While every institution is proud of its successes, at Ida Crown Jewish Academy we have the data to both prove our achievements and inform us of areas of concern. The 2013-2014 school year marked the first year of our Strategic Plan 2.0, after four years of ICJA’s first phase of On the Mark! ICJA’s Strategic Plan for 21st Century Learning. Both plans were created in partnership with Yeshiva University and PEJE (Partner for Excellence in Jewish Education), and were developed and evaluated by outside consultants.
This second Strategic Plan targets fundraising and recruitment in order to support new initiatives in education. These areas were selected for improvement based on a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) by Academy leadership and facilitated by outside consultants. Initiatives of Strategic Plan 1.0 have now been incorporated into regular school operations, such as data-driven review, curriculum and professional development.
On the Mark! ICJA’s Strategic Plan for 21st Century Learning is guiding ICJA’s community to further the mission of academic excellence for all students. Consulting funding for the plan is provided by a joint grant from the Institute for University School Partnership of the Center for the Jewish Future of Yeshiva University and PEJE (Partner for Excellence in Jewish Education). ICJA is one of only a handful of day schools nationwide participating in this joint initiative.
Following are some of the areas we have focused on for the 2013-2014 school year:
The development staff worked this year to shift ICJA’s fundraising focus to an annual campaign with structured cultivation and stewardship. The development efforts were focused on constituency-based fundraising focusing on grandparents, parents, alumni and our Society of Patrons. Best practice in the field has been to shift from event-based fundraising, and ICJA has adopted this approach.
The admissions department worked this year on a plan to increase recruitment of students to ICJA by 10 percent of projected number via market segmentation, ambassador training and tracking. Much of recruitment to the Academy depends on the class sizes of our feeder schools, but the goal this year was to find ways to maximize the percentage of students choosing ICJA among these schools. A strong team of staff and lay leaders worked with outside consultants to train current parents to directly speak to potential families. Next year, as part of the Strategic Plan, the admissions and marketing departments will be working with outside consultants on a word-of-mouth marketing campaign.
Strategic Plan 2.0 focuses on technology, preparing our students for careers in the 21st Century. A new Director, 21st Century Teaching & Learning, Dr. Rochelle Green, will be joining the Academy team this fall to focus on STEM, learning to design project-based learning opportunities (See page 8 for more
on STEM). Together with an advisory group of experts from Chicago universities, administration and staff this year convened to plan, programmed-based learning, algorithmic thinking and programming courses for Academy students in the next few years. Computer science began in the fall of 2015 and focuses on skills students need to be successful in university and in the workplace.
In the college guidance department, Director of Guidance, Rabbi Louis Fliegelman worked to create the college guidance calendar, spanning all four years of high school, and also incorporated the online Naviance software for students. Included in the Strategic Plan’s focus on education was a study of students’ work/life balance, based on student and parent surveys in comparison to peer schools. A committee of staff and lay leaders, along with Dr. David Pelcovitz of Yeshiva University, worked throughout the year to develop changes to offer students more free time without compromising our outstanding dual curriculum. The committee developed new guidelines for both academics and extracurricular activities after completing a study of current ICJA homework policies and assignments. New for next year will be one shorter school day during each week and more free periods in lieu of gym class for those students who participate in
The communications department grew exponentially this year, supporting both the admissions and development departments in their efforts. Thanks to a one-year grant from Yeshiva University’s Benchmarking Program, the communications department was able to add one more part-time staff person and extensively expand digital media efforts. Additions this year included a blog with weekly posts featuring alumni, staff and students; more active, socially engaging Facebook and Twitter pages; more YouTube videos and a new Instagram page. The Instagram page is powered by a cadre of students in Media Club and is used primarily for recruitment. In addition, the communications department staff joined a year-long Social Media Academy for day schools around the country. The program was developed by the Darim Online and See3 Communications and is supported by the AVI CHAI Foundation. As part of this program, the communications department successfully raised over $10,000 – which was matched, dollar for dollar, by AVI CHAI – in a social media fundraiser.
As part of On the Mark!, the Academy regularly surveys our stakeholders, using both Measuring Success, LLC, an independent survey company, and Yeshiva University. This past year we surveyed our students and parent body, and some results from the surveys are at right. Fifty-eight percent of our parents responded to the spring parent survey. Those results are compared to peer school statistics provided by Measuring Success.