Cheryl is the Senior Program and Outreach Consultant and a mentor for DSLTI. She has retired from Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community School in St. Louis, where she served as head for 14 years and taught for seven years. B.A. Jewish and Near Eastern Studies – Washington University; M.A. Jewish Education, Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion; Recipient of Grinspoon-Steinhardt Award for Excellence in Jewish Education, Stuart I. Raskas; Outstanding Day School Teacher Award, JProSTL Visionary Award and Fred A. Goldstein Award for Professional Excellence.

Ilisa is Prizmah's Senior Vice President of Engagement. Learn more about her here.

Partnerships for New Head Success

The first year of the Jewish day school headship is a challenging and pivotal moment in a leader’s career, and supporting new heads of school as they transition into new schools and communities is essential for the field. This year, Prizmah and the Day School Leadership Training Institute (DSLTI) partnered to forge The New Heads Initiative with the goal of doing just that. 

This particular collaboration is natural—both Prizmah and DSLTI are committed to supporting heads of school in all stages of their careers—and part of a larger history of partnership. Prizmah offers multifaceted support to heads, including weekly head of school meet-ups, leadership coaching for heads and their board chairs, and regular professional development opportunities. DSLTI is an intensive two-year, cohort-based fellowship for new and aspiring heads that many alumni have called the most powerful professional development experience of their career. 

Together through The New Heads Initiative, Prizmah and DSLTI provide a virtual network for support, professional development and connection for heads starting their first headship in 2022. 

For the roughly two dozen leaders who assume new headships in North American Jewish day schools each year, the challenges associated with transitioning into a new headship are immense and varied, and in need of attention and support. We envision an approach to supporting new heads that will help them feel well prepared for the particular challenges of their role, connected to colleagues and content experts, supported by a network of peers, and warmly welcomed into the Jewish day school field. The ultimate goal of the program is to retain talented heads of schools in the field in order to lead to healthier, more sustainable school communities. 

We believe that intentional practices focused on the transition of a new head of school will lead to benefits for the school and community and the field writ large, inclusive of greater stability, strengthening of the talent pool and creating space for schools to engage in long-term planning.

Through this program, and with additional support and attention focused on this critical juncture for heads, we hope to support the successful onboarding of new heads of schools into their positions and identify structures and systems that lead to longer head tenure. We also aim to cultivate conditions in which heads of school and board chairs can experience deeper alignment with one another: strengthened communication, clarity around goal setting, and collaborative systems for feedback and evaluation.

If we are successful, we will hear heads of school report they are feeling nourished and strengthened in their roles. In addition, we will see higher levels of sustainability, which might include: fewer reports of loneliness or isolation, a greater sense of efficacy and access to support, and stronger retention in the field. Through our partnership with one another in service of strong leadership for our schools, we hope that leaders will experience a greater sense of connection to the Jewish day school field, and to peers and leading experts who can assist them in achieving their goals.
During each virtual session, heads will have an opportunity to connect with one another around dilemmas of practice and engage in professional development. The staff is committed to connecting participants with experts in the field and experienced heads who can be helpful to them on this remarkable journey.
As heads of school, we become stronger by engaging with one another. And as organizations, Prizmah and DSLTI are stronger when we work together.

Ilisa Cappell from Prizmah and Cheryl Maayan from DSLTI are co-facilitating the sessions. The partnership and planning for these cohorts also includes Gavi Elkind of Prizmah, and Jane Taubenfeld Cohen and Ray Levi from DSLTI. 

For more information about Prizmah programs and opportunities for leadership development, reach out to Ilisa Cappell at To learn more about DSLTI, and to find out more about applications for Cohort 13 launching in the spring of 2023, reach out to Cheryl Maayan at