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Wisconsin day schools anticipate diversity of developments
August 1st, 2012
Education is such a constantly challenging and changing project that every new school year provides much to anticipate.
The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle asked officials of the four Jewish day elementary schools in Wisconsin: “What is the one thing you most anticipate about the coming school year?”
And all members of this diverse group of schools clearly have much to plan for and to look forward to in the coming 2012-2013 school year.
Rabbi Rebecca Ben-Gideon
Rabbi Rebecca Ben-Gideon is principal of the Madison Jewish Community Day School, which is adding a fifth grade class this year.
“As our school heads into its fifth year, we are excited to focus on making more people aware of our program which features Hebrew immersion, small class sizes, and caring educators who challenge and nurture each child,” she said.
In order to increase awareness of its existence, the school reaches out through the Jewish Federation of Madison, synagogues, pre-schools, community partners, and members at large, Ben-Gideon said.
Last year they began to encourage people “to visit the school where they can observe the wonderful environment and learning for themselves,” said Ben Gideon, and “welcome guests to their school this year as well.”
Brian King, head of school at the Milwaukee Jewish Day School, said, “I am most excited about all the new faces we will have at MJDS next this coming year — from the more than 40 new students to new teachers to our new Judaic leader, Rabbi Moishe Steigmann.”
“Last year we unveiled an exciting new ‘Building Our Future’ tuition grant program, funded by an anonymous donor who believes deeply in the value of an MJDS education,” he continued. “This program will make an MJDS education significantly more affordable for Jewish families in Milwaukee by providing retention and new student tuition grants.
“With this program and a strong recruiting effort, we are excited to welcome at least 44 new students to MJDS in the coming year — a number that restores MJDS’s new student numbers to pre-recession levels.”
As for Steigmann, the new director of Jewish Life and Learning and Rav Beit Hasefer, he “is a native son of MJDS and a member of our first graduating class,” King said. “As our Judaic leader, he will guide MJDS during this next phase of growth.”
At Yeshiva Elementary School in Milwaukee, Amy Joannes, director of general studies, said, “Differentiation [of instruction offered] is our focus this year.”
“Our focus is educating the teachers to meet the wide range of abilities of our students and how to have all children succeed,” she explained. “No longer having the Keshet program, we are struggling to meet the needs of our special education students.”
Moreover, she continued, “Some students arrive with no Hebrew background, so they need extra educational support.”
Finally, B. Devorah Shmotkin, principal of Hillel Academy in Milwaukee, said there are “so many things that are extremely exciting and new that it’s hard to pick one.”
B. Devorah Shmotkin
But she settled on the school’s “upgrades in technology which will allow for more seamless and transparent communication with parents. The custom designed technology will include homework, grade books, calendars, middle school students’ assignments — all online.”
Shmotkin also mentioned looking forward to the school’s development of “deep partnerships” with families and the “initiation of excellent integration of new families as the new year begins.”
Diana Kahn is a Milwaukee educator and freelance writer.