Coming Attractions

We are headed into the last two-action packed weeks of the 2022-2023 school year!  WHAT A YEAR!  The theme, coming out of COVID, was “getting our mojo back” and back our mojo has been.  A quick perusal of my weekly blog posts paint a picture of a year where pauses became unpaused, progress was made across a whole host of school systems and processes, and challenges made themselves clear.  That’s what school is all about.  Not everything is perfect, there is more work to do to be our best self, but each year we reach closer to our North Stars.  I am so proud of our teachers, our students and our families for all that we have done this year…and I am very excited for what the next year is scheduled to bring.

Speaking of…

This will likely be my third-to-last weekly blog post before moving into summer mode.  I will take next week off as it is my pleasure to accompany our Grade 8s on their GRAD Trip to NYC.  During our last week of school, I will share the content of my charge to our graduates and – as always – share what we know to be true about who our amazing 2023-2024 faculty and staff will be and what they will be doing (including any openings to be filled).  So what does that leave for this week?

This will be the third of my updates on all things next year.  Two weeks ago, I provided an important update on the building renovation.  Last week, I shared the news of our transition from trimester to semester and why.  This week, I will move into rapid-fire mode, with a bullet-pointed list of things to know or to keep an eye out towards as we head into summer.

Here’s what to know in literally no particular order…

  • We have had so much success this year with launching the internationally recognized French DELF certification process for our Grade 8 Extended French students and look forward to extending it further to our whole Grade 8 cohort next school year.  Students who pass will enter high school with a confirmed level of irrefutable functioning and gain access to the programs they have their eyes set on.
  • We will restore the Middle School schedule on Fridays so that we are better able to run Jewish Studies as per normal on the weeks we don’t have an amazing “Mitzvah Trip” planned.  This will ensure that we are only sacrificing academic time when the activity is worthy, which will make the Mitzvah Trips more meaningful and minimize and mitigate loss from other Jewish Studies coursework.
  • Speaking of “Mitzvah Trips” we have a VERY EXCITING NAMING ANNOUNCEMENT coming this fall that will – FOR SURE – warm your heart and make you proud to be part of our special community.  Stay tuned!
  • Speaking of “Jewish Studies coursework”, as part of a long-term goal to increase the rigor and the opportunity to engage with rabbinic text, we will transition our Rabbinics Course from a three-day-a-week to a five-day-a-week course and transition our Jewish Ethics & Values Course in reverse.  This will be better aligned with the content and our priorities.
  • As shared by email, we have updated our Acceptable Use Policy for Technology to account for VPNs to ensure our students are only able to access safe and appropriate websites, apps and platforms while at school.
  • We will hire an additional resource teacher next year to make meaningful progress towards relieving the stress on our system.  This is the #1 issue raised by both parents and teachers and although this move may not fully resolve the issue, it is a significant step in the right direction.  We’ll have more to share on this as the Special Education Department finishes a needs assessment based on next year’s enrollment.
  • In order to be better aligned with the “Science of Reading” and with where Canadian schools are heading, we are moving away from STAR Reading as one of our primary assessment tools and will be training our teachers on Amplify.  Parents will definitely notice the difference and not just come progress report/report card/parent-teacher conference time.  In addition to the Amplify platform, our teachers will continue to use a Structured Word Inquiry approach also supported by the Science of Reading for reading and spelling instruction. Our primary teachers (K-2) will also be trained using the UFLI Foundations program to enhance and solidify phonemic awareness skills in our youngest students.
  • We are working through an entire reorganization of the systems in our school that deal with behavior management and classroom discipline.  It will include different roles for both the Principal and the Head of School, as well as a different allocation of responsibilities within and outside the Special Education Department.  It will continue to be anchored in our North Stars and aligned with the 7 Habits, and the continued work we are doing within the framework of Collaborative Problem Solving, but redesigned to be more clear, more streamlined and, most importantly, better set up our students and our classes for success.  This is the #2 issue raised by parents and by teachers and making significant progress next year is a necessity.
  • The Jewish Studies Faculty will continue to have access to a consultant from Hebrew at the Center so that we can progress on our goal of putting in writing a full set of benchmarks and standards for Jewish Studies at OJCS.  This is a multiyear project (to do it correctly) and this will be Year Two.  We are eager to put in parents’ hands more detail about what they can expect their children to be learning in Jewish Studies and welcome the accountability that such specificity invites.

Is there more than this?  Of course, but we can’t give away all the excitement and surprises here!  (Plus I could use a few topics for blog posts during the dog days of summer.)

Feel free to follow the fun on social when OJCS Takes Manhattan next week!

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.