Dear Gann Community,
I hope you are having a productive and restorative summer.
Here at Gann, we are back! Over the past couple of weeks, the school has been filling up with the return of administrators, faculty, and various segments of our student body. In this email, I will share a few highlights from this past week and an update about our website and communication initiative; I will give you a small taste of our faculty’s and staff’s learning about our educational mission and vision; and I will introduce and welcome our new faculty and staff members.
Last week our department chairs and veteran mentor teachers returned for two days of instructional leadership training, followed by the arrival of new teachers to begin their orientation to the school. This week the rest of our faculty returned for a week of learning, co-planning, and preparation to start the year. Many of our student leaders came in to help prepare for next week’s Freshman Orientation and All-School Retreat and to lead a Transfer Student Orientation. In addition, our Junior Class began their year with a day of class bonding and learning about Israel—about half of the junior class will get ready to leave on Sunday for their three-month Israel experience. We wish them a tzeitchem l’shalom (a safe and peaceful journey) and hope they have an extraordinary experience. We look forward to a meaningful three months with all of our Stateside Juniors, as well!
One of the main objectives for our faculty-staff in-service has been training for the launch of our new community intranet site called MyGANN, which, as I explained last year, will replace FirstClass conferences as our internal communication system. Improved communication and information sharing, especially with our parents, is one of our top priorities this year, and I am confident that this new communications system called Podium will be a powerful tool for achieving this goal. Launching this new site has been an ambitious project for us this summer, which we accelerated to take advantage of this new technology by the start of this school year. As we prioritize the improvement of our internal communications (among faculty, staff, students, and parents), we aim to launch MyGANN on September 4th. Students will receive training on this new system next week and during the first week of school. Next week you should expect to receive more detailed information about Podium, instructions on how you can access the system as parents, and information about training opportunities for you. You will also receive next week a copy of the one-page Year-at-a-Glance calendar, which includes important school dates and events. Our new external website will launch in mid-October around the conclusion of the Jewish holidays.
As with any significant, school-wide improvement effort, this transition will demand of us not only technical but also cultural change, requiring patience and time; however, I know this will be transformative over time. I ask for your patience and feedback during this process as we plan to learn from you and with you during the transition.
In addition to the website training, curriculum planning, and various other in-service activities, our faculty and staff have also taken the time to learn together about the mission and vision of Gann, our beliefs about education, and our aspirations for our students and ourselves. To give you a small window into the ideas with which we engaged, here are three brief excerpts from a reading that I shared with all faculty and staff. In his new book, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit, Parker Palmer describes a vision of society and community that captures beautifully so many elements of Gann’s pluralistic Jewish educational mission and philosophy. He writes:
An education that pretends to explore only the outer world is disingenuous and incomplete. A good education is intentional and thoughtful about helping students find an inner orientation toward what is “out there” that will be life-giving for them and the world. . . Creating conditions under which students can conduct an inner search . . . means helping students learn how to ask questions that are worth asking because they are worth living, questions one can fruitfully hold at the center of one’s life.
. . . The single most important thing teachers can do is explicitly connect the “big story” of the subject with the “little story” of the student’s life. Doing so . . . accelerates students’ learning of challenging subjects . . . We support their search for meaning and purpose by giving them information, concepts, and critical tools around questions they care about.
. . . As we do so . . . we will help our students learn that the facts in every field – the history of cruelty and creativity, the degradation and restoration of the environment, the literature of despair and hope – pose tension-inducing questions that, if embraced, can make them better citizens and better people.
This week I have been inspired by my colleagues– faculty, staff, and administrators, new and veteran alike, from classroom teachers to experiential educators to administrative assistants to finance and development professionals—all of whom understand that to create a school and the conditions that Palmer describes, every one of us has the sacred responsibility to educate our students. Our educators are here because they themselves want to ask the big questions. They want to learn and grow, both as professionals and people. They believe in the mission and vision of our school, and they are deeply invested in the development of our students’ minds and hearts, their character, and their identity. It is extraordinary to teach, learn, and work in a community of educators like these.
In this spirit, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to the new faces who will join our faculty and staff this year and to some changes in roles and responsibilities for returning faculty and staff. To view this list including brief bios of new faculty and staff, see below.
Last winter, our leadership team worked hard to review our hiring needs and has taken great care to fill our teaching positions and administrative and staff roles with outstanding educators and professionals who, I know, will help take our school from strength to strength.
On Gann’s administrative side, many of our role changes are the result of our school’s evolving organizational structure and our prioritization of increased professionalism, operational efficiencies, and communication.
I am grateful to all of the returning faculty members, staff, and administrators for their hard work and contributions to our school and our students. Please join me in acknowledging them, welcoming our new members of the Gann community, and congratulating those who are assuming new roles and responsibilities.
I am also happy to welcome all of our new ninth graders at the Freshman Class Orientation, at Gann this Monday, August 27, from 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. In addition, as a reminder, the entire student body kicks off the school year with our annual All-School Retreat at Camp Yavneh on August 28-29. Students should arrive at Gann on Tuesday morning at 8:30 a.m., and we will return to school on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m.
I wish you all an incredible 2012-2013 school year!
Rabbi Marc Baker
The following faculty and staff will be joining Gann Academy this year:
Hannah Abelman joins the Learning Center as an aide. Hannah earned her BS in Psychology from the University of Pittsburg and has previously worked at Kehillah Schechter Academy, Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston, and Chabad Hebrew School. She is also a Gann graduate!
