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A Message from Dr. Starr


Energy, enthusiasm, and hopefulness are the best constellation for accomplishing change.
       — Michael Fullan

By Deborah R. Starr, Ed.D., Head of School
dstarr@tbam.org


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In today’s world, change is all around us — it is pervasive, rapid, complex, demanding and inevitable. Just look at the realm of technology, alone. Temple Beth Am is no different. With our clear and profound vision for Campus Renewal to the retirements of the Executive Director and Head of School, we too, must embrace change. The challenge though is to manage complex changes, consistently message, mobilize the right people to do the difficult work of creating coherence during change so as to transform us into new and higher ground — which must also include moral purpose, and ultimately result in embracing of change by all stakeholders.

It is clear that organizational change may be a time that is emotionally intense, sparking confusion, fear, anxiety and frustration. Change can be physically and emotionally draining. When that is the case, it may put in motion great individual resistance to change. But, that is not healthy for the institution or the individual, and more importantly, it does not have to be like that. Though one may instinctively resist change and new initiatives, at heart, no one wants to be that obstacle to change.


There are things the leadership at Temple Beth Am and Temple Beth Am Day School has done in order to smoothly lead and best navigate these above stated changes. First, we have involved and included many people in the Campus Renewal process. There were many “input” meetings with administrators, directors, clergy, faculty, board members, builders, developers and overall “dreamers.” Many stakeholder groups are serving on committees and are being consulted along the way. Second, there has been a lot of communication. Rabbi Jeremy Barras kicked off the announcement at High Holy Day Services, Daniela Zanzuri has written about it in her columns, there were Town Hall Meetings for parents of the day school, and presentations to the Religious School Board, Day School Board and Day School faculty.

Now, all of us must be self-reflective and question: Am I being resistant or inflexible to these changes? And, if so, why? Is it because I cherish the past and want to hold on to it? I went to school here, I got married here — I do not want to tear down these buildings that have personal meaning to me. Do I not trust the vision? Do I not recognize my obligation to the greater Jewish community, or worse, not care, that Temple Beth Am needs to be that beacon of light for prayer, learning and social gathering for the South Miami Jewish community? But, it is a lot of money. Yes, it is. But, there are many of us, with great and small capacity, that will join together to get this done. Our Beyond the Curve campaign knows that no gift is too big; no gift is too small; but every gift must be a “stretch.”


Regarding the change in leadership. We should rejoice in the well-deserved retirements of those who have served this community for long tenures; tenures that have helped place the institution on the foundation of financial stability, continued growth and remarkable professionalism. People “vote with their feet,” and they are overwhelmingly voting to be here. Let us celebrate those leaving, who have built remaining teams of consummate professionals to carry on — and welcome the new leadership that will bring new and forward-thinking visions to the campus.

A highly personalized, reputable search firm is in place to work on filling the position of Head of School, and I am certain that that extraordinary candidate is out there. Great Search Committees are in place for the Head of School search, and the search for a new Executive Director.

I encourage everyone to embrace these changes. They are good and valuable changes. They are not changes birthed in turmoil, hard times, or lack of moral compass. Let us expect the best, pay attention to all that is going on, tell our story, and celebrate together. These are changes for the greater good — and I know Temple Beth Am and Temple Beth Am Day School will be that “light unto the Jewish world” (to kind of take liberty with torah text) that we so rightfully are and will continue to be.