Relationships are the engine of the Jewish day school world. They drive our students’ work, our parents’ support, our administrative efforts, and the philanthropy of our donors. And never before have the relationships that exist among, and within, schools been on fuller display than in Denver at the first Prizmah Conference in four years.
One relationship that we all know to be critical to the success of day schools around the country is the relationship between the board chair and head of school. At our school, Perelman Jewish Day School in the greater Philadelphia area, we are a new head of school (Mitchell) and a seasoned board chair (Nancy). Going to Prizmah together was a wonderful way to grow that relationship. It also presented an important opportunity for both of us to experience the work of other organizations across North America, reflect on our early work together and the task ahead for our school.
For Mitch, the last time he attended a Prizmah Conference was six years ago, in Chicago, when he served as a faculty member and administrator at the school in which he himself was educated. At that time, Mitch had only worked at one school and was just starting his journey into wider networks. Since then, he’s participated in DSLTI, held senior positions in two schools in New York, and now brings his talent and leadership to Perelman as our new head. In this new role, Mitch is building critical relationships to help Perelman grow. And for a new head, the Prizmah conference presented an invaluable opportunity to connect with other school leaders and hear firsthand about the work that is being done elsewhere.
For Nancy, the conference provided an opportunity to gain greater understanding about effective team-building and healthy team dynamics in order to further engage the board in high-level strategic thinking around critical issues. It was also inspiring to meet many of Mitch’s mentors and colleagues from around the country, all part of the wide network of school leaders who can provide guidance and counsel as he effectively leads Perelman into its next chapter.
For our director of institutional advancement (Shira), the conference also presented an opportunity to strengthen the foundation of collaboration established over the past six months since Mitch’s arrival at Perelman. When our team of three set out for this year’s conference, we were enthusiastic about learning with and from our peers and energized by the prospect of connecting, in many cases reconnecting, with professionals and lay leaders from across North America who share the same values, a similar set of challenges, and most importantly, a desire to move our schools forward. And we were doing this together, away from our regular responsibilities, to connect, to learn and to grow.
We also had the ability to divide and conquer by attending sessions both related to our specific roles and relevant to the many issues that we are currently encountering as a Jewish day school. The sessions we attended on affordability and enrollment, cultivation of trustees and leadership succession, and institutional giving will ultimately lead us to more effectively engage in a strategic planning process and help us navigate toward a bright future for our students, our school and our community.
A highlight of the experience for us was Nancy’s presentation on head of school transition. We’re proud of the way Perelman has welcomed Mitch to our community, embraced his leadership, and come together to chart a successful course to achieve our goals. And we were thrilled to share our success with others.
All three of us look forward to strengthening the relationships we built at the conference both with each other and with those that we met, and availing ourselves of Prizmah’s networks of services to assist us in ensuring Perelman’s future. We returned to our school with a renewed sense of purpose and with the knowledge that all of us that do this sacred work are linked to one another as we strive to make an indelible impact on our respective communities.