A ‘quest’ for educators to achieve high marks

A ‘quest’ for educators to achieve high marks

The MetroWest community and private donors are embarking on a $1 million “quest” aimed at bolstering academic excellence in the area’s three Jewish day schools.

The Quest for Teaching Excellence, a four-year program of the MetroWest Day School Initiative, has been launched to support and enhance the work of educators at Golda Och Academy in West Orange, Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy/Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School in Livingston, and Nathan Bohrer-Abraham Kaufman Hebrew Academy of Morris County in Randolph.

The program, which is being administered by the Partnership for Jewish Learning and Life, is the result of a collaboration of the three schools under the guidance of consultant Elizabeth Penney Riegelman, a former head of school at Newark Academy in Livingston. “Schools focus so intently on their students that they too often cannot invest as much as they would like to in the growth of the teachers who are at the core of their educational missions,” Riegelman said. “The Quest for Teaching Excellence will provide a modern, research-based blueprint for schools all over the nation to focus on the optimal function and growth of every teacher,” said Riegelman, who will make a presentation on the program at the North American Jewish Day School Conference, scheduled for Jan. 15-17 in Atlanta.

The program is being funded by the Paula and Jerry Gottesman Family Supporting Foundation of the Jewish Community Foundation of MetroWest, as well as the MetroWest Day School Community Fund of the JCF, which was established as part of the MetroWest Day School Campaign, a $50 million effort to support affordability and excellence in the day schools. The Day School Community Fund is overseen by an advisory council comprising educational experts, JCF leaders, United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ, the Partnership, and private donors.

“Investing in teachers is the most valuable contribution that we can make to further advance the quality of our children’s education,” said Paula Gottesman of Morristown. “No school is better than its teachers, so it is critical that we provide them with the resources to do their jobs most efficiently. They are the central focus of the Quest for Teaching Excellence program, as we seek to continually improve excellence for our Jewish day schools while we strive to make them affordable for our children.”

The $1 million in funding will support four major areas: a part-time “faculty dean” at each of the schools to coordinate professional development, observation, and assessments; a pool of grants to enable teachers to build on their professional skills through workshops, continuing education, and other activities; the preparation of new, comprehensive faculty assessment systems; and a new centralized marketing position to better promote and celebrate high-quality teaching in the schools and community (see sidebar).

The schools will together host a “Teach-In” conference a year from now, on Dec. 7, 2012, whose aim will be to allow teachers to share and learn from best practices in their fields.

The Quest for Teaching Excellence program is part of a broader plan of the Day School Advisory Council, which has been active since 2007.

“It’s wonderful to see these three schools working so closely together to plan such a smart investment in teacher excellence, which directly affects students in the classroom,” said Max L. Kleinman, UJC MetroWest executive vice president. “I applaud the Gottesman Foundation and the MetroWest Day School Advisory Council for having the foresight to make this investment. It will have impact for years to come.”

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