In Spring 2019, Golda Och Academy adopted a five-year Strategic Plan informed by over 500 members of the community – including students, parents, alumni, faculty, and staff.

Together, we have identified nine core priorities and charted an ambitious course to fully realize our vision of becoming a student centered institution with an impact that extends well beyond our GOA family and local community. 

Below are our key areas of focus:







 
 
 
 


















Implementing the Strategic Plan

List of 7 items.

  • November 2019: Professional Development Update: Faculty & Staff Excellence

    Dear Golda Och Academy Community,
     
    While our students are off on November 5, our teachers will be engaged in meaningful, collaborative learning alongside their peers from the three other Greater MetroWest Jewish day schools. At Golda Och Academy, we care deeply about professional development and growth. As the Deans of Faculty, we would like to give you some insight about the innovative work in which our teachers are engaged. 
     
    In our roles, we oversee all aspects of the professional development program for the faculty and guide each staff member towards exciting opportunities to further develop their teaching practice. This includes designing, coordinating and implementing training that is aligned with our school’s mission. Additionally, we work closely with individual teachers and department chairs with a focus on mentorship, growth and collaboration. Another valuable part of our work is visiting classrooms and providing constructive feedback. Above all, we provide our faculty with support and encouragement, gratified to see the results of our joint efforts.
     
    Our teachers are eager to learn and constantly seek opportunities to enhance their practice. Attending professional development fulfills individual, departmental and schoolwide goals. Even more importantly, teachers work collaboratively to learn from and with one another. Our faculty actively welcome opportunities to be teacher-leaders. Whether by leading lunch-and-learn sessions for their colleagues, offering an open classroom for visitation, or presenting at schoolwide faculty meetings, teachers are motivated and inspired by the chance to help others develop and grow. 
     
    In addition to the work that is taking place in our school, we collaborate throughout the year with all of the other Greater MetroWest NJ Day Schools (Gottesman RTW Academy, Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy and the Jewish Educational Center of Elizabeth) as part of the Greater MetroWest Day School Initiative. This initiative is part of a $1 million+ effort from the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest to enhance professional development in our schools. It supports meetings for Heads of Schools and Deans of Faculty, as well as the Quest for Teaching Excellence Conference held every two years. The conference brings together a total of more than 600 classroom teachers, experiential educators, staff and administration, cultivating relationships between faculty and staff across the schools. 
     
    The theme of this year’s conference, which takes place on Tuesday, November 5, is The World in Our Jewish Day Schools: How the Social, Cultural, and Political Climate in Which We Live Impacts Our Work. Participants have the opportunity to attend workshops as well as network in affinity groups with their counterparts from the other schools. This conference has been the impetus for tremendous learning for our school and for changes we have made in teaching and learning. 
     
    We are truly grateful for the support from the Day School Initiative and our own school resources that allow us to invest in our faculty and staff and help us continue to provide excellent academics. We look forward to sharing updates throughout the year on the exciting professional development opportunities our teachers are engaged in and how these innovative ideas translate into the classroom. As always, we thank you for your support of our teachers and staff and their passion to continuously grow and develop.
     
    Dean of Faculty, Lower School
     
    Dean of Faculty, Upper School
  • November 2019: Upper School Jewish Life and Learning Update: Season of Gratitude

    Dear GOA Upper School Community,
     
    Thanksgiving gives us the opportunity to view our world through the lens of gratitude. As we celebrate the holiday with family and friends, we pause and reflect on the many things for which we are thankful. 
     
    There is a beautiful thought linked to gratitude in our liturgy. In the repetition of the Amidah, the only part of the prayer the community responds to out loud is the modim (gratitude) prayer. The Rabbis teach that this is because we cannot rely on others to put forth our gratitude into the world. Each of us individually has that obligation as a mitzvah. As a community that holds dearly the values of mitzvah and tefillah, we wanted to focus on this aspect before Thanksgiving. 
     
