The Transparency Files: Self-Evaluation

Although it feels like COVID-19 is the only thing we experienced this year, it will -at most – constitute a third of our school year.  So even though we continue along with our Distance Learning Program, even though things continue to be unpredictable, it is still true that when the calendar turns to May and June, you can count on me to deliver a series of “Transparency Files” blog posts!  This year, I am beginning with a self-evaluation, and will continue with the sharing out of results from this year’s Annual Parent Survey, results from this year’s Annual Faculty Survey (which is shared directly with them), and will conclude with a discussion of next year’s new initiatives and an introduction of the 2020-2021 OJCS Faculty.  [Things being what they are, these posts may not follow weekly.]

So let’s lean in…

We are in that “evaluation” time of year!  As Head of School, I have the responsibility for performing an 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.  Our Annual Parent Survey presents current parents with an opportunity to do the same (as part of a much larger survey of school satisfaction).  Please know that the full unedited results of both are sent onto the OJCS Board of Trustees Head Support & Evaluation Committee as part of their data collection for the execution of my annual performance review.

You are welcome to review last year’s self-evaluation post before moving onto this year’s…

This year’s self-evaluation is based on goals created for this year (which was done at the beginning of the year in consultation with that same Head Support & Evaluation Committee).  You will not find a complete laundry list of my day-to-day responsibilities.  [I typically focus in this blog post on more of my “principal’s” responsibilities, and not as much on my “head of school’s” (i.e. fundraising, marketing, budgeting, etc.)]   This means that you are only going to see selected components [there are more goals in each area than I am highlighting here] for the 2019-2020 OJCS academic year:

Establish steady and measurable growth of the student population

  1. Leverage parlour meeting(s) w/host families.
    1. Meet ahead of scheduled parlour meetings with host families to discuss an invitation strategy as well as salient points that better target the invited families.
    2. Meet after with host families to discuss follow-up strategy with a goal of converting 95% of attendees into scheduled tours.
  2. Work with Admissions Director to introduce a more data-driven approach to the entire admissions cycle.
    1. Explore data management programs (analogous to development) to  better collect and sort relevant data for the entire admissions cycle (inquiries, tours, applications, follow-ups, admissions, etc.).
    2. Introduce metrics (i.e. “touches”) into the regular moves management process.

OJCS is a school of excellence

  1. Working with French Faculty to integrate TACLEF training (year one of two).
    1. Assign a veteran teacher to shepherd the process and calendar all relevant training sessions.
    2. Meet with French Faculty after each round of training to see how teachers are faring.
    3. Encourage use of diagnostic tools as part of the process of preparing for both report cards and parent-teacher conferences.
    4. Share out with families (whether in a meeting and/or blog) updates of the work and its impact on the schools.
  2. Prototyping student blogfolios in Grades 5 & 6.
    1. Work with IT to establish the blogfolios.
    2. Work with the Educational Leadership Team (ELT) (Mrs. Thompson in particular) to help the Middle School Team understand the value of student blogfolios and how to best utilize them.
    3. Engage in proactive parent education with the families in Grade 5 (Grade 6 families began this last year) to best prepare them to be active partners.
    4. Aim for Grade 5 to prototype Student-Led Conferences for the Spring (b/c/ they tie naturally to student blogfolios).
  3. Actualize new HW Philosophy across K-8.
    1. Prepare and present new HW Philosophy (focusing on implementation strategies) to faculty during Pre-Planning Week.
    2. Facilitate a session on “Homework” at Parent Night.
    3. Work with the ELT to address ongoing issues through the implementation phase.
    4. Solicit feedback from parents, students and teachers as to how the new philosophy and policies are working.
  4. Launch new behavior management program anchored in 7 Habits / North Stars.
    1. Prepare and present new behavior management program (focusing on implementation strategies) to faculty during Pre-Planning Week
    2. Facilitate a session on “Behavior Management” at Parent Night.
    3. Work with the ELT to address ongoing issues through the implementation phase.
    4. Solicit feedback from parents, students and teachers as to how the new philosophy and policies are working.

