Jewish Day Schools Don’t Take Summers Off, Already Busy Planning for Year Ahead

0

During the summer the schools and their personnel all get a chance to take a breath and see what’s been accomplished in the past 12 months, while gearing up for what comes next.

Now that it’s summer for Jewish day school students, the familiar refrain still applies: “No more pencils. No more books. No more teachers’ dirty looks” — even factoring in technological advancements that make some things obsolete.

But it’s a completely different story from a completely different book when it comes to the schools themselves. It’s a book that never actually closes.


“The school’s open all summer,” said Judy Groner, who just completed her second year as principal of Perelman Jewish Day School. “There’s always someone there. Administrators work on a 12-month calendar. Vacations are staggered. During the summer, we’re focusing in on what our educational vision will be for next year.

“Everybody’s looking forward to the September opening of our ‘maker spaces,’ something we’ve been working towards with our emphasis on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) the last two years.”

During the summer the schools and their personnel all get a chance to take a breath and see what’s been accomplished in the past 12 months, while gearing up for what comes next.

“We just finished teacher meetings and had the entire faculty in for an appreciative inquiry exercise,” said Sharon Levin,  the head of school at Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy. “We broke the staff down in groups of eight and started telling stories about what made them feel good during the year.

“We talked about what did they appreciate most. What worked and what didn’t work. Everyone participated. Now we’ll take all those things and work on how to design a better program going forward.”

While she’ll be the one in Bryn Mawr putting that together, other members of the staff will be engaged in special learning programs not only throughout the country but in Israel. That’s where two Barrack teachers will participate in Kivunim, an intense 10-day training seminar.

Meanwhile, Darin Katz will explore leadership development via a week-long program at The Principals’ Center at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in Cambridge, Mass., while Chris Farrell takes a similar course at the University of Pennsylvania.

Prior to that, three teachers will attend the Emory College Institute for the Study of Modern Israel in Atlanta.

In addition, Barrack’s art teacher will be at different institutes during the summer, one related to art, another to the STEAM program.

“Students are gone, but I’m so proud of the fact Barrack staff, teachers and personnel work all summer preparing for the year ahead,” said Levin, now in her 30th year at Barrack. “It’s a really exciting time.

“What these programs do is allow you to not only learn day and night from experts, but to dialogue with your peers. They let you learn from each other. There’s nothing better. I’m proud to have faculty who always want to learn.”

So is Rabbi Ira Budow, who runs Abrams Hebrew Academy in Yardley. But right now he’s a bit too busy  with another task to talk about it.

“This is a crazy week,” said Budow, who is enlisting support for the institution from outside clients who need to submit their applications by July so the school will be eligible for an additional $90,000 in funding for scholarships. “I’ve been on the phone with two clients who are eligible for EITC [Educational Improvement Tax Credit] money. Right now is prime time. There’s an urgency, with hundreds of thousands of dollars at stake.”

He said most of the heavy lifting has already been done when it comes to getting ready for the start of school.

“We started getting ready for next year on Jan. 1,” Budow said. “We’re doing budget

projections and recruitment at the beginning of the year.

“It starts way before the summer. In reality, the quietest time for myself as school administrator is the four months starting in September. You have all your kids in. Your staff’s in. Everybody’s ready to go. But then you turn the page after Dec. 31 and start getting ready for next year.”

In other words, it pretty much never stops.

The biggest difference is that when the kids come back to school the building will look a lot better — and cleaner — than when they left.

“There is certainly a normal amount of wear and tear,” said Groner, looking forward to Perelman’s yearlong 60th anniversary celebration. “Our maintenance team very competently takes care of cleaning and preparing the school for the following year at both of our buildings — Forman [Melrose Park] and Stern [Wynnewood].

“So, I don’t need to spend a lot of time working on that. In the summer, you have larger periods of time to sit and have deep discussions.”

Then, before they know it, summer will be over, the kids will be back and school will be underway — with, no doubt, a few of those dirty looks soon to follow.

Contact: [email protected]; 215-832-0729

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here