From the CEO: New Services for the New Year

Paul Bernstein

With the new school year under way, the team at Prizmah wishes every Jewish day school the greatest success for 2017-18/5778.

In our launch year, we were inspired by the levels of engagement by so many schools in learning and sharing through Prizmah. At the Prizmah Conference, participating in individual programs and services, online through our Reshet (network) groups, and through writings here in HaYidion and elsewhere, we have appreciated the commitment each person makes to see their school thrive and support colleagues in other schools. Most of all, connecting through Prizmah, we see teachers, administrators and lay leaders working together to gain from other incredible Jewish educators across North America.

We started this school year with the toughest of challenges for our colleagues, families and students in the wake of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Irma in Florida. In the immediate aftermath of Harvey, teams from each school in Houston worked tirelessly to provide for students and families, re-opening school as rapidly as possible. Schools across the country immediately responded with offers of help, with fundraising campaigns and lemonade stands, alongside an outpouring of offers to host students needing relocation and send student volunteers. We salute all who work so hard for our students, wish all who suffered loss our very best wishes, and stand by them on the long road to recovery. The Jewish day school community stands stronger together.

This year, Prizmah’s team seeks to enhance the ways in which we serve your schools. We are focused on our three goals: enhancing educational excellence, strengthening the financial vitality of our schools, and building support for Jewish day schools.

To deliver on these goals, we seek to grow Prizmah’s capability and effectiveness in supporting schools. In pursuit of excellence, we believe that strengthening leadership is central. Prizmah’s existing leadership programs, such as the Head of School Professional Excellence Program and YOU Lead, are being enhanced, together with leadership coaching and head of school smart search. We are strengthening the learning opportunities by adding to our calendar Leaders to Leaders, an intensive peer-to-peer problem-solving and learning conference in October.

The success of professional leaders in schools depends crucially on their partnership with lay leadership. To kick off further efforts to strengthen good governance, Prizmah is launching Board Fitness Services, in partnership with BoardSource. (See page 62 for a description.) We are working closely with federations to make this service available to as many schools as possible and we will add further supports as Board Fitness rolls out.

This is just the beginning of our drive to support excellence in school leadership. Prizmah is also laying the groundwork for future initiatives. We are in the process of completing a field study into the development of professional leaders in schools, which will enable Prizmah to focus on ways to ensure that current leaders and the pipeline of future candidates will be stronger in support of a vibrant day school field. This work has been strongly influenced by the involvement of a number of school leaders, and we look forward to inputs from many as we develop new Prizmah services in the future.

Prizmah appreciates the pressing challenges of day school affordability. As we complete current cohorts of training programs for fundraising, governance and admissions, yielding results such as the $104 million raised by participating schools for endowments, we will design future services to meet your current and emerging needs. We will share results of a Prizmah study into alternative tuition models and, in conversation with you, explore ways to further meet your financial needs.

Our network of teachers and leaders is at the heart of how we serve schools. This year, we are providing opportunities for deeper engagement among peers. Through active engagement in Reshet groups, you can raise questions and solve issues by leveraging the vast experience of colleagues, whether among heads of schools, Judaic studies coordinators or board chairs, along with many other peer groups. You have a banquet of choices for in-person convenings throughout the year, including job-alike conversations and skills-building seminars, as well as gatherings for leaders from schools of specific denominations, through our affinity groups.

Delivery of these services is the result of the intense work of an extraordinary group of Prizmah staff, our board, and partners in schools and others serving the Jewish education field. Team Prizmah has come together over the past year as a unified organization, no longer defined by the pre-merger separate organizations. We are continuing to manage and improve established programs with proven track records, while we collaborate with you to better understand your needs and build new initiatives to bolster your school’s success.

Prizmah is your organization. Becoming a member of Prizmah enables you to access all these services. Your membership also helps us to shape our offerings, strengthen what we do and strive for our goal: to serve the field ba’asher hu sham, working with and for each school in the ways that they need. Please help us shape a brilliant future for Jewish day schools.

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HaYidion Differentiation Fall 2017
Fall 2017