Yeshiva University Works With Local Yeshivot and Day Schools to Strengthen School Boards

Dec 29, 2009 — On December 22, Yeshiva University’s Institute for University-School Partnership convened a program on “Building Boards for Economic and Strategic Success for Yeshivot and Day Schools” in the Five Towns and Rockaways. The program is the sixth in a series this past year that helps schools to engage in research-based data-driven practices to improve their fiscal solvency.

Harry Bloom, Director of Planning and Performance Improvement for Yeshiva University’s School Partnership explained, “We surveyed the local day school leaders to determine what they most wanted to learn about. Past programs have focused on topics including major donor cultivation, maximizing annual campaigns, and energy efficiency. This program on Board governance was a culminating event and, collectively, the schools unanimously realized that effective boards could power up all initiatives the schools require.”

To enable focused problem solving, the event was limited to five schools and will be followed up with additional programs. Each participating school brought a team of at least four board members and a senior administrator from its financial and education domains. Eli Shapiro, LCSW, Yeshiva University’s Regional Coordinator for School Affordability, opened the event by framing the program as part of greater ongoing professional development opportunities for educators and community leaders through conferences, consultancies and the extremely popular webinars that are available live and archived at www.yu.edu/schoolpartnership.

The keynote speaker was the CEO of OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services, David Mandel. Mr. Mandel focused on the practical strategies of cultivating and identifying new and appropriate board members; their financial and fiduciary responsibilities, their role in annual campaigns and development, and the critical responsibility of a board in strategic planning.

Mark Gold, part of the Board Presidium at Mesivta Ateres Yaakov in Hewlett, stated, “This seminar was very helpful to Mesivta Ateres Yaakov and each YU event demonstrates how even a mature, well-run institution such as ours can be managed more effectively. Yeshiva University is doing an unbelievable chesed reaching out pro-bono to yeshivot and day schools and sharing YU’s amazing expertise to help us better support our educational mission.”

Following Mr. Mandel’s address the teams from participating schools worked individually with Yeshiva University facilitators to identify one or two specific goals and the steps to achieve these desired outcomes. According to Shapiro, “the most important piece is for schools to walk out with an achievable plan to implement positive change.”

The list of facilitators included YU Vice President and Chief Legal Counsel, Avi Lauer, Senior Executive Director for Community Affairs, Richard Bieler, Harry Bloom, and Eli Shapiro.

Yeshiva Darchei Torah of Far Rockaway board member and Lawrence Village Trustee, Michael Fragin, said that the YU program was both timely and important. “Responsibility, accountability, and transparency should be on the minds of every member of non-profit boards these days. YU’s series of seminars and David Mandel, in particular, have been very helpful in orienting board members toward a fuller appreciation of their roles.”

Yeshiva University and the School Affordability team will continue to work with yeshivot, day schools and communities across the country to improve educational, fiscal, and operational performance. In the Five Towns, the past year has been one of growth for Yeshiva University and the schools in the community. With more than a dozen schools present at most of the six programs they ran, advocacy in Albany, numerous consultation meetings with nearly 20 schools, work with community leaders focused on the tuition challenge, it has been quite a year of partnership.

The Institute for University-School Partnerships Director, Dr. Scott Goldberg stated, “Yeshiva University and the Five Towns and Rockaways share a common goal – building a strong and sustainable Jewish educational system for all Jewish children. With the hard work and dedication of lay and professional leaders of schools and the expertise and experience of Yeshiva University, we partner to advance Jewish education today and for generations to come.”

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