Day School Leaders Talk Podcast EPISODE #1: Dr. Bruce Powell & Rabbi Marc Baker


Jane Taubenfeld Cohen speaks with Rabbi Marc Baker and Dr. Bruce Powell 


Rabbi Marc Baker, Head of School, Gann Academy in Waltham, MA.
Dr. Bruce Powell, Head of School, De Toledo High School in West Hills, CA.

GUEST FUN FACT: Dr. Powell was Rabbi Baker’s mentor on DSLTI

THE TOPIC: What does successful leadership in our day schools depend on?


  • Dr. Powell’s existential triangle for school leaders: A leader must not take his or her eyes off of Academic Excellence, Development, or Admissions for one minute. The board and HOS are at the center of all of this.
  • Rabbi Baker’s existential pillars of leadership:
    1. Vision (i.e. the “why”)
    2. Strategy (i.e. the critical choices we need to make and think about at all times)
    3. Culture/talent (i.e. being obsessed with the people and culture within an organization).

  • New heads often default to focusing on things in their comfort zone. For example, one might default to focusing on mission, vision, and philosophy and then neglect funding and enrollment. New heads are in danger of forgetting the outside pieces of the triangle and work on the inner core alone, which isn’t enough.
  • The HOS role is quantitatively and qualitatively different than any leadership role ever held. Being a HOS does not mean doing MORE of what was successful in prior roles.
  • Heads often find themselves spending too much time managing and not enough time leading. Ensuring a high performing, people focused, culture driven, talent magnet of a school cannot be found by managing the day-to-day.
  • Jewish leadership differs from regular leadership in that it has to be about Jewish life, values, and practice. A Jewish HOS has to be able to tell his or her school’s story through a Jewish values lens so the general population understands it and says “ I can get behind that.”
  • Heads of School should begin their leadership journey with the understanding that their relationships with everyone in the school will change. They should be aware of their new power and own it in order to create culture and shape and guide the students, faculty, and board.
  • New leaders might find coming to terms with their new power difficult. However, they can do so by being mindful of their ability to bring change and by being intentional about how they speak and act as that is what creates culture.
  • When a new leader begins, there are always some low-hanging operational fruit that need to be addressed right away. However, relationships, building culture, and telling the school’s story - that is the real work of new leaders. Naming that should be a priority.
  • New leaders don’t always start with all the pieces in place to be a HOS. There is vulnerability in the process and veteran leaders might say that a HOS may never have all the pieces in place. That is part of the excitement of being a HOS because it means each year will demand something different.