HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal


From the Editor

by Barbara Davis Issue: Attending the Crisis of Leadership
Peter Drucker wrote, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” Yeah, right, you might be thinking. Did he ever run a day school? We all entered the field seeking to do the right things, only to encounter the incredible challenges of doing things right. Nobody ever aspired to be just a manager.

Recently on eJewish Philanthropy I read, “Just a few years ago, being innovative was key to a new organization’s success. But…recently much of the innovation buzz …has been replaced by our new friend, organizational sustainability.” Imagine my shock, as just five minutes earlier, I had finished an article in Time magazine that described the drastic fall of the once mighty BlackBerry, calling it a classic example “of the huge price tech firms pay for failing to innovate.”

So here you are, the head of a school or a member of its board—which way do you turn? Do you fail to innovate and risk decline, or do you scrap innovation in favor of sustainability? Do you deal with fundraising to keep your doors open, or do you deal with the educational programs which are the very reason for your existence? Do you purchase the latest hi-tech gadgetry to compete with the private school down the street, or do you employ your resources to send the seniors to Israel? Do you advertise the Jewish values on which your school is based, or do you feature the high math and science scores?

Do you turn away the child with special needs or do you expend your limited capital on personnel trained to meet those needs? What do you do when the other parents complain? When the child in question is the son of a wealthy donor? Or the daughter of a family on financial assistance? What do you do when a potential donor is waiting on line one, an irate parent is standing outside your door, and you have a child crying in your office? A) do you manage? B) do you lead? or C) do you quit?

Regrettably, option C is becoming increasingly common. The average tenure for a head of Jewish day school is 3.5 years; at any given time, between 10 and 20% of headships are vacant. The leadership crisis in Jewish organizational and Jewish educational life—indeed, in the nonprofit world in general—is real, with no solutions in sight. There are many causes for this situation; a rabbinical colleague of mine blamed it on the American Idol-ization of society, in which everyone gets to sit back, watch, and critique endlessly and mercilessly, without thought to the feelings of the person involved or to the future.

But it is a situation which must be confronted. This issue of HaYidion tackles this leadership crisis head-on, with diverse and hard-hitting articles that offer analysis, insight and pragmatic suggestions for attending to this crisis. RAVSAK itself is working on initiatives to address the issue. It is our hope that you will find ideas and inspiration in these pages that will enable you to tackle with renewed vigor both the challenge of doing things right and the joy of doing the right things.♦

Dr. Barbara Davis is the secretary of RAVSAK, executive editor of HaYidion and retired head of school at the Syracuse Hebrew Day School in Dewitt, NY. Barbara can be reached at bdavis74@twcyn.rr.com.

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Attending the Crisis of Leadership

Day school leadership, especially headship, confronts all kinds of crises: regular school crises, driven by finances or parents; short tenure (averaging 2.5 years); limited pool of qualified applicants; and an impossible workload with little room for family life. These articles analyze aspects of the problem and offer remedies that professionals and lay leaders might implement in their schools.

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