May is a tough month for both day school parents and heads of school. We are all focused on “affordability.” Parents become nervous about how to afford this education, and Heads of School are focused on meeting a budget while projecting a budget for the coming year. We worry if we will meet our enrollment projections, our fundraising objectives, and our programmatic goals.
The past twenty-four hours were a welcome reprieve from this May madness. I had the pleasure of participating in a 24 hour retreat with all the Heads of School in the Bay Area that was facilitated by PEJE (Partnerships in Excellence in Jewish Education). There were eleven Heads of school, one incoming new Head of School and two PEJE facilitators. While the Heads of School meet monthly throughout the year, this “retreat” provided the time and space to address seriously the tensions that both parents and Heads of School face this time of year.
Our group has been meeting monthly for about ten years. We all treat this time as sacred – the time for us to share with the only people who really understand the demands of Headship. This retreat, however, produced a new sense of our role. We formalized our group (with a name and with roles) and set the stage for a strategic plan for the coming years.
We established strategic priorities with the most salient being advocacy within the Bay area for Jewish Day Schools. Our goal is to make the most compelling case for “Day School Education” that will lead to new revenue sources. Among other things, this will be about advocacy for affordability. In June, we will begin the work of creating our “business plan” for this advocacy.
I have worked with other Day School Heads in the past; however, I have never worked with such a collaborative group. Throughout the retreat, we considered many different goals for our group. (i.e. professional development for teachers, linking to other agencies for example). At the end of the day, when we had to select the most important task – we answered the question “what is the one thing that only we can do?” Given the fact that affordability is one of the most agonizing parts of our jobs and that it is linked to finding robust and new revenue streams for our schools, we knew that advocacy (to foundations, to donors, to community agencies, to businesses, etc.) was the most important idea that we could do best.
We all share the same passion of making this incredibly rich and dynamic education available to all mission appropriate families who want it. I am proud to be part of a forward thinking and supportive group. I know that in the next few years, all of our schools will reap the benefits of this work. I can’t wait for that day when May Madness turns into Magnificent May.