If there is one overarching element of Prizmah’s work with the capacity to truly transform the future for Jewish day schools and yeshivas, it is the power of network. Defined most broadly, Prizmah as network has hard-wired lines of connection throughout the day school field, bringing into dialogue leaders who may not otherwise have even crossed paths.
In the past year, we witnessed over and over the immeasurable value of this network as professionals shared resources and strategies for keeping schools functioning throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. Professionals opened up with one another about their successes and failed attempts, their unresolved challenges; perhaps most helpfully, they shared encouragement to get each other through even the most trying days. When leaders rise beyond the immediate frame of their school’s concerns and priorities and access diverse solutions to shared challenges, the “net worth” of the network expands exponentially.
Board members know this intuitively on a kind of micro level. At any given board meeting, when lay leaders share diverse perspectives and experiences, the discussion and decision-making process are greatly enriched. Good ideas cross-pollinate within schools or organizations when leaders tap into what they have learned from other settings.
Board members can follow the lead of their professional counterparts in the day school field by more actively and formally tapping into the greater power of network beyond their schools. “Leading together” is not limited to the team at one school, nor to professionals alone. Networking for volunteer leaders may vary from the strategies in place for professionals, but Prizmah is determined to uncover, nurture and promote such models.
Networks require give and take. Sometimes being part of a network means asking for help or getting a fresh idea; sometimes it means contributing a response or volunteering a novel perspective. The value of a network increases the more that participants “give” and “take.”
We can make this happen even more for lay leaders in Jewish day schools and yeshivas. While Prizmah builds networking for lay leaders into its gatherings and convenes day school “tracks” at communal events attended by lay leaders, we want to do more in this area. Whether through formal means of connection like the Prizmah Board Leadership Reshet or through informal peer-to- peer relationship building, board members can “give” and “take” to create learning networks for better leadership. Through the use of benchmarking tools such as DASL (Data and Analysis for School Leadership) and direct follow-up, board members can intensify their connections to their peers at other day schools.
When recruiting new board members, be sure to seek out members with strong access to external networks and experience on other boards. Empower board members to develop relationships with board members across the day school field; consider designating specific members for targeted outreach or networking.
Prizmah is here to support lay leaders who seek connection. In our work on the Prizmah board, many of whose members are veteran board members from schools in their home communities, we develop policy for a national, field-facing organization by leveraging the learnings from each individual school and leader, professional and lay alike.
Although the lay leadership network is newer and less developed, its potential is enormous. Join us in building on our lessons learned in the professional space, as we seek to enhance and broaden connections across all levels of school leadership.