Small by Design

November 17, 2017

This article is the second in a two part series.  As I wrote this article,  I was on the airplane travelling back from a Prizmah Leadership conference in New Jersey. I wanted to share my thoughts before I was too distant from the experience.

I spent this Prizmah conference in a different context than I have spent conferences in the past – in the world of small schools.  I worry for the small Jewish Day Schools in America.  They are struggling.  The demographics are shifting, the small city economics are different, the Generation Xers are moving to larger cities and the schools are slipping away.  Yet the conviction to run these small schools and provide the Day School experience to Jewish children in small cities is alive and well.

The passion exuded by the heads of schools I met left me energized and excited for the work I do, as well as  grateful for our unique, small school.  This school is truly a gift.

Below are some of my reflections on the unique and special nature of Paul Penna DJDS:

  •      A small school by design and not by necessity
  •      A small school that is nearing capacity
  •      A small school that has the support of a robust community
  •      A small school that competes with the finest of private schools and the most progressive of public schools in terms of the Core curriculum it offers
  •      A small school with a loyal faculty whose long tenure gives it institutional memory and investment in the success of the school
  •      A small school with a board of directors and parent ambassadors who proudly choose and promote our school

It was inspiring to witness the perseverance of Heads of Schools as they problem-solved bleak budget and staffing situations.  In most cases, they are fighting for their survival – trying to keep their heads above water to do the sacred work of teaching Jewish children. But they are not  throwing in the towel just yet.  They are affirming their mission, building up their product, and hanging on for the survival of Jewish education in small American cities. It left me that much more appreciative of  and committed to the work I do here at Paul Penna DJDS in Toronto each day.

I am grateful to be a leader in an institution  where our students reap the benefits of a small school, while their families can have confidence in  the future stability of the school.  Despite the secure position we find ourselves in now, it is important that we all work together to ensure the unique qualities of our robust small school continue to thrive.  Consider how you can get involved in the school – PA volunteer work, board committee work or sharing your talents with us in a way we can examine  together.  The more invested each individual becomes, the stronger we will be as we step towards the future.