Our Kids Are Depending on Us

Dear Parents and Friends of the Galinsky Academy,

Although the schools of the Galinsky Academy have been in session for several weeks now, I’d like to say welcome back since this is my first blog post of the school year.  I know we have many new faces among us, as well, so bruchim habaim,   ברוכים הבאים  to all of you who are new to our schools and/or our community.  We have surely started the school year with many activities and holidays, and unfortunately, we also began the year with the loss of our dear teacher and friend, Esther Ohayon.  She touched so many of us and brought joy to many of our children’s lives, may her memory be for a blessing.

Through all of the joy and sadness of the beginning of the school year, our professionals and lay leaders have remained focused and hard at work to carry out their responsibilities of ensuring another successful year of the Academy.  You likely see the professionals often as you come and go in the halls or carpool lines for the DuBow Preschool, Bernard & Alice Selevan Religious School, Martin J. Gottlieb Day School or Makom.  Meanwhile, you might wonder who your lay leaders are and what we are doing.

I explained some of our responsibilities in my blog post of September 2012, and I’ll give another brief overview below.

I am Alyse Nathans, the Executive VP of Education for the Jacksonville Jewish Center.  I am also honored to serve as the Chairperson for the Galinsky Academy Education Cabinet.  The Cabinet works similar to a board of trustees.  We have representatives from all of our Academy’s schools, the JJC and the community at large.  We meet four times per year to discuss and vote on issues or policies pertaining to all of our schools.  In between our four meetings, several standing committees meet to discuss and carry out more detailed work pertaining to each of the four schools, the budget, marketing/admissions, development (fundraising), and supporting and evaluating our Head of School.

The members of the Cabinet are as follows for the 2013-2015 (two school year) term:

Voting Members of the Cabinet (except where noted):

 Officers of the Education Cabinet:


Chair of Committee on Trustees –       Alyse Nathans

Vice Chairperson/

Co-Chair of HSE –                              Lynn Maiman


Chair of Budget/Finance Comm.       Michael Setzer

             Standing Committees & Positions (in addition to those listed above):

Immediate Past Chair –                       Mauri Mizrahi

Development –                                       Andrea Mail  

Head Support and Evaluation –         Jon Israel

Marketing & Admissions –                  Rich Davis

Day School –                                          Gabrielle Bubis

Preschool –                                             Lynda Gridley

Religious School/High School –        Faye Mizrahi

Religious School/High School –        Stacy Leach

PTA President –                                    Yakov Feig

Executive VP of the JJC –                   Rick Plotkin

             Members at Large:

Jesse Bannon

Rachelle Gottlieb

Karianne Jaffa  (non-voting)

Erica Jolles

Debby Kaye

Dan Leveton

Penny Marks

Sheri Weiss

Morrie Zimmerman

 Non-Voting Members of the Cabinet:

 Head of Academy/Head of MJGDS-Jon Mitzmacher

Religious School/Makom Principal – Lois Tompkins

Preschool Principal –                            Shereen Canady

Hazzan –                                                 Hazzan Holzer

Rabbi –                                                    Rabbi Lubliner

Rabbi –                                                    Rabbi Olitzky

JJC Executive Director –                     Don Kriss

JJC President –                                      Fred Pozin

Past JJC Vice Presidents of Education

Now, to update you on the wonderful work that has already taken place this year….and we’ve only just begun!

Head of Academy Report:

  • Community of Kindness initiative is much further along this year than we were last year.  Stephanie Teitelbaum is our in-house coordinator.  Our program this year is based on the book The 7 Habits of Happy Kids.
  • Working on better parent education for SMART Tuition Management Systems, who handles the tuition payments for the Day School and Preschool.

Committee on Trustees:

  • Held an in-house retreat for all Cabinet and subcommittee members in August.  We discussed and educated the group on our governance, budget, development and marketing.  The purpose of this was to enable our lay leaders to be more educated, be better ambassadors and to better serve our Academy families.
  • Working on a Cabinet evaluation tool
  • Voted to approve all committees’ strategic plans, so we have a 3-year vision for each committee.