    Accordingly, over the last few weeks, the Upper School Jewish Life and Experiential Education Team made gratitude the focus of our in-school programming. In particular, we created the following opportunities for our students and faculty to give thanks:
     
    • “GOA is Thankful For…”: On Wednesday, November 20, we used the tefillah elective period for small group discussions about the meaning of gratitude. Students and staff were given the opportunity to write gratitude messages on colorful paper turkeys, which were then hung in the Upper School lobby. Students and parents that joined us for the Community Havdalah program were also invited to contribute to our Gratitude Wall. 
     
    • “I am Thankful/Grateful For…”: During lunch, Mr. Mittleman has been roaming the hallways recording video messages from members of the GOA community as they give thanks. Please click here to enjoy this beautiful video. 
     
    • Gratitude Tefillah: Before we head our separate ways for Thanksgiving, we will join together for a special Thanksgiving-themed tefillah tomorrow, with a special focus on the Jewish prayer מוֹדֶה אֲנִי (Modeh Ani). Middle School students will daven in the ulam, where Mr. Porat will play guitar and lead the Middle School in song. High School students will daven in the BK, where Mr. Resmovits will play the piano and teach a new song. In both services, students will share gratitude messages with their peers.
     
    Golda Och Academy is an incredible place. We feel blessed for the privilege of coming to work here every day. We are thankful for our students, who come to school every day ready to learn and meet the challenges of a rigorous academic curriculum. We are thankful for the parents, who partner with us to support your children’s academic, social-emotional and spiritual growth. And we are thankful for the outstanding staff, faculty and administrators that work tirelessly to make sure our students are challenged academically in a fun, safe and supportive environment.
     
    With best wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving, 
     
    The Jewish Life and Experiential Education Team
    Eric Fox, Student Activities and Experiential Educator 
    Lori Jaffe, Chair, Jewish Life and Experiential Education Team
    Rabbi Meirav Kallush, Director of Israel Education
    Andrew Mittleman, Multimedia Teacher and Experiential Educator
    Jamie Mittleman, Arts and Experiential Educator
    Ohad Porat, Shaliach
    Rabbi Adir Yolkut, Tefillah and Jewish Life Educator
  • October 2019: Admissions Team Update: Student Recruitment, Admissions and Retention

    Dear Golda Och Academy Community,
     
    Over the past few weeks, the halls of our Upper and Lower School campuses have not only been filled with the activity of our current students, but also with curious prospective students and families interested in learning about the Golda Och Academy experience. With separate visits from 5th grade parents and students to the Upper School, open houses and individual tours, the Admissions team has been actively working on recruitment and retention efforts for the 2020-21 school year. 
     
    During Sukkot, we were thrilled to see the excitement of the 5th grade class when they came to the Upper School for the first of five visits. The transition from the Lower School campus to the Upper School may seem a bit daunting to our students. These efforts are designed to help them become familiar with a new campus, teachers and opportunities in order to make that transition a success. In addition to a building scavenger hunt based on GOA’s values, we held a Sukkot-themed activity and a sing-along with Mr. Ohad Porat, our Israeli Shaliach. The 5th graders were so enthusiastic, and it was a treat to spend the morning with them. The next day, we welcomed a group of 5th grade parents to the Upper School for our first “What to Expect in Upper School” event. We explored the campus, saw classes in action, and had a panel discussion with students, a current Upper School parent, and administrators.
     
    We are quite proud of our retention rate coming into the 2019-20 school year. We had 93% of our students return to GOA (a 2% increase from 2018-19), which included 100% of our Pre-K and Gan students returning for the 2019-20 school year. The key transition grades — 5th to 6th and 8th to 9th — saw the highest retention rates in over five years. More students are continuing their journey through GOA, and we couldn’t be happier! 
     
    As we work to welcome new families into our community, the Admissions team continues to improve the way we attract, engage, and support prospective families. We have an exciting new communications plan, which includes a monthly admissions newsletter to keep prospective families in the know. We have expanded our outreach efforts and have revamped our admissions events on both campuses. 
     
