The Transparency Files: Self-Evaluation

With the theme of this year being “Getting Our Mojo Back,” one thing that you can be sure of as the calendar turns to May and June, is that I will deliver you a series of “Transparency Files” blog posts!  OJCS Parents will soon receive their link to our Annual Parent Survey, and so I will again begin with a self-evaluation and will continue with the sharing of results of that survey, the results from our Annual Faculty Survey (which is shared directly with them), and will conclude with a discussion of next year and an introduction of the 2023-2024 OJCS Faculty.  [These posts will not follow week-by-week.]

We are in that “evaluation” time of year!  As Head of School, I have the responsibility of 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.  Like last year’s, I am going to skip the cutting-and-pasting from my goal-setting document and simply present to you a few big ideas that come from my “principal’s” bucket, and not as much from my “head of school’s” bucket (i.e. fundraising, marketing, budgeting, etc.).

…thanks to a grant from Prizmah we partnered with PJ Library on a variety of events to grow the number of Jewish families in Ottawa who are familiar with our school!  Highlights included a Library Storytime, lulav & etrog-shaking in our OJCS Sukkah, and two different “Havdalah in the Park” programs – one in Centrepointe and one in Alta Vista.  We are looking forward to building on this relationship in the years to come!

…in order to fully mark the transition from COVID to…now…we thought it was important to revisit three “Critical Conversations” that were so helpful to our growth (in every sense of the word) during our first few years together.  We, therefore, held three “Town Halls”: 1) Let’s Talk About the “J” in “OJCS”…Again: The JS Town Hall 2022; 2) Let’s Talk About French…Again. L’assemblée de Français 2022; and 3) Let’s Talk About the Future…Again: The “Sneak Peek” Town Hall 2023.    Our hope is that we have successfully put all our families on an even playing field as to how we got from where we were to where we are…and provided clarity as to how we plan to get from where we are to where we are headed.

…we began our three-year journey to full CAIS Accreditation by focusing on getting organized and beginning to think through succession planning both on the lay (board) side and on the professional side.  As we complete this journey, we seek to help parents in our community better understand how we fit into the private school landscape, as OJCS will – eventually – join Ashbury and Elmwood as the only CAIS Accredited schools in Ottawa.

…in addition to launching French-language PE this year, we tried to shine a brighter spotlight on all things French at OJCS with La célébration de la semaine de la Francophonie 2023, which culminated in a wonderful Francofête attended by parents.  We look forward to building on both as we continue to focus attention on French outcomes for OJCS graduates.

…we piloted a Middle School Information Night for Grade 5 Parents and will follow up in June with a Taste of Middle School for Grade 5 Students.  We want to do a better and better job celebrating the value proposition for Middle School at OJCS.  Beginning the conversation earlier can only help.

…with the help of a generous grant by the Jewish Federation of Ottawa‘s Fund for Innovative Capacity Building, OJCS Hebrew Faculty worked with Hebrew at the Center over the balance of this school year on a curriculum mapping consultancy.  Once complete (in another 1-2 years), we will have a deliverable for both teachers and parents that fully describe our benchmarks and standards for all Jewish Studies topics across all grades.

What did not get done or what still needs work?

A lot!

First order of business will be moving forward on our amazing $1.5 million reimagination (now $2 million) of classrooms at OJCS thanks to an anonymous gift.  We have been working with an architect firm –  Figurr – and look forward to launching this summer.  [Stay tuned for all of what that will and won’t mean for the start of school.]  The future of education in Ottawa really will be built right here at OJCS!

Second order of business will be continuing to reconnect with our families and our community.  We aspire to be more than a school, but people’s lives are so busy!  What can we do differently next year?  What should we do differently next year?  What should a PTA be and look like?  What kinds of friend-raising activities could we or should we be facilitating or encouraging for OJCS parents?  What kinds of Jewish experiences could we be promoting or providing for OJCS families?

Third order of business, somewhat related to this year’s theme, is “teachers teaching”.  After years of worthwhile complications and interruptions through task forces, consultancies and quasi-administrative portfolios, next year will be about streamlining, simplifying, quieting and calming.  We have reached a new stage of our journey as a school and what is required now is refocusing on what our most sacred tasks are – teachers teaching and students learning.

Those are just highlights.

If you have already contributed feedback through our surveys, thank you.  [Remember the deadline for your feedback to be included in reporting is May 15th.]  Your (additional and/or direct) feedback – whether shared publicly, privately 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.

Author: Jon Mitzmacher

Dr. Jon Mitzmacher is the Head of the Ottawa Jewish Community School. Jon is studying to be a rabbi at the Academy for Jewish Religion and is on the faculty of the Day School Leadership Training Institute (DSLTI) as a mentor. He was most recently the VP of Innovation for Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools.  He is the former Executive Director of the Schechter Day School Network.  He is also the former head of the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School, a K-8 Solomon Schechter, located in Jacksonville, FL, and part of the Jacksonville Jewish Center.  He was the founding head of the Solomon Schechter Day School of Las Vegas.  Jon has worked in all aspects of Jewish Education from camping to congregations and everything in between.