According to the just-released report of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa’s Jewish High School Education Task Force, Ottawa could have all the elements to establish a sustainable Jewish community high school, provided the preconditions of success are put in place.
The report was written by Ron Prehogan, the task force chair, and Bram Bregman, vice-president of community building for the Jewish Federation of Ottawa.
“I firmly believe we have what it takes in Ottawa to have a thriving Jewish high school,” said Prehogan, “but it’s not going to be thriving unless it provides value to people. This is where the work of the next committee is so important.”
The current situation “can be seen as a glass-half-empty or a glass-half-full,” he said. “The fact that we can design what we want without any baggage is a positive. I look forward to the next stage. We have some amazing people in this community and I have every confidence they will come forward with something exciting and interesting and will attract the critical mass.”
Despite his optimism, Prehogan said establishing a new Jewish community high school in Ottawa will be challenging.
“The problem we’ve had in our community is that the Jewish high school concept has not received the cultural acceptance that it has in other cities like Winnipeg, which has had a thriving Jewish high school since the 1950s. We have to turn around the culture.”
The task force mandate was to determine whether there is “a model for a Jewish high school in Ottawa that would attract students and be sustainable in the long-term?”
After much research and consultation, they recommended a list of “required components of a Jewish high school,” including outstanding teachers and university preparation, a variety of Jewish studies, and extra-curricular activities in technology, sports and music. There must also be a core group of parents and grassroots community members to take immediate ownership of starting the school, and an outstanding head of school.
Based on a survey and analysis of prospective families, the task force recommended the high school attract a minimum of 10 students per year, but should aim for 14 to 17 students per year. It also recommended the high school be located on the Jewish Community Campus in order to keep costs down.
“I continue to say it is so important for the long-term health of our community that we have a thriving Jewish high school,” said Prehogan, noting there are many studies that make a correlation between a thriving Jewish community high school and the strength of a community.
The task force will organize an initial meeting of parents and grassroots leaders who have expressed interest in starting a new Jewish high school.
“Federation strongly supports Jewish education,” said Bregman, “and will work shoulder-to-shoulder with anyone interested in starting a Jewish high school. I personally look forward to assisting those who wish to establish one for our community, as I know it would have tremendous impact.”
Visit http://jewishottawa.com/giving/reports to read the Jewish High School Education Task Force Report and its appendices.