn’t render the situation any less sober, however.  The data from the census matches with our (Schechter’s) data with regard to small schools.  We can spend hours and hours debating the merits of varying affiliations for small, non-Orthodox Jewish day schools.  (In fact, we have!)  But in some ways the truth is both more simple and more challenging: Large schools in large Jewish communities are doing well.  Small schools in small Jewish communities are struggling.

That’s the story.

I know this firsthand having been a head of two small (let’s redefine “small” here to being less than 150 students, in which case, the percentage climbs well over 50%) Jewish day schools.  I know the challenges, the frustrations, and – sometimes – the successes.  In small schools, you sometimes feel like Sisyphus, but now with two conjoined boulders of “enrollment” and “fundraising” that you keep trying push up that hill – with a razor-thin margin of error that larger schools just can’t understand.

I remember my first or second summer in Jacksonville when, due to the economy, we had three families move out of town.  Three families.  Not a big deal right?  Well, those three families paid full tuition on their 11 children.  Do you know how big a hit to enrollment and budget 11 full-pay students is in a school of 130?  To live and die on each child, on each donation, on each Federation campaign, on each Federation allocation meeting, that’s life in a small school.  To be doing well by percentage (of Jewish families from the community enrolled, of parents contributing to the annual campaign, etc.), but being on the brink by reality (it costs a lot of money to run a good school), that’s life in a small community.

I know this firsthand, now, as the head of a network with a preponderance of smaller schools.  I receive the requests for support.  I see the impact on the dedicated professionals and committed parents.  I hear the stories of triumph and despair.  I feel the joy of intimate Kabbalat Shabbat and the power of community small schools provide.  I meet the families whose lives have forever changed through their participation in the Jewish life of small schools.  I meet the families whose lives have forever changed by the closure of their small school.

The economics of the ecosystem in the Jewish day school world at present create a situation where the resources available to help schools are too cost prohibitive to make available to the exact schools who need them the most.  And so schools who are doing well are provided with a path towards doing even better…and schools who are struggling are kept on a path towards a destination unknown.

It isn’t for lack of effort, by the way.  In the same way that it just costs a lot of money to run a “good” school…it costs a lot of money to provide schools with “good” resources.  I see this every day.  We do not lack the knowhow (or more accurately, we do possess some knowhow) or the desire.  We do lack the means.  The foundations can only fund so much, the networks can only fund so much, the program providers can only charge so little, and the schools only have what they have to contribute.

It can feel at times like we are chasing our tails while our schools sit by and struggle to make do with less and less.

We can do better.

We have to do better because the future of our schools and with them, our people, depends on it.

What will it take?

A vision based by research and funding unlike that which we have ever produced would be a good beginning.

We don’t lack for vision.  Or visions.  And there has been some (a little) research.  But in many ways we continue to operate on faith.  Here is how I expressed it as the head of small school back in 2011:

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 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 secular education should be more concerned with “Jewish enough?”

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.  And I absolutely believe this to be the case.  But as a philosophical concept, it doesn’t really help.  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.

No you don’t.

If you don’t believe there is an answer it is hard to keep going.  Fear comes often from a place where you feel you have no control.  If I can just do the right thing, the right result will follow.  If I just make my school good enough, people will come and donors will give.

Won’t they?

How do you know?

What if they don’t?

What if we have great schools and people still don’t want to come?  What if the permanent costs for sustaining excellent small Jewish day schools cannot be supported by the communities who need them most?

This is an issue beyond network and beyond politics.  This will require all the collective wisdom and capital that can be mustered.  This is why Schechter is working so hard to specifically meet the needs of small schools.  This is why I am so pleased to see this year’s North American Jewish Day School Conference theme of “Systems Intelligence” and why I am thrilled that the NAJDSC will have sessions that explicitly focus on meeting the needs of small schools.  This is why I am so pleased to work with such great colleagues at other networks, foundations, agencies and organizations who are equally committed to getting it right.  This is why I have optimism despite the data.

We are committed to working together with our colleagues at other networks and with funders to address the needs of our small schools.  In order to be a system not of “have’s” and “have-not’s”, but of “have’s” and “soon-to-have’s”, we are going to need all the intelligence that’s available.

Let’s get to work.

