State of the School 2017-2018
June 21, 2018 by
What a difference a year makes! Exactly a year ago, at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the Board of Trustees, we stood in front of you in the old Gottesman Auditorium and discussed the upcoming move to the swing space. This was only a few days after the Groundbreaking ceremony when we unveiled our school’s new name, new logo, and new colors, and when we congregated for the last time on the steps leading to the 16th Street entrance to our home campus and made school history. We were days away from celebrating the last sixth grade to graduate from JPDS-NC and days away from welcoming the class of 2020 to the newly-minted Moses Family Middle School.
Today, we are also about to move – but back into our fully renovated and expanded Kay and Robert Schattner Center North Campus. The name MILTON rolls off the tongue now (ok, most of the time), and our new logo has been written up in the Washington Post. The swing space that took us so long to secure will soon be a distant memory, something that our kids and faculty will reminisce about, just as the prior generation reminisces about the famous “broom closet classroom,” which was used for Kindergarten briefly when JPDS relocated to an old school building in Montgomery Hills. Our sixth graders will become seventh graders in less than 24 hours and the Moses Family Middle school will welcome 42 sixth graders and two new seventh graders to add to the 22 moving up. And in the fall, we will open school with more than 390 students, representing an increase of more than 50 students than we had enrolled this academic year.
This September 5, when we open our doors for the 2018-19 school year, we will have officially reached our ambitious goals on both the enrollment targets and facilities!
We are tremendously grateful to our thriving Ambassadors group, led by Rachel Federowicz and Monica Abrams, whose passionate work contributed in no small measure to our enrollment growth.
Renovated and Expanded Home Campus Opening Soon!
We could not be more grateful to the members of the Facilities Committee, Evan Goldman, and Emily Appelbaum, for their incredible work on behalf of the school. Our expanded building will allow us to enhance the educational program for all students. Having both our campuses in close proximity again will enable us to reinvigorate the connections across campuses and increase the shared use of the new facilities.
Thriving Through Our Transition Year
First, a special shout-out to Ben Becker, who helped us find and secure the swing space, without which none of this would have been possible.
I want to recognize the efforts of the faculty and staff, who managed to give our students an extraordinary year in every way, despite the challenges. From creating cheerful classrooms and hallways and maximizing the space with creative solutions, to forming partnerships with synagogues and other area organizations to use their space – I want to thank all the teachers, administrators, and staff for their creativity, collaboration, problem-solving, and good humor this year.
I also want to recognize the administrators and staff for their hard work on two successful moves in one year, and for ably managing the complex logistics of our programs and partnerships, including school programs, Birthday Lunch, and Share the Nachas Day. I couldn’t be prouder of what MILTON’s staff and volunteers accomplished this year!
Expanded STEM and Differentiated Instruction
We made huge strides this year in the areas of STEM and differentiated instruction. We expanded our Science program; partnered with Catylator, a STEM-based makerspace, to replace our Design Lab during construction; and hired a STEM consultant to help us develop our Science and STEM programs for next year and into the future.
We are developing a focused Executive Functioning curriculum to complement the academic program and the social-emotional curriculum we started last year, Second Step. The new Executive Functioning curriculum will be fully implemented next year, including the adoption of campus-wide systems for organizing space, materials, and the classroom environment. We added more learning specialists and provided our guidance counselors more time, allowing them to offer a wider range of support and enrichment across the grades. We are strengthening the supports inside the classrooms and providing small groups as needed, including a learning specialist focused on Hebrew and Judaic Studies. I could continue to list many of the improvements and enhancements we made this year in all curricular areas and across the grades, but it will take far too long. I encourage you to explore the blog to learn more about the breadth and depth of our academic program.
Partnerships, Grants, and Professional Development
One of the hallmarks of our school has been a deep commitment to in-depth professional development for our faculty and staff. We have become the school of choice for organizations that provide grants for faculty education. We have cultivated a well-earned reputation as a school that not just learns, but implements growth throughout the institution.
