Category Archive for "Leadership Blog"

Passover Reading – Haggadot and More!

I was like a kid in a candy store this past weekend. Instead of chocolate bars and gummy bears, I was surrounded by books and teaching materials. The ASCD Conference (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) in Anaheim offered presentations on the latest research in education and I ate it up. I know I bought more books than I can possibly read at once, but I couldn’t help myself. For me it’s like trying to eat just one M&M. To create a plan for dealing with this, I have focused my Pesach break reading on The Motivated Brain: Improving Student Attention, Engagement, and Perseverance. It seems like an odd choice for vacation reading, but I love this stuff.


What are you reading over the Pesach break? This is one of the questions I want you to ask your child. The other question is, “What book(s) do you want me to read to you?” There is much to be gained from a conversation about books and an opportunity to develop the idea that vacations are for reading. The concept of choosing a book is key. We read more and with better focus when we get to choose what we read. Pesach is a time for reading (the Haggadah) and asking questions (4 of them). It makes sense to extend these acts during the time we have away from school.

When we are back together on April 24, I look forward to hearing about your reading adventures. Maybe you will even read about candy and chocolate! Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Chocolate Fever, and The Chocolate Touch are some good ones.



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It Takes a Village – Get Involved!

Dear Parents:

Over the past two and a half months as your Head of School, I have had the pleasure of witnessing some important milestones in the life of our School – IGD, re-enrollment of our current families, the culmination of our admission season, as well as the day-to-day learning, energy, and excitement that travels through our halls and classrooms. I have also had the opportunity of addressing both the short-term and long-term needs of our School. One of the most important areas of focus has been looking at the longevity of our School – taking a strategic approach to the structures, systems, and budget we need to ensure a strong, solid future.

Throughout this strategic process, one concept always rose to the top – it takes a village! It did not take me long to realize how much I needed others during my transition as Head of School – from clergy to administrators, teachers to parents – I could not then and cannot now do any of what I do without every member of our community. I also know that our School is much more than me or my role, and we need to join together to support each other in any and all endeavors, however big or small.

I am thrilled to share that one such endeavor began this past week – the re-institution of a Day School Governing Board. On a macro level, the role of the Board is to support our professional staff in carrying out our School’s mission (for more information, see NAIS‘s Principles of Good Practice). The Day School Governing Board will also consist of committees, such as: Finance, Strategic Planning, Marketing & Communications, Admissions, and Development, to advance our efforts in these specific areas.

The ideal composition of an independent school board is 50% current parents and 50% other members of the community who have vested interests in the institution. On our new Board, we have a strong presence of alumni parents, alumni, and vested community members – and we would like to see more of our current parent body involved. In doing so, you will have the ability to directly contribute to our “village”, and to positively impact our community and your child’s and future children’s education. If you are interested in becoming involved as a lay leader, I invite you to indicate your interest by completing the following Board Interest Form:

Another meaningful way to become involved is through our Parent Association, which is comprised exclusively of current parents. The PA is an intricate system composed of: a leadership cabinet including Co-Presidents, Treasurer, and Secretary; committees such as Life Cycle, Teacher Appreciation, Intergenerational Day, Social Action Tikkun Olam, New Families; additionally, there are two room representatives per grade. Volunteering on the PA is less of a time commitment than the Board, but no less fruitful or supportive to our School’s mission. If you are interested in volunteering your time toward the day-to-day operations of the school, and care deeply about helping ADAT reach our potential for being a warm, close-knit parent community, please consider volunteering by completing the PA Interest Form:

We have made tremendous strides since the start of this school year, even over the last two and a half months; and yet, there is still much work to be done. I know first-hand how important our “village” is to the sustainability, success, and vitality of our School. Join me in making this community and our School everything you imagined it could be!



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Increasing Student Involvement

Dear Parents:

One of our goals for our student body is to continue to include our older students in authentic, creative, and active ways. To help achieve this, we have recently re-initiated a Student Council for our 6th grade students to hold leadership roles in our School, led by Sari Goodman, Dean of Students, and me as the Student Council Coordinator. The Student Council program creates a clear structure for meaningful and constructive student involvement, while also teaching important follow through skills – so that students can see their ideas come to fruition. At the same time, it’s also a hands-on, real-world way for all of our students, especially those most involved, to see our democratic process at work.

Here are the different “offices” to be filled on the Student Council:

The President is the primary student ambassador for the school and the obvious choice when the administration needs a student representative (6th graders only).


The committee heads will serve as Vice Presidents.  The committee heads are responsible for communication with their committee members.  Committee Heads and the President form the core of the Council and they are the officers.  This team meets weekly to review the calendar, look at the balance of activities, create committee agendas etc.

