Monday
Sep272010

Installation of Dr. Barbara Gereboff

Thank you all for coming to celebrate Sukkot as a community and to install Dr. Barbara Gereboff as our Head of School. Thank you to our fabulous PTO for organizing this wonderful event. Thank you to our PJCC partners for the use of their sukkah and this wonderful space.

I want to acknowledge the community leaders who have joined us for this important occasion:

  • Deborah Pinsky, PJCC Executive Director
  • Fred Weiner, CFO of the PJCC, the Campus and Wornick
  • Past President, Wornick Board of Trustees
    • Don Newman
    • Mark Abelson
    • Andy Fradkin
    • Maury Alcheck
  • Rabbi Yossi Marcus
  • Cantor Doron Shapira
  • Roxanne Cohen, Jewish Community Federation
  • Mervyn Danker, Head of School Emeritus – a hard act to follow

All of you form the fabric that makes the Ronald C Wornick Jewish Day School so much more than just a school.

The search and selection of a Head of School requires all of us to question who our school is and who we want it to be.  There is no question that our community values academic excellence.  We value inclusive and differentiated excellence – where each child is taught according to their ability and learning needs and is expected to strive for personal growth, personal excellence.

So, we obviously require that our Head of School have a plan to ensure sustained academic excellence at Wornick.

But that is not the only requirement for our school. Wornick is a cornerstone of our diverse North Peninsula Jewish Community. Our school is a microcosm of that community and must exemplify its values – kindness, social action, commitment to Israel and inclusiveness. 

Our Head of School had to be someone who would integrate with our diverse community and cultivate and support its shared values.

Even that is not enough. Our school’s mission includes academic excellence and tikkun olam, and directs us to educate the next generation of Jewish leaders. Our school partners with our congregations and our families to build secure Jewish identities in every child.

Our Head of School needs to have a strong Jewish identity and needs to experience joy from the process of helping our children create their own Jewish identities.

Education, community and identity.

These are the cornerstones of Wornick. The Board, our teachers and our families have had a unique opportunity in the last 14 months to get to know Dr. Gereboff. She came to us with 17 years of experience as a Head of School and has a Doctorate in Education. She came to Wornick to work closely with students and teachers.

What we’ve seen is that she exceeded our expectations on all three major criteria. Her plan for sustained, inclusive academic excellence focuses on investment in our teachers, unlocking their passion for educational excellence and their knowledge of best practices. It involves celebrating exemplars of excellence in all we do. 

Her commitment to our community shows in her openness to dialogue, insistence on kindness between all in our community, and her presence at synagogues, community events and more. On a personal note, I enjoyed walking for My New Red Shoes with her and her husband, Joel.

She put in place new ways for our students to develop informed Jewish identities with the eighth grade Kehillah seminar, having Rabbis serve as advisors to different grades, and engaging our middle school students to create their own t’fillah. 

I am so honored to be the Board President with the privilege of installing Dr. Barbara Gereboff as our Head of School.  Our school is vibrant with energy for learning – and it starts with the Head.

Albert Einstein said - It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.

Wornick is joyful and I am certain that our school will grow and thrive under Dr. Gereboff’s leadership. Welcome. 

Thursday
Sep232010

A "new" Head of School

By now, I hope you've received the email letter announcing Dr. Barbara Gereboff as our permanent Head of School.

It's easily the most important decision a Board of Trustees makes. In fact, it's the ONLY hiring decision made by the Board.  Everyone else who works at the school is hired and managed by the Head. Our Board has been very thoughtful about what our school needs to achieve it's mission - to be a community of extraordinary learners - and to develop the next generation of thoughtful, virtuous Jewish leaders equipped to succeed in the face of academic, professional and personal challenges. 

Dr. Gereboff presented the Board with an inspiring plan focused on academic excellence, nourished souls and empowered bodies. She is deeply committed to our children and to the treasured warmth and welcoming nature of our school community. She believes in cultivating mensches and deep connections to Israel. She is deeply committed to the pursuit of excellence in all we do. I am thrilled to serve on the Board that selected her and it is my privilege to support her work at Wornick.

I hope you will join me on Monday night, September 27 at 6pm in the community sukkah at the PJCC where we will formally install Dr. Gereboff and then enjoy music, stories and dinner as a strong community making strides towards an exciting future.

