Letter from the Board September 29, 2014

Hello all!

Shana tova and welcome back to another exciting school year at Senesh. It is our 20th year, and we have 200 students – up from 187 last year and 14 in our first year – mazal tov!
Thanks to all for an energetic and auspicious first few weeks. The school is abuzz; and the Board is, and has been, super busy too. I have a lot to tell you about the Board’s work.

Strategic Plan: As you know, the Board is launching a new strategic planning process to ensure that our course for the future is intentional, exceptional, and sound. Over the summer, the core committee (Marcella Kanfer Rolnick and Amy Glosser (Co-Chairs), JJ Berney, Jordan Green, Nicole Nash, and myself) got to work. Our first order of business was to obtain a grant to support the hiring of a consultant to help us ensure that our process is sound. We then issued the Request for Proposals, reviewed the responses, interviewed the candidates, and are very excited that Skip Kotkins of Carney Sandoe & Associates is now helping us through the process. Skip is a retired business owner and former Board Chair of both his synagogue and his children’s private school and has significant experience in leading schools, synagogues, and other non-profits through a strategic plan.

We have big ambitions for our plan. We insist on a serious and inclusive evaluation of how we have been doing in areas such as: assessment of our school mission, school program, community, governance, finance, and development. We will invite everyone to share their thoughts about the school today, and their aspirations for the school tomorrow. Ultimately, the plan will reflect the input and insights of the broad Senesh community and chart a course that is both ambitious and attainable as well as clear about our mission, vision, and approach. Admissions Director Iris Klein, Lower School Director Debra Kaufman, and Founding and Alumni Parent Lisa Kleinman have joined the Strategic Planning Committee to see us through this phase.
Skip has already met with the Board and developed a plan to meet with you. After the Chagim (holidays), we will send out a schedule which includes opportunities on October 19-22 (save the dates!), for input from parents, students, staff, alumni, and members of the community at large. Your participation is essential to the plan’s success.

Finance: Our books are in excellent order, thanks to the Finance Committee (Ellen Phillips (Chair), JJ Berney, Jordan Green, Gary Gottlieb, Andrew Salkin, Nicole Nash, Shai Carmel, and myself). As you know, your significant tuition is used to ensure our exceptionally low student-teacher ratio, to increase staff and programming, to support our tuition assistance program, and to service and pay down the debt the school took on to build our current building. We are relentlessly mindful of the burden of tuition and set it as low as we can manage. Please look out for the annual review for an analysis of the 2013-14 finances.

Development: To bridge the gap between our income from tuition and grants, and the cost of our programs, as always, we actively fundraise. Jordan Green (Chair) is enormously committed to the job. He is working closely with our Head of School, Development Director (Angie Lieber) and the Annual Campaign (Neil Solomon), Gala (Aviva and Kurt Will), and Legacy (Lisa Kleinman) Chairs to thoughtfully and meaningfully help us both to make ends meet in the near term and to plan for the future.

Facilities: Over the summer, we rented out the house on 5th Street so that, as planned, income from the house and the adjacent parking lot cover their costs while we prepare for our school’s potential future growth on those sites. Thanks so much to Yossi Ariel, Ofer Cohen, Boaz Gilad, and Gary Gottlieb for getting the house ready and rented!

Committee on Trustees: We completed Board surveys and analyzed the results to determine our strengths (dedication, collegiality), areas for improvement (communication, fundraising), and to ensure that the composition of our Board reflects a healthy diversity of school parents and non-school parents, those who bring in money and those who provide sweat equity (and many do both!), and areas of expertise. We also have brought on two excellent new members to the Board (Marcella Kanfer Rolnick and Andrew Salkin) who have supported the school for years and bring additional and unique perspectives to our lay-led Board. This Committee is also gearing up for Senesh’s re-accreditation into the National Association of Independent Schools. Thanks to Kitty Linder (Chair), Tori Rosen, and Aliza Kline!

Finally, thanks to Nicole for her unwavering and limitless commitment to all of the above, and more!

I will report to you again in a few months, after we have had our next round of Board and Committee meetings. Meanwhile, I wish you and your families happy, healthy, and meaningful days at school and throughout the Chagim.

Emily Reisbaum

Chair of the Hannah Senesh Board of Trustees