Public  & Community Relations

  1. Introduce “Parent Workshops” (instead of “Town Halls”) around areas of intent interest (i.e. use of technology).
    1. Solicit feedback from parents as to what kinds of workshops would be meaningful to invest parental energy in participating in.
    2. Launch 1-3 Parent Workshops (either scheduled at multiple times and/or w/virtual options to accommodate busy schedules).
  2. Prototype family educational experiences.
    1. Gather feedback from parents and teachers as to what kinds of family experiences (whether in school like a “Family Kabbalat Shabbat” or outside of school like a “Family Retreat” would be meaningful.
    2. Launch 1-2 Parent Family Experiences.

 

So.  It would neither be fair nor true to blame any unfinished business or any unaccomplished goals on COVID-19, in fact in some cases it may have actually accelerated our path.  But it is both fair and true to name that it surely was and is a complicated factor.  Nonetheless, I am pleased to say that we managed to hit many of the above goals and are on our way to hitting the rest!

Here are some things to focus in on…

…we regard to Admissions, we were in the middle of a new outreach initiative to the Israeli community (championed by current OJCS Israeli parents) and had an event scheduled to bring new Israeli families to OJCS for a Lego Robotics activity, but it got canceled due to COVID-19.

…with regard to TACLEF, in addition to what I posted right before we had to pivot towards distance learning, with the (small) sample of (strategically selected) students who were used to train the teachers on the diagnostic tools, data was used not only for report cards and parent-teacher conferences, but also to navigate questions about French level placement.  If not for COVID-19, there should have / would have / will be a French Town Hall with more concrete findings and next steps.  Our last in-person training session for this year has been postponed into the already planned second year of this consultancy.

…with regard to Student Blogfolios, work was done with the ELT, but we did not get as far with the full Middle School Team as we would have liked.  Use of blogfolios in Grade 6 was pretty scattershot until we were forced into our Distance Learning Program.  Use increased out of necessity and we look forward to a carryover effect when we return to normal schooling.  Working with the Grade 5 Team, we successfully onboarded Grade 5 Parents – at least more successfully than the last cohort.  We were headed towards a prototype of a Student-Led Conference, although it is possible we may not have gotten all the way there, before COVID-19, but now this too must wait until next year.

…with regard to the new Homework Philosophy, I think, as expected, that implementation has been the trickiest part.  We will need to continue to spend meaningful time with faculty to ensure a shared understanding of how the philosophy ought to live across grades and subjects.  It is also going to be hard to know how the shift towards Distance Learning for the last third of the school will color feedback on this (and the next one below).  We will get some sense from Faculty and Parent Surveys, but not as targeted as it otherwise might have been.

…with regard to the new behavior management program, as with the new homework philosophy, implementation is the trickiest part.  We had greater success in the Lower School than in the Middle School, but good progress was being made right up until COVID-19.  More work will need to be done into next year.  Hereto, it is going to be hard to know how the shift towards Distance Learning for the last third of the school will color feedback.  As above, we will get some sense from Faculty and Parent Surveys, but not as targeted as it otherwise might have been.

…and, finally, with regard to parent and community relations, this still feels like an area for growth.  We held one workshop on “Technology” and then the move towards Distance Learning led to additional workshops specific to the pandemic.  Our virtual Family Kabbalat Shabbats and PTA virtual experiences have played a meaningful role during this time of distancing.

Those are just highlights.

If you have already contributed feedback through our surveys, thank you.  Your (additional and/or direct) feedback – whether publicly commented here, privately shared with me through email or social media, or shared through conversation – is greatly appreciated.  As I tell our teachers, I look forward to getting better at my job each year and I am thankful for the feedback I receive that allows me to try.

The Transparency Files: Evaluation of Self

Although the weather outside is only finally warming up, it is actually June and we have reached our final month of this amazing 2019-2020 school year!  It is hard to believe how much has happened this year and how much we still have on tap for the final weeks!  Circumstances led me to switch up the order of my annual series of closing “Transparency Files” blog posts.  This year, I began with the results of the Annual Parent Survey and the results of the Annual Faculty Survey (shared directly with Faculty), am now moving here to my self-evaluation, and will finish with a discussion of next year’s new initiatives and conclude with an introduction of the 2019-2020 OJCS Faculty.

So let’s lean in…

We are in that “evaluation” time of year!  As Head of School, 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.  Please know that I have already shared the results and analysis with the faculty and have sent the full unedited results to our Board’s Head Support & Evaluation Committee as part of their data collection for my evaluation.