The Transparency Files: What does a network head do all day?

Ssdsa_org_-_Calendar

We have a saying here at Schechter: “If you really want to know what we value most, you only have to look in two places – the calendar and the budget.”

And it is true; there are no more valuable resources than our time and our money. How we decide to allocate them is, therefore, the truest test of our values.  All the rest is commentary, as they say…

Or, to get at it another way, my younger daughter, Maytal (6), asked me the other day, “Do you just sit at your desk all day looking at your computer?”

 

Now that I am at about the 1/4-year mark of my first year as Executive Director of the Schechter Day School Network, I think it is a reasonable and useful question to ask: What exactly does the head of a network of schools do and are those things the best and most useful allocation of time for those schools or the field?

The first part of the question is pretty easy to answer, and I will attempt to transparently quantify and qualify how I’ve been spending my time.  The second question is somewhat a matter of opinion, and although I will share mine, yours might be of even greater value.

That pixellated calendar above is actually a screenshot of my calendar for this week – the first full week of work those of us in the Jewish world have had in a while.  I don’t know (yet) if this is a typical (non-travel) week for me, but for the sake of argument, let’s assume that it is.  Let’s also base the the percentages on a 40-hour work week, knowing that no one actually works that amount of time.  Better a straw man to poke at than a pile of straw.

So, let’s see how the numbers stack up for this week:

20141022085135Let’s start with how I define my terms:

  • Staff Meetings: These are any meetings that take place with different constellations of Schechter professional staff.  It could be a full staff meeting (weekly) or scheduled meetings with members of the professional staff to discuss and work on projects (EduPlanet21, edJEWcon, etc.).
  • School Consults: This includes conversations with either the head and/or board chair of a member school.
  • Thought Leadership: This includes activities that further the cause of participating in thought leadership for the field, such as writing articles, blogging or engaging in social media for the sake of providing resources or facilitating conversations.
  • New Business Development: This includes all activities that could lead to “new business” for the network – projects, initiatives, pilots, opportunities, etc. – that could result in new activities for the network and/or the schools.
  • Placement: Working with both schools and heads engaged in the search process.
  • Foundations: This includes reporting on current projects, grant writing for new projects and all the stewardship thereof.
  • Intra-Network Meetings: This includes all meetings and conversations that take place between the networks and agencies who service the field on current or potential collaborations.  This year, of course, it includes work on the upcoming North American Jewish Day School Conference.
  • Correspondance: Keeping up with email and phone calls!
  • Board Development: All communication and planning for the development of our lay board.
  • Fundraising: Raising money for the network and its schools.
  • Professional Development: Making sure I continue to grow as a leader.
  • Supervision: Making sure I facilitate the growth of others.
  • Miscellaneous: Whatever didn’t make a category.

So.  That’s what the week of October 20th, 2014 looks like for me.

Again, leaving aside what weeks of travel look like (it will be a busy November!) and whether this one week is truly representative of the rest…is this a good use of my time?

You would have to fold in the rest of the professional team, compare and contrast to our strategic plan, etc., to really give a scientific answer, but my read of it includes the following observations:

  • These feel like the correct categories of activity for the head of a network of schools.
  • Considering where Schechter is in its rebirth, I am torn between a variety of activities that all feel critically important  – helping to build a board, helping to execute a development plan for long-term sustainability, responding directly to the needs of schools, developing and shepherding new projects and initiatives for the schools and the field, and learning a lot more about the schools and the field.  I could and should spend all my time on all of those…
  • This is a great time to be Schechter!  I am extremely proud of our team, our schools and our stakeholders…what we have managed to do in only four months of operating at full strength is extraordinary and hopefully a harbinger of what is to come.
  • Helping to plan a conference with “systems intelligence” at the heart comes at the right time for us!  It creates lots of good energy when the different oars of your work manage to steer you in the same direction.  That is definitely the case for Schechter.

Why share this publicly?

Transparency.  Accountability.  Reflective Practice.

You have a right to know how I spend my time.  I want you to know.  And I want to learn from you…

…so feel free to comment or contact me directly.  Upcoming “Transparency Files” will examine our budget (and budgeting process), what it means when we visit a community and seasonal self-evaluations.

In the meanwhile, my schedule is calling me to next activity!