Leaves falling from trees may be tough to imagine now, but seasonal change is approaching and with it the start of school. As students and teachers in Pittsburgh’s three Jewish day schools prepare for another year of learning and growth, several plans are underway to maximize time together.
At Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh, administrators and staff have spent the summer working on the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools accreditation process. The accreditation is a “highly recognized accreditation in education,” said Elly Feibus, Yeshiva’s assistant director of development and Early Learning Center creative director.
Founded in 1887, the organization performs peer evaluations and accreditations of public and private schools throughout the United States and in more than 100 other countries.
Yeshiva Schools recently completed the “self-study” portion of the process and is looking forward to a November visit from Middle States representatives. Following the visit, the accreditation process should be complete, said Feibus.
Another new initiative is Yeshiva’s plans to optimize its grounds by adding a garden and outdoor classroom space. Designed by teachers and parents from the Early Learning Center at
Yeshiva, the area “will include gross motor activities, garden beds, an outdoor classroom and an outdoor art room,” noted Feibus, who thanked Play Pittsburgh for providing grant money.
Over on Beacon Street, Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh has similar plans to augment areas for new instruction. The Bloom Garrett Library, formerly a book-filled space, will become a haven for innovative learning.
Once “overhauled” into a STEAM center, the library will house fewer texts, but fill its confines with Legos, materials for a secondary science lab, spots for 3-D printing and a makerspace.
Perhaps less shiny than a self-printed plastic puzzle, plans are also underway to implement a process for systematic betterment. “Kaizen,” which is Japanese for “improvement,” will be applied throughout the school to enhance everything from classroom management and parent communication to the lost and found system, said Weinberg. “Even systems that were working, we found ways to make them better.”
Finally, Hillel Academy also has a program called “Be A Mensch,” an initiative focused on strengthening students’ character in school and at home.
“While we’ve always supported and encouraged our students to behave with excellent character development, this year we want to make it a very strong point of emphasis,” said the principal.
Whether it is through a “comprehensive digital citizenship program,” in which issues like bullying are addressed, working with Jewish Family and Community Services consultants on role-playing exercises to learn “prosocial behaviors” or attending workshops on inclusion and sportsmanship, there will be ample opportunities for students to experience “intentful programming” dedicated to character growth, said Weinberg.
Ensuring students’ betterment is an educational priority, which is why Community Day School hired Casey Briglia to be its school-based counselor, explained Avi Baran Munro, CDS’ head of school.
“Young families and children today are under increasing social, emotional, economic and existential pressures. Teachers everywhere are increasingly called upon to be school counselors, and even the very best among them lack the resources, training and time necessary to fully meet the social/emotional needs of the children and families in any school,” said Munro.
Briglia will meet those needs “on the playground, at lunch and during hallway transitions, observing student interactions in those highly unstructured times when social rules and relationships are negotiated, tested and renegotiated.” Briglia will also collaborate with teachers on classroom management tools, establishing a positive behavior reinforcement frame of reference, said Munro.
Additionally, Briglia, who holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling from Duquesne University, will facilitate student meetings and “work with parents and students who present with a need or desire for support, as well as make referrals to community services as needed,” said Munro.
Based on CDS’ strategic plan, bringing Briglia onboard was a “top priority,” explained the head of school.
“The presence of a professional who is available for consultation will help our students, faculty and families navigate life’s often-challenging emotional landscape, while elevating the work of our classroom educators.” PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.