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MIFGASHIM  July 2009

MIFGASHIM July 2009

Subject:

Mifgashim Volume 8 Issue 84

From:

Lee Buckman <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Mon, 13 Jul 2009 15:52:39 +0300

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (284 lines)

Mifgashim Volume 8 Issue 84


Contents:

1.	Responses:  What makes a good staff meeting? (Buckman, Anonymous)

2.	Response:  History of Ravsak (Kramer)

3.	Day Schools Could Gain $100 Million Through Better Management	

4.	Marshall Memo: How to Avoid “Parking-Lot Syndrome” After Staff Meetings



~~~~~~~~~


1.	Responses:  What makes a good staff meeting? 

We received a number of replies on the issue of good staff meetings.  With the promise 
of confidentiality, we have composed a digest of recommendations.

First, thought should be given to the optimal time for faculty meetings.  One teacher 
writes, “I prefer the meetings to take place when I am already in school and not during 
my free time, so I don't resent being there.”  

One Orthodox day school, for example, dismisses students early on Fridays in order to 
hold a staff meeting.  Not only are teachers not productive at the end of the day on 
Friday, but they are also preoccupied with their Shabbat plans.  “Somehow, I feel that it 
makes Shabbat seem less important to the teachers who are to lead by example,” 
comments one teacher. 

Second, good meetings are well-planned.  Teachers appreciate having agendas distributed 
prior to meetings.

Third, the meetings that were felt to be most worthwhile were the ones that focused on a 
substantive issue whose agenda was set not by the administrator but by the participating 
teachers.  

Teachers felt that departmental meetings were often most worthwhile because teachers 
were “often encouraged to bring issues to the table, and discuss them in a supportive 
environment.  We are constantly planning, working and trying to create a strong team to 
tackle our learning.”  The take-away here is to use staff meetings for problem-solving.

Fourth, meetings are perceived to have added value when teachers are asked to lead 
professional development.  One teacher wrote, “What did work, exceptionally well, was 
when we asked teachers themselves to present: for a couple of years, we picked a theme 
to work on and it was divided up among groups of teachers who met and working on their 
sub-topic.  For instance, we worked on the topic of assessments; one group focused on 
the value of homework; one studied pre-assessments; another did meaningful take-home 
projects and exams.  Teachers signed up for topics they were interested in and as result 
the working groups were cross-department.  Teachers enjoyed getting to know teachers 
they don’t routinely work with and hearing one another present.  Though the topic was 
‘top down,’ everyone loved those two years of faculty meetings.”

Fifth, teachers often viewed mandatory school-wide staff meetings as a forum for some 
administrator to reprimand the faculty.  There is little give and take at these meetings, 
and teacher input is rarely sought.  Such meetings create an "us and them" mentality 
between teachers and administrators.  One teacher said it well:  “Meetings are most 
worthwhile when I feel that my input makes a difference and is valued.”

Sixth, teachers felt that anything that could be handled via email should be taken off the 
agenda of a staff meeting.  Rather time should be spent working together to develop a 
plan for the coming week or to tackle an issue that teachers faced. A meeting where 
teachers learn something from each other is seen to be most meaningful.

Seventh, teachers will feel more refreshed after meetings that include public recognition 
and commendation.  “Giving 'thanks' or 'harakat hatov' to staff members who have made 
a difference since the previous meeting” is energizing, wrote one teacher.
 
Lee Buckman
[log in to unmask]


~~~~~~~~~


I am responding anonymously to the principal who is lamenting about the chit-chat of the 
women working in his school. I suggest that he acknowledge that women like to talk, 
reflect and express their thoughts and address the women at their point of learning. He 
may actually gain from the reflective experience. Changing the format to address the 
needs of the group is a terrific model for teachers to experience.


~~~~~~~~~


Re: the anonymous comment from a principal in Yerushalayim.  Such misogynous 
comments do not contribute anything positive to the conversation.


~~~~~~~~~


2.	Response:  History of Ravsak (Kramer)


RAVSAK: The Jewish Community Day School Network, was founded 23 years ago by a 
small group of Jewish educational pioneers - heads of Jewish community day schools.  

At the time, there were under 30 such schools in North America and RAVSAK (then known 
as JCDSN) served primarily as an informal network of the community day school heads.   
RAVSAK has since become the international center for the advancement and support of 
pluralistic Jewish day school education. 

RAVSAK aims to enable community day schools, the fastest growing movement of Jewish 
education, to be both Jewishly rich and Jewishly diverse, immersed in text and tradition 
while warmly embracing the variety that is the modern Jewish experience in America.  In 
addition, we host the Network of Jewish High Schools, which is open to high schools of all 
affiliations - Conservative, Community and Orthodox. There are over 100 member schools 
in North America with a growing network of Jewish day schools throughout the Jewish 
world.  Our website is www.ravsak.org.