Shabbat Shalom,

Joelle

Friday
Sep172010

Reflection and Focus

The next 24-26 hours our people will come together for a day of reflection, commitment and focus – a day where we make amends for our transgressions against G-d and consider how we want to be in the year to come. At yesterday’s Board meeting, we were reminded that each of us is given 86,400 seconds every day to put to good use – in repair of the world. And once those seconds are spent, they’re gone forever.

After Yom Kippur, we focus on making each day matter. Our community has started a strategic planning process to ensure that we use every second we’re given as a community of extraordinary learners. We have many choices to make this year and every member of our community is invited to participate in those choices.

One of the key goals at Wornick is to be known for its academic excellence. As part of the strategic planning process, we need to develop a clear definition of just what academic excellence is and how we are going to measure and benchmark this excellence to ensure we continue to deliver and improve.

We will be sending out an invitation next week to join focus groups in early October on the definition and measurement of academic excellence at Wornick. Your input and perspective is invaluable. We hope you give us some of your 86,400 seconds and join one of these focus groups. 

May you have a meaningful and easy fast.

G'mar chatima tova,

Joelle

Tuesday
Sep072010

Board Tshuvah

The days of awe remind me that I must take the time to reflect and make amends for my transgressions – intentional or not. From Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, I consider my actions and their ramifications – and ask forgiveness for any pain I’ve caused. And so, in a broadcast, I’m asking you for your forgiveness. And offering an invitation.

Over my last two years on the Board of Trustees, members of our community have asked for more transparency from the Board and for better understanding of how our school is governed. We’ve made strides but we have more to do in sharing the responsibility for the future of our school with all of you – parents, students and the Jewish community.

Our upcoming Board meeting on September 16 will focus on the most important decision the Board of Trustees makes – the hiring of a permanent Head of School. Prior to considering the time and expense of another search committee (having done one three years ago), our Board is pleased to consider Dr. Gereboff for the permanent position. It’s an open meeting that any member of the community is welcome to attend.  Following a budget and development update, Dr. Gereboff will make a statement to the Board about her vision for Wornick and her talents to grow our beloved school. The Trustees will ask Dr. Gereboff questions. And then, in private, the Trustees will discuss and, if we have enough information, vote.

We know you are committed to our school’s future and if you’d like to hear Dr. Gereboff’s statement and responses, we welcome you to attend this Board meeting – starting at 7pm. 

If you plan to attend, please take a moment to read the job description or charge for the Wornick Head of School and the hiring criteria.  

Thursday
Sep022010

A gift or a regret?

If I had to do it over again, I would have sent my kids to Jewish Day School. 

My colleague and his wife are of my parents generation and are still active in their congregation. They are proud of their two adult children who went to Hebrew School, reluctantly, and were Bar and Bat Mitzvah. As he told me about them and about his parents as Holocaust survivors, he was saddened as his children weren't choosing to live Jewish lives as adults.

I’ve met a number of people in my parent’s generation who share the same sentiment. Many didn't consider how important the Jewish identity of their children and grandchildren was to them until it was too late to make a profound impact on it. While there is no guarantee that graduates of pluralist (non-denominational) Jewish day schools will live Jewish lives, the probability is significantly higher than of their non-Orthodox peers. In fact, it’s higher than any other Jewish experience (camp, birthright).

Among all the Jewish day school alumni parents I’ve met in the last five years of my involvement, I’ve yet to find one that says if they had to do it again, they would have chosen a different path.  They don’t regret the missed expensive cars, houses or vacations they didn’t take as they invested in Jewish day school tuition. We all know it’s an investment and every family makes compromises to do it. And the biggest rewards come down the line.

My colleague said that at the time he was afraid Jewish day school would be too Jewish – and make his children more Jewish, more observant than him and his wife. He didn’t know that pluralist community day schools like Wornick enable students to explore all practices of Judaism. So – join me in spreading the word to our friends who are nervous about raising their kids too Jewish. Let them know that there is plenty of space to be Jewish your way at Wornick. And that they will be pleased at the rewards of the gift of a Wornick Jewish Day School education.

- Joelle Kaufman