May 17, 2007

by Reb Yudel
I probably should have blogged this in January

With various Orthodox blogs trying to draw grand conclusions from the near-collapse of my kid's school, it's worth turning back to the root of the problem: a misguided and myopic board.

In that light, it's worth rereading something dug up back in January, when the disaster that was the Schechter merger hit the Jewish Week.

From the PEJE web site:

When Dorothy Bowser and Mary Sanders heard Larry Levine discuss executive coaching at last October's PEJE Leadership Assembly, they were instantly struck by how easy it was to relate to the PEJE coach. "He seemed so grounded and made us instantly comfortable," says Bowser, the head of Solomon Schechter High School in New York. Bowser and Sanders, the board chair, began their work with Levine after Schechter was awarded a PEJE School Improvement Journey Grant. But just how would coaching help them work on the areas of improvement that their ISM assessment had identified?

While the ISM assessment had revealed that the school's instructional markers were good, it pointed to weaknesses with the board. Some of these were already clear to the school. "It's easy to develop a glib response to things given the day-to-day realities of running a school," says Bowser.

Bowser credits Larry Levine's highly collaborative style--which includes monthly meetings and nearly daily contact by email or phone--with helping them develop a fresh perspective. "Larry asks you to really think about what you're saying, but he's also incredibly affirmative," says Bowser. Together, the team learned that the school needed to retool its administrative structure. More crucially, it needed to refocus its board on fundraising, and to stress the importance of recruitment for the entire school.

As for Levine, who has nearly 25 years of experience with executive coaching, he says that the most effective change comes when his one-on-one work is linked to a larger program of organizational change. "My expertise is really in the process by which meaningful change can happen," he says. "My coaching isn't just about giving good advice or ideas, but working with the school as a partner to create the relationships and tools for change."

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