NoVa school searches for new leader

Sing it loud: Gesher Jewish Day School in Fairfax is searching for a new head.
Sing it loud: Gesher Jewish Day School in Fairfax is searching for a new head. Photo by Lisa Stern

Northern Virginia’s Gesher Jewish Day School, leaderless since July, has “four serious candidates” to become head of school in fall 2015. Peggy Ephrath, chair of the search committee, said she hopes to make an announcement by the end of February.

The school’s former head, Zvi Schoenberg, left when his contract ended on June 30 after 10 years. Academic duties have fallen to Graciela Granek, middle school director, and Jody Hirsch Rein, elementary school director, Ephrath said. Former board member Ron Katz is on staff as part-time school administrator.

Gesher has about 135 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Enrollment has gone down for the 30-year-old Fairfax school, she said.

Gesher received resumes from 20 prospective candidates. Search committee members held conference calls with them and then narrowed the number down to four. The committee conducted video interviews with them on Google Hangout. A second round of interviews was scheduled for this week, according to Ephrath.

“After this, we will determine who to bring in to meet as many people as possible,” she said.
She said that running Gesher for a year without a head of school is “not optimal. But a primary reason we’re running without bumps in the road is the pedagogical elements that Zvi put into place.”
A new head of school will be expected to be “out pounding the pavement every day [raising money and increasing enrollment]. The focus has to be external, not internal,” she said. That person must “garner more community support, more community donors.”

Enrollment in non-Orthodox day schools is dropping, according to a new study.

Reform movement day schools have shrunk 19 percent in the last five years, a census by the Avi Chai Foundation found. The Conservative movement’s Solomon Schechter schools have lost 27 percent of their enrollment. Nondenominational community day schools, which include Gesher and the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, have slipped 2 percent since 2009.

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