36th Anniversary Accomplishments

As we close the 36th anniversary year next week, I’d like to share my remarks from our annual meeting this past Monday.  They focus primarily on accomplishments made by our professional team as we moved forward according to goals and strategies laid out in our Annual Plan – the first year of our new 5-year Strategic Plan.  We’ve made wonderful progress, and I’m pleased to share these reasons to continue to believe in the strength of this wonderful school, and to join us as we #GrowWithGesher.

I’m very proud of the progress our school has made during the 2018-2019 academic year, and I am deeply grateful to the students, parents, lay leaders, and professionals whose accomplishments I’d like to share with you this evening.

One year ago, we completed rigorous strategic planning with guidance from a consultant from Independent School Management (ISM), the foremost experts in what works for private schools around the world.  The result, our 5 year strategic plan, laid out goals for the professional team at Gesher with great clarity, and I am please to report on our progress at the end of year 1 of that plan. In each case I will share the specific goal from this year’s Annual Plan, and then report on our progress:

  • Develop a comprehensive Communications/Data Driven Marketing Plan, including new website, search engine optimization(SEO), word of mouth marketing, social media presence, and measurable analytics to build awareness of value proposition within the Gesher community to reach target markets for potential students.

Results: Thanks to hard work by our entire administrative team, our new website was launched 9 months ago, and with outstanding expertise from Roy Levy, our social media and web presence has improved by leaps and bounds.  Engagement on social media has increased by almost 200%, and inquiries driven to our website also nearly doubled compared to prior years.

Word-of-mouth marketing from Parent Ambassadors yielded multiple tours and applications, and our admissions teams presence at preschools and throughout the community went up again.

  • Increase the prospective student applicant pipeline as well as increase retention of current students. This can be achieved by reviewing the admissions and advancement structure and process, going to continuous enrollment, and a focus on faculty and student culture.

Thanks to hard work from our entire advancement team, which includes Julie Tonti, Joy Betaharon, Roy Levy, and Jennifer Scher, our Admissions Funnel grew by about 75%, from 53 inquiries last year to 92 (so far) this year.  Our Gan Katan program, piloted this year with 9 students, and ably run by Noah Stoler and Sam Williams, is projected to enroll at least 13-15 students next year. Our Gan, with 12 students this year, is projected at 15 next year. The total number of new students projected to join the school next year is currently 31, up from 25 last year.  Finally, our retention rate for eligible students is up from 91% last year to 94% this year. Anything over 90% is considered healthy based on ISM data from thousands of private schools.

  • Raise 800K in annual campaign

With gratitude to Jennifer Scher, Roy Levy, and our lay leaders involved in fundraising and development, I’m pleased to share that while we have not yet completed the month-end close for May, at our last report we had booked over 750K in our annual campaign, so we are on track to meet or exceed this goal.

  • Provide additional support and funding for meaningful and targeted Professional Development for faculty and staff in the areas of Team vs. Family, Educational Excellence, 21st Century Jewish Day School education, as well as in areas of expertise.

Between grants, funded programs, and our own resources, we were able to arrange for 75% of our faculty and staff to engage in meaningful, ongoing professional development through organizations including Responsive Classroom, BetterLesson, The Center for Israel Education @ Emory, and Brandeis University, to name a few.  Taking care of our educators is the highest priority we can invest in as far as reaping great benefits for our students, and we are proud to have such a reflective, professional, and caring faculty.

  • Develop and implement an ongoing evaluation process that identifies excellent performance through accountability for faculty and staff.

While there are still kinks to work out, Jodi Hirsch Rein developed and implemented a comprehensive supervision and evaluation program here at Gesher, the likes of which our school has not seen before.  It provides faculty with clear expectations and offers them growth-oriented guidance and support in order to grow as educators and professionals. Thank you Jodi, for this and for all your hard work on behalf of Gesher.

I will wrap up by saying the famous phrase from Rabbi Tarfon in Pirkei Avot – “Lo Alecha Hamlacha Ligmor, V’lo ata ben chorin L’hibatel Mimena”

“It is not upon you along to complete the work, but neither are you free to avoid it.”  We have plenty of hard work ahead, like every school, but I’m so pleased to share the wonderful results of all the hard work we have behind us and so grateful to be part of this community that is joyfully engaged in that work for our children.  May we go from strength to strength.

Shabbat Shalom,