    From elementary through high school, our tours and application numbers are up and are the best they have been since 2015. The first High School Information Session of the season had such a robust response that we had to close registration. There is definitely a positive buzz that we want to build upon. The GOA Marketing and Advancement teams are collaborating beautifully in an effort to support our common mission, create more dynamic events, and share the most clear and compelling message about the power of a Golda Och Academy education. 
     
    Although we are looking ahead to the future, we are excited to share many positive highlights from the 2019-20 admissions cycle. Interest and enrollment in Pre-K continues to be strong. We welcomed 11 new 9th graders to the Class of 2023 — the largest new cohort in recent history — and have grown the class by 108% since the beginning of the summer of 2018! We are seeing the benefits of renewed outreach to nursery through 8th grade feeder schools — both Jewish day schools and Independent schools — as well as our community synagogues. Additionally, we are seeing a revitalization of the 9th grade as a major entry point to a GOA education. The stories we share about the exceptional GOA experience and our warm, welcoming community has supported an influx of new students.
     
    Feedback tells us that 90% of families come to GOA through word-of-mouth, and 100% say that speaking with current students and families played a critical role in their decision to join our community. This isn’t possible without the positivity, engagement, and enthusiasm of our students, parents, grandparents, alumni, and alumni parents. 
     
    Thank you! We cannot do this work without you! 
     
    Your efforts — whether it has been sharing your experiences, attending admissions events, liking our events on social media or encouraging a friend or family member to explore Golda Och Academy — have been a tremendous asset to our recruitment and retention efforts. Please continue to help us this year and find new ways to get involved. Reach out to us to become a parent ambassador, host a parlor meeting, invite someone to an event (see below for list of upcoming Admissions events), or encourage a friend to see what all the buzz is about. We look forward to hearing from you. 
     
    In partnership,
     
    Director of Admissions and Enrollment Management 
     
    Lower School Director of Admissions
  • September 2019: Head of School Message - Jewish Life and Learning

    Dear Golda Och Academy Families,
     
    There is something special about hearing the shofar blasts every morning in our Lower School at Morning Meeting and during Tefillah in our Upper School throughout the entire month of Elul. In a year like this, we have almost a full month of hearing this powerful call to action. The sound of the shofar makes us all alert and readies us for the work that we all must do - both internally and externally - during the chagim that arrive in the month of Tishrei. It is so fitting to have this important time, at the beginning of a new school year, to celebrate the renewal and excitement that comes with - in the case of our students - getting a bit older, meeting new teachers and facing the challenges of the year ahead. Our team has been hard at work readying ourselves for 2019-20, and we look forward to sharing information about the work we are engaged in at GOA. 
     
    Our newly-adopted Strategic Plan is one filled with important goals for our institution. It is my hope that you will learn even more by reading News on the GO, speaking with teachers at Open School Nights and conferences, and through Head of School updates and communications from other members of our team throughout the year. 
     
    As we implement this new plan, we have made a number of important and exciting changes over the past few months in our school. There are physical upgrades and new members of our professional team that I am confident will have an enormous impact on the student experience and overall family experience as well. 
     
     
    Strategic Plan: Jewish Life and Learning
     
    In our Strategic Plan area of focus entitled Jewish Life and Learning, our stated goal is a promise to “...create meaningful and intentional experiences filled with the joy of being Jewish centered around ritual, celebration and Tefillah.” 
     
    In our Lower School, this is very much anchored in our classroom learning and milestone events. When our students take the stage to receive their first siddurim and chumashim, when they stand proudly in the Horace Bier Beit Knesset in front of their parents leading a Rosh Chodesh service and when they prepare and teach words of Torah to their peers and parents. At each of these moments, their learning, poise and growth are on full display. 
     
