First 90 Days

Dear Gesher Community,

My family and I are incredibly grateful to have landed at Gesher, and to have been welcomed with open hearts and arms. We are enjoying becoming engaged in this vibrant community and feel at home here in Northern Virginia.

October 25th marked the end of my first 90 days in leadership here at Gesher JDS. I have spent this time both inside the school and out in the community meeting, listening, and learning. I have had the opportunity to speak at length with a variety of Gesher stakeholders including parents, students, grandparents, faculty, alumni, board members, local clergy, community leaders and Gesher supporters. Across all these groups several concepts have emerged as areas of strength and areas of growth for Gesher; these concepts lay the foundation for goals that will move Gesher and our community forward.

Areas of Strength:

  • We have an incredibly warm and supportive community.
  • Our commitment to excellence in academics prepares students well for their next steps outside of the school.
  • Our focus on Jewish values, ethics, and rituals roots students in tradition.
  • Our school culture and learning environment emphasizes social-emotional development.
  • The Greater Washington community loves Gesher JDS and sees it as critical to the growth of Jewish life in Northern Virginia.

Areas of growth:

  • Building transportation capacity due to geographic/traffic challenges.
  • Continuing to build strong, sustainable, and strategic communal partnerships to grow our presence and relevance.
  • Increasing visibility through marketing and community outreach; asking individuals to share their love of Gesher by telling their stories.
  • Developing a reliable and consistent pipeline of financial support.

The future of Gesher JDS rests on three key areas; excellent academics, growing enrollment, and financial sustainability. To achieve success in all three areas, we must celebrate our strengths and champion our areas for growth.

Excellent Academics

My wife and I, both educators with a total of 28 years of experience between us, chose Gesher JDS for our children. We did that because we believe in the educational product it provides. Despite having areas in which we need to grow (all schools have them), the faculty, curricula, lessons, programs, and experiences happening inside (and often outside!) our walls are high quality. Our comprehensive expansion of Gesher Green, our commitment to supporting professional development, and ongoing curricular revision and integration will ensure that we stay ahead of the curve. We will continue to grow our ability to offer our students the highest quality education, along with a sense of community and purpose.

Financial Sustainability

Our ongoing pursuit of organizational excellence requires fiscal responsibility. Financial resource development (including income streams beyond tuition) must continue to grow, as those funds secure our school’s future.

In gathering information about Gesher, I heard many people describe it in terms that convey cuteness, sweetness, and quaintness, as if we were trying really hard, just like the “little engine that could.” As I said during each of our five community receptions—I did not come here to run the “little school that could.” This school is excellent, and we will continue to grow that excellence. There is no reason, fundamentally, that this school cannot be a model for education both locally and nationally, and that is my goal. It is time for our community to turn the corner, recognize the strengths, and tell a new story.

Growing Enrollment

Growing our school’s enrollment requires all of us to share our Gesher stories:

Gesher students are learning math with an experienced, gifted educator, who trains other math teachers in graduate programs at American University. I have seen her classes here at Gesher – she teaches our students across grades 2-8, learning their styles and expertly differentiating to meet their needs; pushing them to grow and learn. Tell that story.

Gesher students learn about Jewish tradition in creative, multi-sensory units that incorporate critical thinking about complex texts, arts and music, acting, singing, dancing, and creating. They link lessons from our core texts to events and relationships from their own worlds, making connections that are relevant, deep, and lasting. This culminates with an extended journey through Israel, during which they begin putting down roots that will continue to grow throughout their lives. Tell that story.

Our science program uses cutting-edge pedagogical tools and techniques across all grades to help our students learn to focus their innate curiosity into sharply defined questions and hypotheses. We integrate outdoor learning broadly across the curriculum, walking a walk that most schools can only dream of. Tell that story.

Every single Gesher alumnae I have met with has gone on to do interesting, meaningful work, and our alumni who are currently in high school uniformly describe their middle school education as rigorous, excellent preparation for their public and private high schools. I just met one heading off to Nicaragua to serve in the Peace Corps. Tell that story, too.

As we tell these and other stories of excellence, we will continue to build our collaboration with local agencies and organizations, strengthening one another in partnership. We will discuss the best ways to address transportation concerns and better serve our community. I look forward to learning more about this community, and to guiding us in the important conversations we are having about how to make Gesher strong and sustainable for our children. I look forward to the next 90 days of leadership, and to all the days to come.

With gratitude,