HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal

Tuning the Choir: The Multicampus School

by Geoff Cohen and David Ginsberg Issue: Size Matters

This section features articles about the challenges facing large schools. In this first piece, the authors describe the administration of the largest RAVSAK member, Cape Town’s Herzlia with 10 campuses.

United Herzlia Schools (UHS or Herzlia) is a Jewish school in Cape Town, South Africa. The Cape Town Jewish community is 15,000 strong, with 80% of the Jewish children attending Herzlia. Established in 1940 in a small building in the city with a handful of pupils, Herzlia today is a network of ten schools with 2086 students ranging in age from 18 months to 18 years (from Chai to Chai); it comprises the Sarah Bloch Day Care Centre, four pre-primary schools, three primary schools, a middle school and a high school. Our main challenge, described below, is maintaining a sense of unity as one school across multiple campuses in diverse locations.

We recognize that education means the development of the whole child—emotionally, socially, intellectually, physically and spiritually. Our educational foundation rests on four pillars: Jewish Life & Learning, Academics, Sport and Arts & Culture. We strive to prepare our students to live lives informed by Jewish values and to prepare them to take their places as citizens of democratic South Africa and in the global community. Herzlia is consistently ranked in the top ten schools in the Western Cape Province and we have a 100% pass rate at grade 12 level (Matric). It is the third largest feeder school to the University of Cape Town.

At the same time, Herzlia is a school for all Jewish children irrespective of their income status, religious affiliation or academic ability. We are proud to be the first mainstream school in South Africa to introduce an alternative academic stream—vocational program—which is considered to be a groundbreaking innovation in the South African educational system.

Herzlia is in a truly unique position of having ten smaller schools in a large framework. This allows for an efficient central administration while still keeping the individual personality, flavor and ethos of each school. Our principals must work in a given administrative and educational framework that is vital for the efficient running of an operation with an operating budget of over R120 million (over $114 million).

Multicampus School Model

A head of school or director of education is critical in order to understand and implement the whole-school policy and vision. Geoff’s appointment in 2010 as director of education (equivalent to head of school) at Herzlia enabled him to focus on one clear task: putting the United back into United Herzlia Schools. Running a school with numerous campuses needs someone with a global view of the aims and mission of the school as a whole. This role is to guarantee that the core foundations, policies and values are adhered to by all ten principals while at the same time ensuring that their unique educational expertise is exercised in their schools.

Herzlia is a multicampus school that is spread out geographically across the city of Cape Town. The current structure has evolved into a workable and efficient model that has proved to be sustainable and efficient. To maintain its character, each campus has its own principal and staff, and to maintain efficiency, central operations are guided by and managed by the central administration as well as nine systemic heads working across the entire system. The principals and systemic heads of departments report to the director of education, who together with the director of finance and administration are responsible for the running of the whole school.

Being a multicampus school spread out across the city creates a number of challenges. With each school having its own principal, teachers and support staff, it is imperative that the core values and structures are implemented across all the campuses. In order to run the school cohesively and efficiently, we put in place the following positions.

Director of Finance and Administration

A central administration is essential for the successful financial management of a multicampus school system. By centralizing finances, governance, remissions, accounting, fundraising and budgeting, we ensure financial sustainability and efficient spending across the campuses. Each campus has its own budget developed by the finance department in conjunction with each principal. Taking into account pupil numbers, facilities and resources, this system creates fairness and meets the needs of each campus.

It is important to find the balance between what is centralized and what is decentralized. Central control is a key factor in maintaining and managing efficiencies across the system. It also frees up the principals and systemic heads to proceed with their core function, that of education. It ensures compliance with both government legislation and internal governance.

Areas of centralization are legislation, admission/enrollment, purchasing, ITC/Wi-Fi, resources, staffing, transport, etc.

Principals’ Management Committee (PMC)

The PMC is an essential tool for the communication and implementation of school policy. This group meets monthly to focus on polices, issues and challenges. It also allows for collegiality and sharing of ideas, which provides the school’s leadership with the opportunity to work together and function as a team with one vision. It is comprised of the director of education, the director of finance, the head of Jewish life and learning and the ten principals.

Systemic Heads of Departments

The appointment of department heads overcame many of the challenges facing a multicampus school. Each core department has an appointee who is able to take a global view of the school’s aims and objectives, thus ensuring that each department is run with one vision and one value system. This maximizes efficiency and the best use of personnel. It ensures a clearly defined ideology, ethos and mission. Fundamentally, systemic heads of department ensure that we are all singing from the same hymn sheet. The core systemic departments are the following.

Jewish Life and Learning (JLL)

As the raison d’etre of our school, Jewish values must be at the heart of a clearly defined ideological policy and core value system that is articulated and communicated across all the schools. The development of suitable and appropriate educational materials, programs and curricula forms a substantial part of this portfolio. The appointment of a head of JLL has ensured that Jewish studies is upheld as the cornerstone of our existence.

