Educational degrees in both teaching and administration abound. But when it comes to managing schools, few universities offer courses devoted to helping school principals and other administrators learn the management skills necessary to successfully run a school – specifically, a Jewish school.
With that in mind, in July 2007 the UJA-Federation launched the Institute for Day School Management, a program run in collaboration with the Columbia University Graduate School of Business and the Communal Jewish Education Task Force. The Institute trains yeshiva and day school principals, and educational directors from the New York metropolitan area, to think strategically about their schools’ futures and to implement change to improve their education and administration. The free program takes place every two years, and is currently in its second cycle; classes will end this March.
Rabbi Elimelech Gottlieb, an early recruit to be the program’s director, said it was more than time that this type of course arrived on the Jewish educational scene. “Management training should be at the core of any training for people in leadership roles,” he explained. “The New York City public school system began training principals and school administrators several years ago, and in the business world, regular management training takes place for those at the highest levels of professional leadership. As the Jewish world has grown exponentially and gotten only more complex, it is vital to invest resources in this type of training for Jewish yeshivas and day schools.”
Limited to 24 participants per cycle, the courses are spread out over nearly 20 days and, along with two overnight retreats, are divided up throughout the year.
Courses take place at Columbia and UJA-Federation of New York, and are taught by Columbia professors. The courses include, among others, Strategic Management, Financial Management, Marketing and Public Relations, and Resource Development. Financial policies are discussed to maximize an efficient use of resources. And case studies of organizations facing and overcoming challenges are analyzed.
A key component of the Institute entails each school administrator proposing a strategic plan tailored for his or her school, incorporating ideas from the different classes into that design. Participants can expect to have “homework” throughout the year, such as readings and assignments leading up to the creation and implementation of the strategic plan.
Rabbi Gottlieb works tirelessly throughout the year marketing the program and recruiting potential candidates. He also tracks the program’s progress, and maintains follow-up contact with each administrator. He even visits schools twice a year to offer one-on-one coaching and mentoring to the Institute’s graduates. Those graduates earn a certificate in not-for-profit management from Columbia University and the UJA-Federation – but more important, they gain knowledge that will equip them to effectively run and manage their schools.
Rabbi Shlomo Stochel, assistant dean of Ramaz Upper School and a member of the current participating class, said, “Since the program began, I am much more reflective of my own leadership style and the impact it has upon others, and I have acquired a profound appreciation for the indispensability of moving from bureaucratic management to visionary and strategic leadership.”
And Rabbi Kenneth Fogel, the principal of Hebrew Academy of Nassau County, said, “I have gained a truly insightful understanding of the social styles and needs of both myself and those around me. In this way, I have increased my effectiveness with my colleagues, parents, students and lay leaders.”
Other schools that have already sent administrators to participate in the program include Rabbi Arthur Schneier Park East Day School in Manhattan, Yeshiva Derech HaTorah High School and Yeshiva of Manhattan Beach of Brooklyn, Solomon Schechter of Nassau, and North Shore Hebrew Academy Middle School on Long Island. “Each principal has to study the environment of his school and the environment it’s in, which changes constantly,” declared Rabbi Gottlieb.
“We’ve seen a lot of positive change among the schools that participated in the Institute, Rabbi Gottlieb said. “The schools have successfully implemented strategic planning, bringing all the school leaders together to understand the school’s mission. When both lay and professional leadership are aligned in terms of the vision for the school, it is much easier to fulfill that vision and work together to carry it out.”