Commentary: Communicating a School’s Value

The narrative of successful schools is a narrative of student and family experience. Students go to school, they do things there, they grow and change, and in the end they move forward to something new. Happy families can describe this process in often moving detail, and happy alums can do the same. Happy students evidence this in multiple ways and on multiple occasions.

These stories, not placement lists or “data,” are the outcomes that matter most to a school’s value proposition and that provide the answer to the “Is our school worth it?” question. Placement lists are a kind of outcome proxy, and data is just data, but how people respond to a school experience matters. Remember, our task—as odd and even scary as it might be to phrase it this way—is to help facilitate dreams.

—Peter Gow, from “Can a School Control Its Value?” Winter 2014 HaYidion

Reeut Singerman, Director of Admissions and Marketing
Ohr Chadash Academy, Baltimore

From being embraced by a community with shared values, stimulated by a Torah-driven Jewish and general studies education, to immersion in a love of the land of Israel, there are many reasons to be part of a Jewish day school.

In our school, we strive to instill a love of learning in our students, where they can be actively engaged and collaborative. Where they can wonder, ask questions and explore, all in a warm and inclusive environment. Outside of the classroom, our school also focuses on community building. A back-to-school picnic, Siddur or Chumash program, a “buddy” welcoming a new family, or home visits from teachers getting to know their students before the start of school, these are a few examples of what makes a Jewish day school “worth it.”

These experiences collectively define who we are, and students carry the values and lessons learned long after they leave our school. The data we collect, from current parents and students, prospective families and graduates, reflect clear evidence of the lasting value we provide our students and families. By motivating our students with an enthusiasm and joy for learning and offering them value-driven experiences, they are more likely to stay connected, spread positivity, and in doing so, help grow our school.

Allison Witty, Director of Admissions
Yeshiva of Central Queens

“There are two gifts we can give our children: One is roots, and the other is wings.” While there is some disagreement as to the exact origin of this quote, its powerful message still resonates. From a child’s earliest age, parents entrust us in our roles as administrators and educators with their most precious resource, their children, to begin the process of helping to plant those fundamental roots.

As Jewish day school educators, we are tasked with the awesome responsibility of nurturing both the minds and the souls of our students. If we are fortunate, we get to observe our students’ growth process over the course of many years, before graduating them, conferring upon them their “wings,” and watching them soar to even greater heights as they embark on high school, college and beyond.

We know we have done our jobs correctly when our alumni “fly” home to our yeshiva with their little ones in hand, seeking the same stellar educational experience for their own kids. Then we go to work once more to help plant the roots of the newest generation. It is a cycle that has been and will continue to be repeated countless times over the course of our professional careers. It is who we are as Jews; it is who we are as educators. We are, indeed, the facilitator of dreams.

Tamara Lawson Schuster, Director of Admissions
Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy, Overland Park, Kansas

As a text-centered people, we love reading, telling and hearing stories: narratives from Torah, anecdotes from Talmud and Midrash, lore of our ancestors and families of origin, and tales of Shabbatot and chagim celebrated with relatives and friends. These accounts and experiences help us understand who we are and who we aspire to be by introducing and instructing us in the laws, traditions, values and people that compose our history and help define our future. The act of telling and transmitting the richness of these stories, as opposed to simply abiding by a list of laws and to-do’s, engages and perpetuates the ongoing value proposition for Judaism.

As with the dissemination of our heritage through storytelling, our students and families share their Jewish school experiences with those in their spheres. Our schools’ value is best communicated when our students and families recount their successes in academics to athletics, engagement in school customs and culture, and reflections on outings and outcomes. These are the acts of rich storytelling that carry our Jewish schools forward.

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