View from the President
Exciting Times at Beth Am Day School:
Let’s Get Ready for What’s Next!
A message from Stuart Ratzan
President, Temple Beth Am
We are in the midst of a major transition at Beth Am Day School. Even before COVID-19, this summer was going to be an exciting time of change, full of appreciation for our past and how far we have come, and full of anticipation for building on that past for an even brighter future.
We are saying farewell to Dr. Deborah Starr, who gave us 10 brilliant years as Head of School. During that time, Dr. Starr helped bring exuberance and a higher level of excellence to our Day School students and faculty. And, Dr. Starr helped bring our school to the threshold of a state-of-the-art, 21st century learning facility. Our new campus, and the people who fill it, will be the benchmark for early childhood and elementary education in South Florida and across the Jewish Day School world. Thank you Dr. Starr for your dedication and service to Beth Am Day School! We wish you a joyful and fulfilling retirement.
We are saying hello (Shalom!) and welcome to Nora Anderson, our new Head of School, who comes to us with an established body of excellent work in the New York metropolitan area, most recently Fairfield County, CT. Nora is a highly regarded, impeccably credentialed Jewish educator. She is full of energy and ideas to bring our Day School to the next level. She is scheduled to begin her official employ on August 1st, but I can assure you she already is working on ideas and imaginations for Beth Am Day School as I write this.
And then there is the virus…
We are in the midst of all of the above transitions as well as another transition: moving from the online quarantine environment to the next step in our “new normal.” As we go through the summer months, Nora Anderson and our Day School professionals are hard at work laying the plans for a return to campus; it’s no small feat. They are planning every move, from drop-off to pick-up and all points in between: how do we safely gather, educate and disperse our children each day? Will there be online learning? What will that look like next year? How many children per classroom? What about face masks and protective gear? What other medical equipment will we use? Temperature checks? Virus testing? How often? What plans can we make to emphasize safety while, at the same time, provide an exciting and fun learning experience? Can we use our policies and procedures for virus prevention as a learning exercise of its own?
Having spoken with Nora, I can assure you of this: We are building and fine tuning a first-class curriculum that develops our children’s young minds to the fullest, irrespective of COVID-19. Our to-do list is long; it involves the virus and precautions, and it transcends the virus.
At Temple Beth Am, we don’t quit. We don’t give up or give in because of the coronavirus. Instead, we steel our resolve and move forward to the future. We accept the challenge of what’s next. We have always believed in building a brighter future for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren. L’Dor v’Dor. And this crisis asks for nothing less.
We know these are trying times, but we will persevere. We all know that it will take cooperation on all our parts, as lay leaders, as congregants, as Day School families and Religious School families, as clergy and professional staff, as teachers and administrators, as coaches and players. All of us make up the community. None of us are spared the frustrations and inconveniences of this era: Wi-Fi interruptions, faulty computer equipment, uncooperative cell phones, financial worries, relationships tested by quarantine, the redundancy of daily life in quarantine, and the anxiety of not knowing when and how this crisis will end.
How we respond to this crisis will define us for a generation. It will also teach our children great lessons about adversity, flexibility, adaptability, patience and perseverance. This is an exciting time for us to build our school and community in the most collaborative way possible.
At our best, we will remember that we all need help. And now is the time to give the fullest expression to our best selves. If we do, we will all pitch in to be part of the solutions and not the problems. Where we feel compelled to criticize, we will be thoughtful and helpful, remembering that no one has been through this before and we are all learning as we go. As we move into next school year, let us be sure that our comments are constructive, and that we include sincere introspective thoughts on how we ourselves can do better or help to fix whatever problems we are identifying for others. This is no time for me versus you or us versus them. It is a time for “we and us.” We are all in this together.