Herzlia defines itself as a community school that is aligned to modern Orthodoxy. The alignment to Orthodoxy is determined by five key foundational pillars:

  • 1. Shabbat: our observance of Shabbat is Orthodox
  • 2. Kashrut: our kashrut policy is Orthodox
  • 3. Tefillah: our tefillah is Orthodox, with boys and girls separated
  • 4. Limmudei kodesh: our curriculum is Orthodox
  • 5. Jewish studies staff: we attempt to employ religious Orthodox role models as teachers of JS

While these pillars are entrenched in our ideology, our enrollment policy is open and Herzlia accepts all pupils regardless of their religious affiliation. At present 14% of the students are not Jewish, 12% are members of the Reform/Progressive community and 4% are considered to be fully observant and part of the Cape Town Dati community. The remaining 70% are members of Orthodox synagogues but not necessarily observant.

Our entire pupil body is well integrated within our ideological definition and are all part of the Jewish life of the school.


In order to increase the number of pupils studying Hebrew as a matriculation subject, and to inject enthusiasm and relevance of Hebrew as a spoken language, we appointed a head of Hebrew whose key role is to ensure that Hebrew remains a core subject in all the schools. While it is school policy for every pupil to take Hebrew till the end of Grade 9, we are faced with the problem that South African legislation dictates the study of two out of eleven official languages. This creates the challenge of maintaining sustainable pupil numbers taking Hebrew in grades 10, 11 and 12.

Academics/Curriculum Development

With the constant changes in the school curriculum, we found it vital to appoint a head of curriculum development to investigate and interrogate the myriad learning materials, curricula and programs. This was done to ensure that our high academic standards are consistently maintained, along with our status as one of the top academic institutions in the country. It also ensures that all ten campuses are taught the same curriculum in a professional manner and at the same standard. A huge challenge in both time, energy and finance has been to draw up a development plan for all staff that enables our teachers to grow, develop and improve their skills.

Educational Support

As an inclusive school catering to pupils with a vast array of barriers to learning, it was critical to appoint a head of educational support. This person is responsible for the schools’ inclusive education program. This key element of the schools’ policies ensures that no Jewish child is rejected through a special need or disability.


Faced with the challenge of not being able to participate in school sport on a Saturday, when most schools play competitive sport, we must meet the sporting needs of our pupils and maintain both participation and excellence. This challenge, together with our wide geographic range, impelled the appointment of a head of sport. Recently we developed a policy of composite teams, taking our best athletes in an age group from all the campuses, which has resulted in us being far more competitive in the South African sporting culture.

Information and Communication Technology

The new technological age has necessitated the introduction of technology into our teaching and learning, thus requiring an educational and technological head of ICT. On the educational side, we are faced with numerous challenges of keeping up with the rapidly changing developments in technology. Mobile devices, social media, Wi-Fi, connectivity have all necessitated a global view of implementing technology into our schools.

Arts & Culture

The departments of art, drama and music are integral to the educational process in our schools. The head of this department is charge with preserving a global vision across our different schools.

Marketing and Communications

As part of the effort to ensure school unity across the campuses, our communications, while maintaining the individual flavor of each school, had to adhere to a shared brand. We have upgraded our website and electronic communication with the same look and feel throughout, produced a branding style guide and trained all support staff in its correct usage. A dedicated marketing head is crucial to maintaining the branding of the school in both the Jewish and wider community.

Human Resources

With a staff of nearly 400 people, our school requires a dedicated HR manager to maintain an HR policy and strategy. Labor legislation in South Africa is a minefield of compliance and strictly legislated. A centralized HR policy has ensured compliance while taking an enormous task off the shoulders of the principals. The efficient appointment of staff, running staff induction days and preserving decent conditions of service are key elements in maintaining a happy staff.

Fundraising and Sustainability

Fundraising and sustainability are challenges that face all institutions. Herzlia has a foundation in charge of major fundraising for capital projects, whose needs are decided by the principals and governors. Smaller projects are funded by the school’s PTAs within the structure of the individual campuses. This system takes geographic cognizance of the demographics of our campuses. A fundraiser that is suitable for one campus would not necessarily be appropriate for another campus.


As a community we receive essential top-up funding from the Cape Town Jewish Community’s UJC campaign. This in turn makes the school responsible to the wider Cape Town Jewish community as they feel, quite rightly, that they have a stake in the school. My role as director of the school includes serving as the liaison between the community structures and to ensure that all ten schools communicate one message. This crucial role maintains the schools’ standing within the Jewish and the wider community structures and in essence puts the school at the heart of the community.


Through a process of evaluation, we have faced the challenges of a multicampus school, making needed improvements to our teaching and learning as well as upgrading our facilities and resources. Through trial and error, we have developed a plan and strategy to cope with the challenges of a multicampus school in an ever-changing educational environment.♦

Geoff Cohen is the director of education of United Herzlia Schools in Cape Town, South Africa. geoffc@herzlia.com

David Ginsberg is the director of finance and administration of United Herzlia Schools. dginsberg@herzlia.com

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Size Matters

In the Jewish day school ecosystem, schools can range from a few dozen students to more than a thousand. How does school size impact education, school governance and administration? Articles in this issue address a range of challenges and successes found in small day schools, while looking at the issues large schools face as well.

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