 Budget/Finance Committee:

  • Motion was approved to move the financial assistance application deadline to an earlier date to coincide with Day School and Preschool registration.  This will allow the committee to use actual dollars needed instead of estimations when planning for DS and PS budgets.

Development Committee:

  • New Development Director, Carol Wagnon, started last Spring. 
  • Focus will be on annual giving and relationship-building, not on events as has been in the past.
  • Goal is to have 100% participation by all lay leaders, Academy parents, faculty and staff in L’Dor V’Dor annual fund for education.
  • New brochure has been created and will be mailed out later in October.
  • Link for on-line giving will be available soon.
  • Please support our Academy – The tuition we pay does not fully cover the costs of operating our Academy.  Funds will be matched by a generous, anonymous donor, and all money goes to the Jewish education of our children, our future.

 Head Support & Evaluation:

  • Dr. Mitzmacher’s review was conducted earlier this school year.
  • Committee is here to serve as a sounding board for the Head of Academy and to make connections in the community as needed, such as for development efforts.


  • Will use “drip” marketing this year – low cost, consistent marketing
  • Researching ways to bring more Julington Creek and Beaches families into the Academy
  • Working to increase press coverage of Academy events and successes
  • New web sites are being rolled out for all schools, so as to be more appealing to prospective families

 Day School Committee:

  • 134 students enrolled
  • One-to-one iPad program is in full swing for 4th and 5th grades
  • Students in grades 4 – 8 are part of an advisory program, where they each have an advisor with whom they can meet, and they also meet monthly in small groups.  This is part of the Community of Kindness initiative.
  • Grades 4-8 will conduct student-led conferences on conference day, so students take ownership of their grades and behavior.
  • Middle School students joined with Torah Academy middle school to build a sukkah for Orly Ohayon at Shands hospital.  This was their idea, not the staff’s, and they built the sukkah in the pouring rain!
  • Middle School Jewish Studies grades are now pass/fail instead of letter grades.

 Preschool Committee:

  • 70 students enrolled
  • Many programs in place to introduce families with infants to our school, such as Shalom Baby, Music & Movement program, Sundays at the playground for ages 0 – 2, and Gan Shabbat
  • Promoting a Havurah program for preschool families
  • Back to School night was October 8th.
  • Working to revise/update nut policy

 Religious School Committee:

  • 74 students enrolled
  • Hosted a parent forum in September
  • Looking for parent liaisons for each class
  • Each teacher has a laptop for classroom use and for increased blogging/classroom updates
  • Self-paced Hebrew program has increased to include grades 3 – 6.


  • 33 students enrolled, but could grow as formal classes begin October 16th.
  • October 2nd was a night of discussion in tribute to Orly and Esther Ohayon, and October 9th was a parent/student dinner and information night.
  • Grade 8 has been added to Makom this year, instead of being part of Religious School.
  • Makom fees will cover dues for USY.
  • New structure this year will include pods, monthly themes, social action, and hopefully reaching out to local community for combined study and events.

Security Update:

  • Staff and faculty have completed safety training.
  • New fire safety system has been approved by Fire Marshall.

 Head of School Search Committee:

  • Mauri Mizrahi and Rick Plotkin are the Co-Chairs for the Search Committee.  The committee includes representation from all Academy schools, special needs, professional educators/administrators, and community members.  Thanks to the following for agreeing to serve:  Mel Gottlieb, Debby Kaye, Jeff Leach, Karina Jeifez, Cheryl Plotkin, Ellen Rubens, Gaby Bubis and Alyse Nathans.

Shout out and Thank You to Yakov Feig, our PTA President, and his board for their amazing efforts already this school year.  They are working diligently to keep all schools of the Academy informed of events and fundraisers, and they already organized a very successful “Tailgate Shabbat” with 200 people in attendance.  Please check the PTA blog for more upcoming events.

As I’ve said before, “if you’re still reading…” you can see that we, the lay leaders, are here for you.  Please feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns…  Or compliments :)  As you can tell from the lists above, we are constantly working along with the faculty and staff to improve the Galinsky Academy and to make our schools the best choices for educating the Jewish children of Jacksonville. 

Our kids are depending on us to do so.


This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.