You are welcome to review last year’s self-evaluation post before moving onto this year’s…

This year’s self-evaluation is based on goals created for this year (which was done at the beginning of the year in consultation with that same Head Support & Evaluation Committee).  You will not find a complete laundry list of my day-to-day responsibilities.  [I am focusing here on more of my “principal’s” responsibilities, not as much on my “head of school’s” (i.e. fundraising, marketing, budgeting, etc.)]  You will find selected components [there are more goals in each area than I am highlighting here] for the 2018-2019 OJCS academic year:

Establish steady and measurable growth of the student population

  1. Establish and drive a recruitment plan to promote the school and attract new students.
    1. Develop a recruitment strategy with the Admissions Director by December 1st.
    2. Review and track recruitment effectiveness and make adjustments as required (ongoing, but December – April is the key period).
  2. Design and execute a retention strategy and plan.
    1. Develop a “moves management” database for all current families and launch weekly retention meetings with Admissions Director by first week in December.
    2. Annual Parent Survey is taken each May, shared with families and utilized in plans for the following years (when appropriate).
    3. Complete exit interviews/surveys with students and parents to better understand reasons for leaving are done as decisions become final in the Spring.
    4. Parent Ambassador for all new OJCS families to launch the first week of school.
  3. Strengthen pipeline with Ganon & Early Beginnings.
    1. Meet with directors to share updates and solicit feedback twice-yearly (December & May).
    2. Schedule engagement opportunities for Ganon and Early Beginnings JKs w/OJCS K for November.
    3. Develop a plan for the ongoing transition of Ganon’s JK to OJCS by February.
  4. Deepen relationships with synagogues.
    1. Re-launch the Rabbinic Advisory Committee in November with a goal of identifying concrete engagement opportunities for OJCS and each synagogue.
    2. Meet with each Rabbi by January to identify a specific engagement opportunity for Jon (speaking, Shabbat dinner, etc) and a select group of prospective parents.

OJCS is a school of excellence (through our work with NoTosh we aspire to be “the best school in Ottawa”)

  1. Translating our “North Stars” (“The OJCS Way”) into a strategy document.
    1. Work with NoTosh to revise final strategy document by December 1st.
    2. Translate the strategy document into a slide-deck for presentation to teachers/board/parents by January.
    3. Create parent collateral to help drive external identification of “The OJCS Way” with “excellence”.
  2. Connecting the dots between our work with NoTosh and our work with Silvia Tolisano.
    1. Meet with members of the NoTosh Design Team and the Silvia Cohort to keep everyone on the same page (ongoing).
    2. Encourage at least 10-15 prototypes through the prototype protocol.
  3. Clarify what role the CAT-4 plays in evaluating academic “excellence”.
    1. Analyze CAT-4 results with teachers to evaluate how useful they are in shaping instruction.
    2. Based on data and “The OJCS Way” blog out results while holding individual parent meetings (as needed).
  4. Create a technology plan for teachers, students and school.
    1. Work with Technology Director to develop plans for current and desire technology in the school.
    2. Work with teachers – and then parents – to decide which devices students will need to have (both in school and at home) in which grades.
  5. Develop a comprehensive Professional Development (PD) plan.
    1. Ensure that each teacher has a signed Professional Growth Plan (PGP) by November.
    2. Work with new Coordinators to see what common themes arise from PGPs and decide where and how to address over the course of the year (PD days, faculty meetings, conferences, resources, etc.).
  6. (Constantly) improve faculty morale.
    1. Launched “Positive Notes” prototype in January
    2. Results from the Annual Faculty Survey indicate success.

OJCS inspires Jewish journeys in its students, families and community.

  1. Deepen and develop personal relationships with holiday and Shabbat experiences.
    1. Invite children’s classes to house for Sukkot (September).
    2. Begin rotating families through for Shabbat dinners.
    3. Prototype at least one holiday workshop with PTA.
  2. Expand holiday family experiences.
    1. Make sure each grade has at least two Kabbalat Shabbat experiences at school.
    2. Grow our annual Chanukah and Passover celebrations to deepen family engagement.
    3. Coach a few teachers who have family engagement as part of their PGP to maximize their prototypes.
  3. Thought-leadership.
    1. Make sure blog has appropriate balance, including connections between the way Judaism is lived in school and how it could be lived at home.
    2. Work with local synagogues on Shabbat and holiday programming.