Dr. Marc N. Kramer
Executive Director
RAVSAK
120 West 97th Street
New York, NY 10025
p: 212-665-1320
f: 212-665-1321
w: www.ravsak.org
e: [log in to unmask]
"Our client is the Jewish Future."


~~~~~~~~~


3.	Day Schools Could Gain $100 Million Through Better Management

A first-of-its-kind national study conducted by the Institute for University-School 
Partnership at Yeshiva University surveyed the presidents of Jewish day schools and 
found that a key to more affordable schools rests with improving board functioning in two 
critical areas: financial planning and fundraising.

Indeed, while communities across the country are rightfully galvanizing to confront the 
increasing cost of Jewish education at a time of diminished communal wealth, the survey 
suggests that individual day school boards can play a pivotal role in responding to these 
challenges.

The more than 60 day school presidents completing the “Survey of the Governance 
Practices of Jewish Day Schools” represented Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and 
Community day schools from across the country. Their responses revealed a number of 
key opportunities to reduce the growing affordability gaps:

•	Only about one-third of presidents strongly agree that board members give their 
schools their top personal philanthropic gifts or that they generate financial support for 
school events.

•	Only about one-quarter of presidents feel that board members are actively engaged 
in identifying and cultivating potential major donors for their institutions.

•	Only about 24% of presidents strongly agree that their schools have a 
comprehensive long-range financial plan.  

	
At the same time, presidents overwhelmingly say that fundraising/advocacy and strategic 
planning, the two areas in which their boards are underperforming, are the two areas that 
impact most on overall school performance and affordability.

“Too often we hear calls for cutting core educational components of schools, from teacher 
salaries to professional development,” said Dr. Scott J. Goldberg, director of the Institute 
for University-School Partnership. “While schools must find ways to cut spending, this 
survey suggests that we can help preserve the educational core of the school and 
maintain school quality by maximizing fundraising and strategic financial planning.”

The study targeted board presidents of Jewish day schools affiliated with four school 
networks: Orthodox day schools that associate with YU; RAVSAK, which comprises 
community day schools; Solomon Schechter Day School Association, which is the 
umbrella for Conservative Jewish day schools; and PARDeS, the umbrella organization for 
Reform Jewish day schools. About one in four responded. The participating schools are 
diverse in terms of grades offered, size, age, location and denominational affiliation.

The Institute is finalizing a second report that will explore the relationship between 
board practices and school demographics and operational performance factors.

Posted by eJewish Philanthropy.com


~~~~~~~~~


4.	Marshall Memo: How to Avoid “Parking-Lot Syndrome” After Staff Meetings

Why are so many faculty meetings followed by intense, disgruntled “parking lot 
conversations?” 

In this Journal of Staff Development article, Robert Garmston says it is probably because 
the leaders didn’t follow these five guidelines:

• Reach closure on what was agreed upon. 

“People hear, understand and remember agreements differently. (Ask your spouse),” 
writes Garmston. “Dissatisfaction is common in meetings in which members are not clear 
about which decisions were made, recommendations developed, and what is to occur 
next.” This hurts morale and the staff’s sense of efficacy. 

Some concrete steps: near the end of the meeting, the leader should summarize the 
decisions, recommendations, and actions to be taken (or have staff members pair up and 
share their sense of the meeting and then compare notes) and publish the minutes within 
24 hours.

• Clarify next steps. 

Just before the meeting concludes, the leader or facilitator should ask, “Who will do what 
by when?” It’s important for the group to sort this out before closing.

• Assess people’s satisfaction with the meeting. 

Here are three ways of checking in on staff members’ level of satisfaction (which is not, 
of course, the same as effectiveness): 

(a) The facilitator asks for “pluses and wishes” from the meeting and records responses 
on a flip chart, which is then used as a starting point at the next meeting; 

(b) The facilitator hands out sticky notes toward the end and staff members jot “gots and 
wants” on them and post them on chart paper, anonymously if they wish; the notes can 
be used to make improvements in future meetings; 

(c) The facilitator asks staff members to write what they found satisfying and 
dissatisfying about the meeting in terms of promoting higher student achievement and 
then either collects the responses or has small groups share them and reach conclusions 
(the second process can be the focus of an entire meeting). 

• Test people’s level of commitment. 

After the group has clarified what follow-up actions will be taken by whom, the leader 
says, “I know none of you would ever deliberately sabotage these agreements, but if you 
did, what would cause you to do so?” Asked lightly and without recriminations, this 
question has a way of flushing out any misgivings that may exist in the group. “Bringing 
these thoughts to the table allows practical conversation about implementation difficulties 
should they arise,” says Garmston.

• Assess the ground rules. 

“Meetings improve when groups reflect about their work,” says Garmston. A quick way to 
check on this is to periodically ask everyone a give a 5-4-3-2-1 rating on how successful 
the meeting was at:
-	Staying on only one topic at a time
-	Using only one process at a time
-	Ensuring balanced participation
-	Promoting constructive conflict about ideas
-	Understanding and agreeing to meeting roles

Staff members fill out the form and hand it in as they leave the meeting, and the 
facilitator displays the data at the beginning of the next meeting and the group spends ten 
minutes answering the question, “Given that this is what we said about ourselves last 
time, what do we want to work on today?” 

Garmston says this is a good use of time. “Most groups feel the tension of having more 
work to do than they have time,” he writes, “yet the only way to improve is through 
reflection. We do not learn from experience, only from reflecting on experience.” 

“Understanding the Art of Ending a Meeting” by Robert Garmstron in Journal of Staff 
Development, Fall 2006 (Vol. 27, #4, p. 57-58), no e-link available

The Marshall Memo is a weekly digest of important research in K-12 education. Individual 
subscriptions are $50 for the school year at http://www.marshallmemo.com.

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