    In our Upper School, this takes place both inside and outside of the classroom, whether it’s through deep and meaningful text study, during Tefillah, on Shabbatonim, while assisting the Jewish communities in Cuba and Puerto Rico or on our Na’ale (9th grade) and Neshama (12th grade) Israel programs. These are just a few examples of these values in action. 
     
     
    Expansion of GOA's Jewish Life and Experiential Team
     
    As we look ahead to the coming year, we are thrilled about the changes we have made that will further enhance the work we are doing - Pre-K through 12th - as it relates to Jewish Life and Learning in our school. We’ve expanded our Jewish Life and Experiential Education team and have done so with the explicit goal of creating an even more impactful experience for our students. We are fortunate to welcome Rabbi Adir Yolkut (Tefillah and Jewish Life Educator), Mr. Ohad Porat (Senior Israeli Shaliach), Mr. Craig Resmovits (Golden Ochtaves Director and Music Educator) and Mr. Andrew Mittleman (Multimedia and Experiential Educator) to our talented team alongside Rabbi Meirav Kallush (Director of Israel Education), Ms. Jamie Mittleman (Arts and Experiential Educator) and Mr. Eric Fox (Student Activities and Experiential Educator). Ms. Lori Jaffe will be overseeing this group as the Chair of Jewish Life and Experiential Education team. Ms. Jaffe is well-respected by her peers and has created strong bonds with our students over the past two decades working in our school. I am confident she will successfully guide this team as they work to elevate our entire program. 
     
    This tremendous team has hit the ground running and has already impacted our students. Our 12th graders spent a meaningful Shabbat together last weekend on the Upper West Side for their Senior Shabbaton, our high school students returned from Camp Ramah Nyack on Thursday from their back-to-school Y’mei GOA Retreat and our 7th and 8th graders will travel to Ramah next week for their Y’mei GOA Retreat. Additionally, this morning all of our Upper School students gathered for their first weekly school-wide Kabbalat Shabbat.    
     
    Last week, our 5th graders began their work with senior Israeli shaliach Mr. Porat and over the course of the year will have the opportunity to learn more about Israel, its culture, people and beauty. Additionally, birthdays will now be celebrated monthly in the Lower School during an exciting and energetic Kabbalat Shabbat service. Students who have birthdays during that particular month will celebrate with their classmates at that time, combining Shabbat with their own personal simchas.  
     
     
    Introducing Special New Jewish Life & Learning Family Events
     
    At Golda Och Academy, it is our explicit goal to create deep and meaningful experiences for our students and their families. We are currently planning two new special family events - a Havdalah program this fall and a Kabbalat Shabbat program in the spring. In addition, we will be starting a new tradition this year - beginning with our 7th grade students - to invite families into school during their child's bar/bat mitzvah week so that we can celebrate these special occasions together.
     
    We look forward to sharing more and inviting you into school for a range of experiences - some new and some that have become GOA traditions - in order to celebrate the true essence of Jewish life and Jewish living that is the foundation of our school. 
     
    Looking forward to an exciting and meaningful 5780! 
     
    Shabbat shalom,
     
    Adam Shapiro
    Head of School
  • September 2019: Welcome Letter from Rabbi Adir Yolkut, Tefillah and Experiential Educator - Jewish Life and Learning

    With the start of school right around the corner, I wanted to introduce myself before I have the privilege of working with you and your children. I started at GOA this summer after serving as the Assistant Rabbi of the Westchester Jewish Center in Mamaroneck. In many ways, coming to work with Jewish teenagers is a return to where my rabbinic journey began as a group leader for USY ten years ago. Nurturing and developing the love and connection of Jewish youth to their tradition is something for which I have so much passion, and I cannot wait to get started with this wonderful GOA community!

    Prayer is relationship. It is being in-tune with ourselves, with our peers, with our fellow Jews, and with God. At Golda Och Academy, we believe in a prayer system that is based on the ancient pieces of our tradition while also incorporating contemporary content. This sacred time provides each student with a meaningful experience in which to grow spiritually and emotionally, and to form deep connections with others.