I am pleased to say that we managed to hit many of the above goals and are on our way to hitting the rest!  Here are some things to focus in on…

…we just recently met with our friends at the SJCC and Ganon Preschool to deliver preliminary plans for the next two years of transition of JK from Ganon to OJCS and we are holding meetings this month between JK and SK teachers to launch new initiatives in 2019-2020.

…we are pleased to be cosponsoring a Shavuot program this week with Congregation Beit Tikvah and co-facilitating a Shavuot program with Kehillat Beth Israel.

…we are meeting with PTA leadership this week to pass along feedback from the Annual Parent Survey and to explore ways to engage more parents in holiday workshops or other parent education opportunities.  This is an area we are desperate to improve in next year.

…we have drafted a BYOD (bring your own device) policy for Grades 4-8, which will be sent to parents later on this month.

…the schedule kinda got away from us, but we do have a final K-5 Kabbalat Shabbat on June 21st at 3:00 PM!

Those are just some highlights!  As always, your feedback – whether publicly commented here, privately shared with me through email or social media, or directly shared through conversation – is greatly appreciated.  As I told our teachers, I look forward to getting better at my job and I am thankful for the feedback I receive that allows me to try.

The Transparency Files: Evaluation of Self

Even though I am adjusting to a more traditional “Northeast” calendar, with later beginnings and endings, it is still startling that we are down to the last eight weeks of this remarkable year!  There are still so many signature events still to come and so much amazing work to do, and yet here we are…the home stretch has officially begun.

And so, I would like to begin my annual series of “Transparency Files” blog posts which begins with my own evaluation, soon moves to reveal the results of this year’s Parent Survey, continues with a discussion on next year’s new initiatives and concludes with a conversation about next year’s faculty and schedule.

We are in that “evaluation” time of year!  As head of school, 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.  Please know that I have already shared the results and analysis with the faculty and have sent the full unedited results to our Board’s Head Support & Evaluation Committee as part of their data collection for my evaluation.

In future years, I will invite you to begin by reviewing last year’s post.  This year’s self-evaluation is based on goals created for this year (which was done months ago in consultation with the Head Support & Evaluation Committee).  You will not find a complete laundry list of my day-to-day responsibilities.  You will find selected [there are more goals in each area than I am highlighting here] components for the 2017-2018 OJCS academic year:

 Executive Leadership & Organizational Management

Jon’s 2017-2018 Goals

  • Identify appropriate benchmarks and standards across the curriculum.
  • Create and disseminate survey instruments to measure OJCS graduates’ transitions and successes (or failures),
  • Launch planning process to re-imagine teaching and learning at OJCS / innovation process.
    • Develop prototype of a light Makerspace with Jewish content integrated.
    • Purchase and experiment with 3D printer.
    • Amplify use of Google Classroom.
  • Develop collaboratively additional evaluative tools (outside of CAT-4 and curriculum-driven assessments) for measuring academic success and instituting a process for tracking and sharing information over time.
    • Revise exams for Grades 7 & 8 to incorporate all of Jewish Studies.
  • Ensure all in-house professional growth is embedded, ongoing and meaningful.
    • Provide frequent and varied professional development opportunities for all teachers (conferences, workshops, classroom exchanges, etc.).
    • Connect Jewish Studies Faculty to Prizmah.
  • Each teacher will have a Professional Growth Plan with artifacts, deliverables and accountability.
  • Explore the possibility of accreditation through OFIS, CIS and CAIS. (Likely CIS).
  • Work with SJCC, Ganon, Federation, etc. to lay the groundwork for OJCS to initiate JK transition beginning in 2018-2019.

I am pleased to say that we have achieved many of the above (and more)!  Without going through each one individually, as many of my blog posts this year have been about them, let me share some general thoughts…

…the conversation around “benchmarks and standards” has shifted as we, instead, began with work clarifying our core values.  When that work is complete (see the ad below), we can then drill down.  We want to begin asking ourselves questions like, “Do these benchmarks bring us closer to what we believe to be true about teaching and learning or not?”  Please remember (or know) that we are never talking about discarding or ignoring the Ministry of Ontario standards – we are talking about ensuring that they are simply the beginning of the conversation; that they are the floor and not the ceiling of our expectations.

