A Few Words from Bud
Rashi is a special place where children learn through a Jewish lens: a lens that builds character and life-long values. As I near the end of my tenure, I want to share with you some of the ways that I am truly excited about Rashi’s future.
I have had the pleasure of working closely with Adam Fischer this spring. Adam is the right leader for this school’s next phase. He is a strong leader, a thoughtful leader, an innovative leader, and a collaborative leader. He listens respectfully, thinks deeply, and acts boldly. Adam will bring a passion for educational excellence and innovation to our school. I am crystal clear about the ways that leadership can make an important difference in the academic culture of a school. He will motivate and inspire people from all facets of the school to achieve Rashi’s goals.
The Proof is in the Pudding
Rashi alumni have amazed me. I have made it my work this year to meet many alums and alumni parents. I am totally convinced that Rashi is graduating students who live the core values of this school. They are kind, caring, respectful, and empathetic. They live and breathe Tikkun Olam and see it their responsibility to help heal the world. Young children are just learning these values and sometimes don’t exhibit the most kind or generous behavior. This is normal. But by the time our students are in high school and beyond, they have internalized the values of Rashi and go on to become mensches in the world. One alum recently wrote the following,
“Being exposed to the social justice program from such an early age ingrained in me the mindset of asking myself what I can do for others and how I can make a difference in repairing the world. Giving back to others became not only a passion of mine but also a value. Tamchui laid the foundation for me about the nonprofit world, how to understand my own values and how to recognize myself as an agent of change. It certainly helped shaped my hopes of becoming a social worker, which is what I am currently studying to become.”
Academically, the vast majority of our students have great success when they leave our school. They are sought after in the secondary school admissions process and then go on to be active members of their school’s community. They are curious and eager learners. And the list of colleges our students attend is truly impressive.
I also recently had the opportunity to look over our students’ previous years’ ERB scores. ERB tests are given in third through eighth grades. It is the most commonly used standardized test in independent schools and Jewish Day Schools across the country. I am proud that almost every one of our scores last year was above the national medians of both of these cohort groups. This speaks to the dedication and skill of Rashi educators who tirelessly work to support our children every day.
Commitment to Core Values, Professional Best Practice
Speaking of our educators, we are truly blessed to have a faculty and staff that are so united in their commitment to Rashi’s mission and core values of learning, community, respect, justice, and divine spirit. Public schools have many strengths, but this is not one of them. Having every staff member committed to one set of key values is a gift to our children.
Recently Rabbi Zoob, one of Rashi’s key founders and current weekly volunteer in three different classrooms, said to me that in every lesson he witnesses, he sees Rashi’s core values at play. This is high praise and made me smile.
At this school, I have seen teachers provide extraordinary attention and care to each student. Each child is known well by many adults and our educators work assiduously to meet every child where they are – rather than where we think they should be. Our team of teachers is truly outstanding at providing support, enrichment, and challenge. This, added to our student to teacher ratios, helps us sustain a school environment where both nurturing and challenging students go hand and hand.
Finally, our faculty are dedicated to learning and growing as learners. They are self-reflective and excited to innovate and stretch themselves. Our teachers are eager and excited as we implement new science, math, and social/emotional curricula. They have thoughtfully integrated design thinking, Responsive Classroom, and the subject of climate change into their lesson plans.
Rashi’s science program is being completely overhauled. Working with expert consultant Dr. Nitzan Resnick, Academic Dean of The Sage School, teachers are rewriting curriculum, attending professional development programs, and implementing new units of study. Increasingly, we are focused on deepening our use of Design Thinking, pioneered at Stanford University, and introducing innovative curricular features including Maker Space work. Our new science curriculum will be focused on skills development, featuring lots of hands-on opportunities, inquiry-based instruction, and include elements of environmental learning that will make better use of our campus.
Quietly, the Math Curriculum across the school is being tweaked, aligned, and in some cases revamped this year and will continue into next. Math Coordinator Jolie Kane has been working with every grade-level team to improve math instruction throughout the school. This is important work that is often not seen by parents.
Israel and Hebrew
We recognize that we have an opportunity to improve our teaching about Israel. To that end, Rashi has begun a partnership with iNfuse: Israel in Jewish Day Schools. Funded through the Avi Chai Foundation, we will do a thorough self-study, reset our goals, and then partner with inFuse who will help us implement changes to our practice. We see a great opportunity to tie our STEM work with learning about Israel’s cutting-edge sustainability work in a wide variety of fields. This will be a unique feature of our STEM work and help us stand out among other schools.
Rashi is thrilled to welcome Ayelet Lipton as our Hebrew Department Chair. Ayelet brings with her an expertise in second language acquisition honed at Brandeis University, Middlebury College, and Jewish Community Day School. Having a Chair of Hebrew will provide greater consistency and alignment across this important element of a Rashi education. We will add precision to our assessment of students and deepen our pedagogy to better position students to grasp key language learning skills in line with best practice in second language acquisition. I believe this opportunity will have an institution-changing impact on our school.
The Creative Arts
It has been a thrill to watch our Music, Visual, and Theatrical Arts programs in action. Each is excellent, but most impressively, they work collaboratively with each other and with classroom teachers in the service of our children. This kind of collaboration not only is great role modeling for children, but it also makes the learning deeper and richer.
Our music program under Morah Shirel’s new leadership has spawned the birth of ShaBand, a group of Middle School students who play various instruments regularly at Middle School Kabbalat Shabbat. They even supported the recent third- and fourth-grade choral performance. ShaBand is a great example of our commitment to student ownership and student engagement. The more responsibility we ask of our students, the more they rise to meet that challenge.
Partnering with Parents
Strong schools work with parents as partners. Over the course of this year, parents have been instrumental in supporting our admissions and outreach efforts, our lunch program, our planning for the Pride Parade, K-2 Soccer Program, Tamchui, and so much more. I think this is an area where Rashi can continue to grow and will only strengthen the school in the future.
Social Justice and Multi-Generational Learning
Finally, but maybe most importantly, social justice is in the very soul of The Rashi School. Rashi is and will always be committed to giving children the tools to make a difference in the world. I am thrilled that the Board has voiced support for strengthening and elevating our Social Justice and Multi-Generational programming and curriculum. Stephanie and our teachers do excellent work in this arena but we all also strongly believe that that we should double down on this work. It is time for us to review our work, set new goals, and once again commit ourselves to national leadership in this field.
And this is only part of the story. As you can tell, there is a great deal to be excited about. Thanks for letting me share my enthusiasm for Rashi’s future.