This is my fourth AGM at TanenbaumCHAT. Since last year’s AGM, we have much to be proud of. Let me share a few of those highlights.
At the beginning of this academic year, we launched the Chai Engineering Academy at TCW, thanks to a nearly $1.5 M gift from Danny and Anita Chai. This is both an academic and a hands-on program. On any given day, you might see the students taking apart an old computer and putting it back together, studying the design of pop cans to determine why a cylindrical shape with sturdy metal lip was chosen, or building and learning to program robots to perform elemental tasks. Under the enthusiastic teaching of Mark Rottmann, they tinker and build and design.
Since the 2015 AGM, we also have launched the Scholars Circle, a parent education program that gives a $5,000 discount on G10 tuition to G9 parents who enroll in a yearlong course that introduces them to our Jewish Studies program. This year, there are 24 families in the program who attend class eagerly every week and learn parts of our Tanach, Jewish history, and ethics curriculum. You can’t imagine the energy in the room each week. Here’s what one of our parents, Wendy Kauffman, said about the program: “The more I learn, the more I want her to learn. Scholars Circle will not replace 4 years of daily education, but it opens my mind to how much more there is to know and how much is still missing from my child’s education that I would be remiss not to provide.”
Since our last AGM, a year ago, we have seen the many fruits of the new model of shlichim. Our shlichim, Shlomi and Yaara, are experiential educators, not classroom teachers. In fact, in all of North America, these are the only two shlichim who are working in a school as informal or experiential educators. They do what they do–between classes at school, in their kitchen at home where they invite kids to cook with them, they do it on shabbat on shabbatonim or in their home, through song and film and food. One of our students shared this: “Whether it’s dishing out hummus at 8:30 in the morning, teaching Israel advocacy at lunch, or hosting an Israeli movie night, Shlomi and Yaara ignite a love for Israel in our students by building meaningful personal relationships.” Another student put it this way: “Shlomi revived the Israel ruach and really brought a piece of Israel to the TCK day-to-day life. He is full of incredible ideas and tries to engage every student in his activities. Whether it be school wide events or just one-on-one conversations, I feel like Shlomi and Yaara have helped many students find their connection to Israel.”
On a recent Friday evening, for example, Yaara and Shlomi hosted TCK students for a “tish” in the party room of their apartment complex. It was 5 below that shabbat evening, and 150 kids came! They have mobilized teachers–General Studies and Jewish Studies alike–to see themselves as part of the Israel engagement team. Frances reminded me that 3-4 years ago when we asked for a photo of students doing something Israel related, we found one from 1999. Now, Israel photos can be found almost weekly documenting the fine work Yaara and Shlomi are doing in the school.
All of these programs as well as many others–the AP Program in Chemistry and Calculus, the curriculum-based Israel trips, the pithy articulation of our Five Core Values (curiosity, character, connection, community, and contribution), our very successful summer school program, the nearly $1M surplus that accrued due to cost cutting which will offset the lost revenue due to an expected decline in enrolment, a greater financial commitment on the part of subsidy families, a new culture of philanthropy, and the rental agreement with Leo Baeck at TCK which advances two of our five elements of our strategic plan—all of these, we would not have been able to implement or accomplish successfully without the leadership and dedication of the board and administration and the work of our outstanding teachers. Leading a high quality school is a team effort, and we are where we are today because of the combined talents of our staff and lay leaders.