HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal


From the Desk of Susan Weintrob, RAVSAK President

by Susan Weintrob Issue: Board Leadership

For waters shall burst forth in the desert, streams in the wilderness. Isaiah 35:6.

The messianic vision that Isaiah foresees includes the blind seeing, the deaf hearing, and the lame not only walking but leaping. And as if that weren’t enough, the desert blooms. These miracles are not static but dynamic, enabling the flourishing of B’nai Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael.

Like many other heads of school, I expect the same phenomena from my trustees, who in turn, expect miracles from me. The only difference between Biblical miracle-making and the work we assign to ourselves is, of course, the budget: G-d can call upon every resource in the universe and more; we, however, generally have to make do with far less.

Humor aside, the volunteer-driven day school Board is entrusted by the community (not to mention the IRS) to lead – not manage – the school. Leadership is a complex matter as we all know, fraught with dilemmas, difficult and sometimes painful choices, and significant burdens. Our Boards are officially charged with the tasks of keeping the school attuned to its mission, setting values-influenced policies, partnering with the head of school, promoting the school in the general community, and ensuring the school’s fiscal viability. This means that the Board must take on the roles of keepers of the faith, policy wonks, marketers, advocates, bean-counters and fundraisers and human resource directors and…and…and...

So how does the typical Board member move from being a school parent or neighbor to strategic planner, fundraiser and head support?

The members of the Board must make Board education and leadership development one of its bedrock issues if they –and in turn, the schools they lead, are to thrive. Supporting the school means creating a culture open to coaching, retreat planning and team building. It means researching best practices in governance and stewardship. It means loyally partnering with the head as he or she administers the school’s operations. It means having a long range plan for the Board as well as for the school.

The RAVSAK’s Annual Leadership Conference in Houston, Texas is an excellent way to begin or to enhance Board building. The workshops offer valuable steps, contacts and networks. The conference is a high-value, low-risk venue for personal and professional growth for heads, Judaic studies directors, and Board members alike. All of us need to share our struggles and successes. More to the point, everyone involved in the leadership of a day school is both obligated and entitled to learn and grow, if not for themselves, then for the sake of the school and the students you serve.

Like waters in the desert, trustees must make their schools bloom. Chaim Weizman once said, “Miracles sometimes occur but one has to work terribly hard for them.” In truth, school leadership is not and cannot be about miracles – let’s leave that up to heaven- but it is nonetheless, holy work. Struggling, persevering, and working hard together, G-d willing, we will witness the desert and our schools blossoming, as in the words of Isaiah.

I look forward to seeing you in Houston! ♦

Susan Weintrob is the President of RAVSAK and the Head of School at the Hannah Senesh Community Day School in Brooklyn, NY. Susan can be reached at sweintrob@hannahsenesh.org

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Board Leadership

The role of a board is to lead—to formulate and clarify mission and policies, raise, oversee and manage funds, hire, supervise, support and collaborate with the head, all through the lens of Jewish wisdom. This issue provides guidance for day schools to find the right leaders to serve on the board, and to strengthen their leadership while they are serving.

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