AMOS & CELIA HEILICHER MINNEAPOLIS JEWISH DAY SCHOOL

Excerpt from Head of School Remarks at Annual Meeting

"State of the School" Remarks by Yoni Binus
Heilicher Annual Meeting
May 31, 2018

Heilicher is a community asset—an institution that delivers a powerful way to carry on the practice, the thought, the knowledge, and the ways of living passed down from generation to generation among our people. That tradition is our responsibility now in these times of technology and awe, and creative and scientific thought, in an age that faces both great challenges and unimaginable possibility. Those who support Heilicher by giving, by sending your children here, by volunteering, by devoting your life’s work here, by simply spreading a good message about the school and encouraging others to consider us as the place for their family, are enhancing Heilicher, allowing us to provide a beacon and roadmap for children to follow, for children to internalize for life, guiding them through complex and wondrous times.

One way we have enhanced our curriculum over the past year, to meet that challenge of guiding students, is by investing in STEAM education. This infusion of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) is beyond an increase in those disciplines. Perhaps most importantly, it is the adoption of an educational methodology that focuses on interdisciplinary curriculum and, at its core, is a way of constantly encouraging students to think deeply and to push themselves and their peers to look for answers without merely accepting what has been presented before them. Could there be a more important time in our history to have those analytical skills? Next year, we will continue to expand the STEAM methodology through enhanced science curriculum in the lower grades and the introduction of  a Makerspace, a lab designed for students to explore, build, create, and inquire under the guidance of a trained Makerspace and STEAM educator.

Analytical skills alone will not lift a society. We need practical guidelines and moral barometers as well. If done thoughtfully, our Judaism can provide those ethics and instill those morals. As a community and pluralistic school, we are committed to teaching and practicing respect and honor for the traditions and beliefs of each of our families across the Jewish spectrum and extended to other religions and beliefs as well. Our Judaic Studies program has been focused on enhancing the teaching of text, both as a conduit for passing along the traditions and teachings of our people, and as a springboard from which our students, particularly as they grow older, can grapple with what it means to be an engaged citizen, an adolescent and adult human in this world, and leader of our community through the lens of Jewish thought and ideals.

Next year, we will be working on a continued transformation of our t’fillah program, guiding students to find meaningful ways of connecting prayer to the world and people around them, as well as a connection to their own individual spirituality. At each grade level, students will also be able to dive deeper into text at a pace differentiated for them. Our middle school students will be connecting their values and the teachings of Judaism to action in the world beyond the walls of the school and the community.

For more detailed updates on the progress of Heilicher ‘20, our strategic action plan, please take a look at this document.

The challenge to the rest of us is ahead. Excellent immersive Jewish education comes at a substantial cost. Preparing students for the rigors of high-level academics in high school and beyond, as well as instilling a strong Judaic and Hebrew background, are incredibly important goals, but they have and always will need to be fueled by community support. That is why we have commenced an exploration into an endowment campaign. A large enough endowment would provide a predictable and stable form of revenue for Heilicher on an annual basis.

Equally important is increasing our enrollment, ensuring that tuition remains affordable but also sharing the message that tuition revenue fuels only 50% of our tremendous programming. We are committed to helping those who need help with tuition. The Board, year in and year out over the past half decade and more, has done a tremendous job keeping tuition increases to a minimum, and we rely on the support of Federation and our annual contributions to keep tuition at its current level. Our aim is to continue this trend, but it will require a community effort in the following ways:

  1. If you can contribute to annual giving, every dollar helps keep Heilicher accessible and bolsters the strong and profound educational program we offer.

  2. If you can volunteer, in any capacity, please reach out. Next year, we will have a volunteer coordinator, Ali Schoenberger, who is going to help us look at all our volunteering needs and coordinate those who volunteer their time. Even five or ten hours a year can go a very long way.

  3. Tell people about the school.

We have had 32 kindergarten applications and 30 lateral inquiries, so far, for next year. A lateral inquiry is anyone looking to transfer in after kindergarten. We won’t matriculate all these students. Some kindergarten applicants have decided to hold off for one more year of Pre-k, or withdrew applications for other good reasons, and some lateral students will get in and come and others will not. But the important data here tell us that there is an increased interest in the school; there is good buzz out there.

One avenue for keeping this momentum going is to continue paid advertising for the school and maintaining a presence at events and on social media platforms. But, most important to the growth of a school is word of mouth marketing. Share our message; connect a friend or a neighbor to me, to Louise Schoenberger, to Julie Ziessman. Direct them to our website. Even someone who does not yet have kids or whose kids are well past the age of coming to Heilicher, positive messaging begets positive messaging and that’s all there is to it. “Have you considered Heilicher?" those four words could change the life of a student and help build up our community.

And, now, my final point. The students are the life-blood of the school and they are why we are all really here. In the end, yes a school is a business, a community agency, and an employer, a consumer, a provider of a product, but our mission is to further the Jewish people and our practices and knowledge, and our core is the kids. Immediately surrounding that core are the ones who have the most direct and powerful impact on the kids: these are our teachers and our support staff. The work of a teacher is often misunderstood by many and, frankly, these days does not get the respect and attention it deserves on a national level. Please extend a thank you, and a round of applause, for our incredible team of educators.

Tonight, we get to celebrate the careers of Elly Becker, Hani Galili, and Yefet Zadaka, who have devoted their lives to educating the children of this community. The world is a better place to live because of all they have done.



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