Do you remember that feeling, back when you were in school, and you had a bad case of the “exam nerves”? I do. Particularly back in law school, writing my first law-school exam. But then you’d turn the paper over to read the questions and think, “I can do this – this is going to be OK.”
When I agreed to become the President of Ottawa Jewish Community School (OJCS), there were those who thought it might be a difficult row to hoe. And don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of work ahead of us, but those of us down in the trenches are beginning to feel that we are in a moment, and that things are just starting to go right.
Whitney Houston had a song that included the lyrics “I want one moment in time, when I’m more than I thought I could be, when all of my dreams are a heartbeat away, and the answers are all up to me.”
Let me give you a taste of what we are accomplishing at OJCS under the leadership of the board and Jon Mitzmacher.
Morale among our staff is higher than it has been in a decade or more. Our wonderful teachers are more engaged than ever, and our students reap the benefit.
Recently, due to the generosity of donors and the work of both Jon and Jewish Federation of Ottawa President Andrea Freedman, we have obtained a $50,000 gift, which we will be using with a group called NoTosh, to further innovation at OJCS.
We are working with our local pulpit rabbis through our Rabbinical Advisory Committee to put the “J” back in OJCS.
We continue our work with education consultants Prizmah, to strengthen our board and its contribution to the life of the school. We are also enrolled in their matching program for our fundraising development, which will help us bring needed funds into the school to help us improve.
Early numbers suggest a great year of recruitment ahead, contributing to the momentum we are all feeling.
We have entered into a great partnership with the SJCC to evolve its Ganon Junior Kindergarten. Working together for the benefit of the community, we have embarked on a three-year program to transform the Ganon program into the OJCS JK, so that in three years, it will be entirely an OJCS school program. In the interim, we will work to bring the OJCS three-language curriculum into Ganon.
And finally, we have been collecting information about our outcomes for students once they leave OJCS. Working with parents and other schools, what we are discovering is what we thought all along – OJCS students are well prepared for their futures when they leave our doors. We will be disseminating this information in a variety of ways – stay tuned. To sum up, while we work to make our community school better and better, what we are finding is that it is already pretty great!
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks said: “If you want to save the Jewish future, you have to build Jewish day schools – there is no other way.” Join us as we work to build and better one of the most important on-ramps to the Jewish super highway.
Michael Polowin is the President of Ottawa Jewish Community School.