We have a long-standing partnership with JNTP (Jewish New Teacher Project) for mentoring new teachers, and this year, we added a two-year program for all our division directors and instructional leaders that they just finished with flying colors. We have been selected to be among the first four schools in the country for the two-year Ayeka fellowship that started last year. We are also part of the two-year Pedagogy of Partnership fellowship that will start in the summer. We are members of the early cohorts to implement the Standards and Benchmarks for the Teaching of TaNaKh, which continues to this day; now, we will add our two-year professional development partnership with the Standards and Benchmarks for the Teaching of Rabbinics, for Pre-K to Grade 2. We are also beginning what we hope will become a solid partnership with Mechon Hadar’s new DC initiative. In a few days, two of our educators will spend a week at the Center for Israel Education in Emory University in Atlanta, as we prepare for a different level of Israel education in the Middle School. We will also welcome a young shaliach in partnership with MoEd and Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.
We celebrate the graduation of Vered Goldstein, Hebrew and Judaic Studies Instructional Leader in the South Campus, from the Telem program, a highly selective program that certifies educators as trainers for the proficiency approach in Hebrew.
We will continue to send teachers to the week-long WISSIT Conference, with Project Zero/Harvard Graduate School of Education researchers. Dafna Spear, Instructional Leader for General Studies in Grades 2-5, will attend a two-week training at the Teachers College in Columbia University this summer. The entire faculty will have several days of intensive professional development in Responsive Classroom and in Math this fall. The entire faculty will also read two professional books this summer (new teachers included), in preparation for next year. And all this – before school even starts!
Jewish Life at MILTON
Along with the excitement of the new beginnings this coming year, we are also cognizant that we will take the next steps without Sharon Freundel at our side, at least not in the same way we had her until now. While Sharon will continue to be involved at the school in many informal ways and also through her new position at JEIC, we will miss her dearly. I am thrilled to announce that Rabbi Jake Singer-Beilin will be re-joining us next year as the Interim Jewish Life Coordinator and Judaic Studies teacher.
Rabbi Singer-Beilin, a graduate of the Rabbinical School at Hebrew Union College, has been a part of our school community in the last few months as a teacher and will bring to the school his talents as a Torah scholar, informal educator, and musician, to add to the ru’ach and the Jewish atmosphere of our school. Rabbi Singer-Beilin will be instrumental in coordinating and guiding the efforts of our faculty to strengthen and re-imagine the Jewish annual cycle at MILTON and will provide us with the necessary space and time for a wider community conversation about what we are looking for in the future. I am personally grateful to Rabbi Singer-Beilin for taking on this challenge!
In the realm of Judaic Studies teaching and learning, we are thrilled to open our Beit Midrash and to welcome new and returning members of the faculty. We already have a stellar team with Zahava Bensimon, our Instructional Leader for Judaic Studies in the Elementary School, and with educators Shifra Chelst, Nechama Malkiel, and Devora Hornstein. We are also excited about the new members of the Judaic Studies team, Rabbi Daniel Moses, joining us from the Kemp Mill community, and Chana Kupetz, joining us from Minneapolis with strong connections to Mechon Hadar. We have also new additions to our Hebrew team, General Studies team, and the Student Support Team – please stay tuned in the next few weeks for announcements and bios in HaShavua. All in all, we are beyond thrilled with the teams we have created for next year and beyond!
Inaugural Middle School Class & JPDS/MILTON Documentary Film
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention today the fabulous work of our inaugural middle school class, led by Lisa Schopf and her team, in the creation of Coming Home: The Story of DC’s Only Jewish Day School, the documentary that premiered 10 days ago to great reviews. Many people were included in the making of the documentary through the Scholars Forum – we thank them all. I want to especially recognize Abigail Sharon, the film’s executive producer, a MILTON parent and a professional documentary filmmaker, who spent countless hours with the students and the staff to create this fabulous film, which I hope you all have seen.