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Nonsense, by Chaim Heller, Head of School

Chaim final constant contactYesterday a parent shared with me that they were disappointed that we’ll have a new head of the Upper School in the fall at SDJA as it meant that it would be another year of nothing happening.

I’d like to share my response with you.

Nonsense. Pure nonsense. We have been working tirelessly to innovate and upgrade where needed and we have a very impressive list of accomplishments to share with you.

Starting in 2015-2016 you will see:

  • A new K-12 Learning Center, with a full-time director working with students and presiding over an array of specialists who will work with students in our learning center. In this new model we will ensure continuity of care for children’s educational needs throughout their careers at SDJA and parents will have one highly-skilled learning specialist go-to person who will organize and coordinate the interventions and supports as needed.
  • A stand-alone middle school. This will mean 6th-8th grade students will have a developmentally-appropriate weekly schedule – distinct from the high school schedule – and they will have teachers who specialize in that age group.
  • Highly respected, veteran SDJA educator Michael Quigley leading the MUS and (very!) ably assisted by our new Dean of Students, Anna Falkiewicz, who is also a veteran SDJA teacher and beloved presence here at school.
  • A new Middle School Dean, Sarah Rines, who, with her years of experience and focus will coordinate the social, emotional, and academic program for the students, and be their advocates as well as their primary authority figure.
  • Counseling services in the upper school, with regular set hours and days for students’ needs to be addressed and supported.
  • The development of an independent Advanced STEM Research Center, with Dr. Jane Willoughby taking a leave from day to day teaching at SDJA to lead our longer-term vision of developing an advanced STEM institute for 2016-2017. She will be working on affirming UC accreditation for our new institute, mentoring teachers, planning, etc. to make it all happen.
  • Revamped and improved MUS field trip destinations and experiences for the fall.
  • A new K-12 Israel curriculum, to be unveiled in September.
  • A new K-12 Prayer, Ritual and Holiday curriculum, to be unveiled in September.
  • The expansion of our Early Childhood Center with additional classes for both the Preschool and the Beit Yeladim to accommodate for greater demand.
  • A new school-wide four-month Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) initiative, “The Tamchui Project”, to begin in September and involve all students and their families.
  • A new year-long Tzedek (Justice) curriculum in our middle school which is prominently featured in the bestselling “The Opposite of Spoiled” by Ron Lieber, personal finance columnist for the New York Times.
  • A second year of Ms. Kelley King leading our GMLS, and continuing to build on the foundation that has seen a dramatic rise in academic accomplishment, faculty and parent morale, and an increase in Lower School enrollment for the coming year.

And there’s more! We are moving forward, full speed, towards providing the best school experience possible. And that’s not nonsense.

Shabbat shalom,


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