Bruce Hall joins our Science Department as the Robotics Coordinator. Bruce earned his BS in Business Administration and Computer Science from Boston University School of Management. Bruce previously worked at Velodyne Acoustics, Inc., & Velodyne LiDAR, Inc., in California, and multiple software companies in Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Nancy O’Connor joins the Science Department as a part-time teacher of chemistry. Nancy earned a BA in Psychology from Williams College and has previously worked at many schools in the Greater Boston area including the Belmont Hill School and the Park School.
Sharona Goder-Peled joins the Hebrew Department. Sharona earned a BA in Business Administration and International Relations from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Sharona previously worked at Hewlett-Packard in Development and Sales and in the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem as an Associate Analyst and Data Mining Expert.
Cate Ollwerther joins our English and History Departments. Cate earned a BA from Northwestern University and is currently completing her Master’s of Education in Moderate Disabilities 5-12 from Lesley College. Cate previously worked at Dearborn Academy and Summit Educational Group.
Rabbi Derek Rosenbaum joins our Tanakh Department. Derek recently earned his rabbinic degree from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and holds two BAs from Columbia University and Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Derek previously worked at Kehilat HaNahar as an Education Director and Rabbinic Intern.
Alex Somers joins the Math Department. Alex earned her Master’s of Education in Education Policy and Management from Harvard Graduate School of Education and a BA from Wellesley College. She previously worked as a teacher and instructional mentor at Chelsea High School and Columbia High School.
Rabbi Dr. David Starr joins the History Department as a part-time teacher of Modern European History. David earned a Ph.D. in History from Columbia University and a BA from the University of Minnesota. He received his rabbinical ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary. David served for many years as the Dean and Vice President of Hebrew College and, most recently, worked at Brandeis University as a Visiting Chair in Jewish Studies.
Administration and Staff
Craig Byer joins our Institutional Advancement Department as Web and Social Media Specialist. Craig earned his BA in Journalism from the University of Hartford and previously worked at TechTarget in Newton as an Assistant Editor and Copy Editor and at MultiPlan, Inc., in Waltham.
Don Perkins joins our IT Department. Don earned his BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Hartford and previously worked for Cartridge World and at The Carroll School and Lexington Montessori School in technical support capacities.
Nick LaVallee joins Gann as our new Registrar. Nick earned his BA in Philosophy and Political Science from Saint Michael’s College and previously worked at Lincoln Technical Institute in a variety of roles including Assistant Director of Education.
Lindsay Murphy comes to Gann as Director of Support Services. Lindsay earned a Master’s of Education in Language and Learning Disabilities from Boston College, a Master’s in Education in Computers in Education from Lesley University, and a BA in English Literature from Lake Forest College. Lindsay has worked in the public school system for her entire career as a teacher, special educator, and administrator. Most recently, she served as a Grade Dean at Brookline High School.
Ralph Van Inwagen joins us as Interim Assistant Head of School. Ralph earned a Master’s of Education in Learning, Cognition, and Development in Educational Psychology from Rutgers University, a Master’s in History from the University of Connecticut, and a BA from Gettysburg College. Previously, Ralph worked at Beaver Country Day School as the Interim Upper School Director, at The Haverford School in Pennsylvania as the Head of the Upper School, and at Hillside School as the Dean of Faculty.
The following faculty members, staff, and administrators have changed their roles and/or titles and responsibilities for the coming school year:
Dr. Jonathan Golden, formerly Assistant Head, will be returning to the History Department, teaching three courses, maintaining additional responsibilities as a Department Chair mentor, and working on special administrative projects.
Aviva Scheur is stepping down as the Tanakh Department Chair but will continue to teach in the Tanakh Department. She will work closely with Jacob Pinnolis on leading Gann’s professional development strategy and initiatives.
Rabbi Jethro Berkman will be the Tanakh Department Chair. In his new role, Jethro will continue to work as a Chanoch L’Na’ar facilitator and Liberal Minyan leader but will no longer oversee the Tefillah and Sicha programs.
Matt Conti will be taking over the leadership of our Tefillah and Sicha programs from Jethro Berkman and Jonah Hassenfeld.
Jason Slavick is stepping down from his role as Arts Department Chair but will continue to teach in the Arts Department, directing our drama program and working closely with our Jewish and Student Life office on experiential education programs.
Ray Daniels and Lindsay Metivier will be the Arts Department Co-chairs, and both will continue to teach in the Arts Department.
Lily Rabinoff-Goldman is now English Department Chair. She will no longer coordinate the Writing Center but will continue to work closely on the vision and strategy of the Center.
Dr. Kevin Cattrell, who is returning to Gann as a full-time English teacher, will serve as the coordinator of the Writing Center.
Jewish and Student Life
Josh Mocle, now a full-time faculty member this year, will be an official member of the JSL Department and will continue to teach in the Arts Department.
Finance and Human Resources
Rebecca Kadden’s position has changed to Director of Human Resources from Senior Finance, Human Resources & Benefits Administrator. Rebecca recently earned her “PHR” (Professional Human Resources) certification after completing a rigorous course of study and successfully passing the exam.
Rachel Smoller’s position has changed to Associate Director of Annual Giving and Alumni Relations from Development Officer. In her new position, Rachel will continue to oversee Annual Fund activities and will manage our strategic effort to enhance Alumni Relations.
Laura Ayer’s position has changed to Director of Marketing and Communications from Marketing and Communications Associate. In her new role, Laura will oversee all external and internal communications at Gann with a focus this year on our new website and social-media strategy.
Staff and Administrative Support
Bobbi Jacob’s position has changed to our Receptionist from Registrar.
Renee Uveges’s role has changed to Administrative Assistant for Academics from Receptionist. In her new position, Renee will support Ralph Van Inwagen, our Interim Assistant Head of School, and Jacob Pinnolis, Director of Teaching and Learning. She will work closely with Nick LaVallee, Gann’s new Registrar.