    GOA’s tefillah (prayer) curriculum is geared towards two interwoven goals:
    • to grow literate Jewish youth with tefillah knowledge and a sense of keva (structure of prayer)
    • to engage students in exploring their spirituality, knowledge, and social/emotional growth with kavanah (intentionality)

    Through passion, practice, and patience, GOA’s tefillah faculty will work to instill an emotional connection between students and prayer. We hope that through our prayerful environment, they will be able to walk into any prayer space in the world and be able to join in. We want students to know that prayer is not a zero sum game; it won’t always be perfect. The connection we make with prayer is ongoing work, where some days it comes easy and other days is a struggle. By creating a safe space in school to explore one’s spiritual connection, prayer is our constant: always there for us, day after day.

    During the first weeks of school we will take some time to review tefillah guidelines and expectations and I will also walk our students through the different tefillah opportunities that they will be able to participate in throughout the year. I look forward to sharing this with our parents as well once those conversations take place here in school.

    I am excited to begin this journey, and look forward to meeting you soon!

    B’virkat Shalom, Rabbi Adir Yolkut
  • August 2019: Head of School Message - Reimagining Physical Space

    Dear Golda Och Academy Community,
     
    As the calendar has now turned to August, we are looking ahead to the 2019-20 school year with tremendous excitement for all that’s in store for our students. In anticipation of the new school year, I wanted to update you on some developments regarding our physical spaces, programming and personnel. I’d also like to remind you to stay tuned for more detailed, campus-specific updates from Mrs. Siegel and Mr. Herskowitz in the coming weeks.
     
    We have made a number of changes to our Eric F. Ross Upper School Campus that I know will be appreciated when our halls are once again filled with students and teachers next month. The greatest transformation has occurred in our Beit Knesset where we have undergone a major renovation in an effort to enhance the student experience for davening and other community programs. We have also upgraded a number of our classrooms with new technology and furniture, redesigned the entryway to our main office and created a new Upper School Learning Lab on the first floor attached to our Guidance suite. 
     
    Our Upper School Learning Lab, while still in its pilot stage for the coming school year, will be a dedicated space to provide a structured program where students with learning differences can receive more individualized support. In our Lower School, we are excited to build on the success of our alternative Judaic Studies track as we continue to support the range of learners in our program. Year two of our pilot will welcome new students into our multi-year Judaic Studies 3rd/4th grade classroom under the expert instruction of Lower School Learning Specialist Ms. Sandi Fein and Hebrew teacher Morah Yael Safran. Additionally, we are eager to broaden our approach to Hebrew language learning in 5th grade for students who completed our pilot in 2018-2019. We are confident this new stand-alone program will further enhance their learning and language acquisition experience.
  • May 2019: Golda Och Academy's Strategic Plan 2019-24 Intro Letter

    Dear Golda Och Academy Community, 
     
    On behalf of the Board of Trustees and Administration of Golda Och Academy, we are pleased to present our Board’s newly adopted five-year Strategic Plan. The development of the Strategic Plan incorporated valuable feedback from over 500 members of our community (including students, parents, alumni, faculty and staff), outside consultants, and the New Jersey Association of Independent Schools (NJAIS) decennial accreditation report in order to continue to position Golda Och Academy as a leader in the world of Jewish day school education. Our Strategic Plan builds upon our school’s 54 year tradition, namely our distinct combination of academic excellence and engagement in Jewish practice and learning. As we hope you will see, this plan enables us to remain true to our fundamental Jewish principles, while embracing the challenges of the future, as we continue to nurture the unique potential of each student.   
     
    Thank you for your continued support of our beloved school. We look forward to continuing our work together with each and every one of you for many more years to come. 
     
    In partnership,

    Rebecca Berman
    Chair, Golda Och Academy Board of Trustees

    Adam Shapiro
    Head of School