…we are so grateful to our teachers and parents for their willingness to dive deeper into Google Classroom…we believe that open and frequent communication between school and home is the key to a successful school experience.  We also are not sure that Google Classroom is the best platform for what we ultimately wish to do educationally.  Stay tuned.

…we made the decision, but may not have adequately explained, to move our standardized testing window to the fall to come into line with when other private schools in our community take them.  We will have a conversation next year about which tests we take, which grades, why we take them, how the data will be used, etc.

Advancement

Jon’s 2017-2018 Goals

  • Launch annual campaign
  • Steward major donors
  • Hit the match through MATCH
  • Build capacity with the Development Committee through Prizmah coaching

It is the work we do in this area that determines how much we are able to achieve in all the others.  There is no private school in North America who subsists solely on tuition revenue.  That is why there is no private school in North America who does not have some kind of annual campaign, asking those who can, to do.  And in a Jewish day school where we aspire to ensure that finances not be the reason a child is unable to attend, we need to raise that much more.  And we do. Our lay leaders worked this year and last with a Prizmah Coach to launch this year’s annual campaign.  And I am proud to announce that we raised enough to qualify for matching funds from the AVI CHAI Foundation!  Thanks to all who gave what they could this year!

Next year we hope to increase the percentage of families who participate because we want to show all our donors and supporters that no one cares more about the school than its families.  Even the smallest contribution matters…we look forward to more conversation on this topic next year.

Public and Community Relations

Jon’s 2017-2018 Goals

  • Teach a “Parent University” course to all interested parents/caregivers.
  • Develop a “Parent Ambassador” program which can serve as a way of disseminating information, mentoring new parents, guiding tours, etc.
  • Blog weekly, Carpool line daily, twice-yearly meetings with all parents, meeting/phone calling as needed and as proactively as possible.
  • Be a presence at all our local synagogues/form a Rabbinic Advisory Committee.

I think this has been an area with some big successes and big fails.  I am pleased with how the blogging is going and people’s responses to it – especially as it is new for our parent community.  I am outside each and every morning as part of carpool and glad to be there.  It is the best way to start each day and a critical engagement point.  I have worked hard to be a presence at all our community’s synagogues and enjoyed speaking at most of them at some point during the year.  It is new (for me) working in this kind of communal context and I have stretched myself religiously in order to be present.  It has been worth it in ways big and small.  We have also succeeded in creating a Rabbinic Advisory Committee that is playing a vital role in helping us enhance the “J” in “OJCS”.

The biggest fail in this area has been with “Parent University”. Normally it takes a few years to get sick of me, not a few weeks!  After launching with a robust number of attendees, it began to dwindle down to a number too small to work meaningfully with.  Feedback was much more about timing than content, and figuring out how to engage working parents is a huge issue.  Similarly, although some constructive work was done in further developing our PTA, we were not yet ready to launch a formal “Parent Ambassador” program. Finally, although I think we have had an opportunity to meet with many, if not most, families many times throughout the year, I do think we need to at least formally invite each family in a couple of times each year to really be sure we are meeting needs and hearing concerns.

Finance and Operations

Jon’s 2017-2018 Goals

  • Revise budgeting process to be more proactive, less reactive.
    • Work with Committee to initiate the process earlier.
    • Develop a budget for the school we want to be as a strategic first step.

The paradigm shift – which we are actively in now – is budgeting for the school we dream of being, at least as a first draft, instead of the one we currently are.  We have actively engaged our full administrative team, relevant staff, and board to dream the high dream.  Of course there are fiscal realities we must attend to, but without knowing what we are aiming towards, there can be no plan to get there.  As mentioned above, I’m encouraged by resources being marshaled to deliver on the OJCS promise.

Those are just some highlights; you will also get an additionally honest look at my shortcomings when I share back results from the Annual Parent Survey.  As always, your feedback – whether publicly commented here, privately shared with me through email or social media, or directly shared through conversation – is greatly appreciated.  As I told our teachers, I look forward to getting better at my job and I am thankful for the feedback I receive that allows me to try.