The committees have specific types of work they do and issues they concern themselves with.  Only 6th graders can be heads of committees (5th and 6th graders can serve on committees).

VP of Campus Life

    • Hot lunch menu consulting
    • Music at lunch
    • Student liaisons for facility issues – furniture in classrooms, issues with the yard
    • Sports teams – publicize games and results
    • Tech consulting (Joel needs mentees)
    • Student Ambassadors

VP of Tikkun Olam

  • Who needs our help off campus?
  • Is there a family or student in our school who needs our help?
  • Fundraisers, drives (coordinate with grade level plans)
  • Issues around the world that we should help with – floods, fires, terrorism
  • Tzedakah at Oneg – carrying it out and identifying where it should go
  • Family volunteer projects on or off campus – advise, brainstorm…

VP of Ruach (School Spirit)

  • Spirit Days
  • Mishpacha ideas
  • Holiday celebrations
  • School events
  • Jump-a-thon
  • Maccabiya

With four 6th grade students running for President with fantastic speeches, and with 3rd through 6th graders voting, the results are in. Our new Student Council President is Ryan Brunswick! Yashar koach to all the candidates and new officers!



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Preparation and Praying

Dear Parents:

As I’m sure you have all heard by now, threats against the Jewish community both in California and throughout the country have been running rampant as of late. First, I want to assure you that Adat Ari El has not been a target of any of these threats, thank God. We are, however, extremely vigilant – ensuring that we do everything it takes to protect your children and everyone on our campus at all times.

To that end, we are in consistent communication with the ADL, local law enforcement, our own private security, Centurion. We are also receiving regular correspondence from educational and Jewish organizations who are disseminating critical updates, best practices, and timely information to support local Jewish schools and synagogues.

On campus, Centurion continues to have an active and heightened presence throughout campus. Yesterday, we conducted a bomb threat drill, as we do earthquake and fire drills – to make sure that we are all prepared in the case of any emergency situation. The drill went very smoothly – with cooperation from the students and strict adherence to our policies and procedures from teachers and administrators. We are hopeful we will never have to implement this drill in reality, but are grateful for the peace of mind that comes from knowing we have taken the necessary steps to protect the lives of everyone on our campus.

If you have any questions about our policies, procedures, or these threats to the Jewish community, please do not hesitate to contact me. In the meantime, we pray for peace for our fellow Jewish organizations both near and far, for our Jewish family everywhere, and for our world.



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15 Things to Know About Lena Labowe

15 Things to Know About Lena Labowe

lenaLena Labowe is the Vice President of Education for Adat Ari El. Though she plays such an important role in our School today, Lena’s connections to Adat Ari El began long ago with her husband, Mark, and their daughters, Jodi and Emily, and she has remained an active member of our community ever since.  Professionally, Lena is a dentist, but she has also spent much of the past 25 years being one of the most professional and valued volunteers at ADAT. Read more about Lena and her long history in 15 Things to Know About Lena Labowe. 

1. Where you were born/where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in El Paso, Texas.

2. What is your affiliation with ADAT Day School?

Both of my daughters were educated in the Day School, as were two nephews and a niece. The commitment to the Day School became a priority for the Labowe family as it became evident that our children were surrounded by an amazing educational environment based upon Jewish values, comprised of committed teachers and professional staff that nurtured and inspired their growing minds and hearts. My involvement was tailored to whatever was needed at the moment.  

3. When did you first become affiliated with Adat Ari El and why?

I became a member of AAE after Mark and I were married in 1986.  Ronald z”l and Trana Labowe (my in-laws) have been committed members of the Adat Ari El community for over 60 years.  Mark has been a member since he was baby.  I grew up as an assimilated Texan and married into a loving, strong, active, Jewish family which afforded me the chance to become a part of this amazing community.

4. What do you do in your role as VP of Education?

As VP of Education, I am the liaison between the ECC and the Day School and the AAE Board of Directors.    

5. Why do you love ADAT? 

My love for Adat Ari El is founded in the synagogue community and school community combined. I am grateful to be surrounded by a caring and supportive community that is augmented by wonderful friendships that provide strength and joy in my life’s journey.

6. What is your favorite part of your leadership role?

The honor to work with committed professionals that inspire me everyday.

7. Why do you think Jewish education is so important?

I believe a Jewish education gives our children the values and ethics they need to stay balanced in a world that is bombarded by rapidly changing technology and fast-paced uncertainties. 

8. What made you decide to get involved in a leadership role at ADAT?

I owe my involvement as a leader in the Adat Ari El community to Sisterhood.  Past Sisterhood President, Beverly Barak, extended her hand to me as a young parent in the ECC and I’ve never looked back.  I am forever grateful for her wisdom and commitment to the importance of engaging the next generation of volunteers and leaders.  

9. What do you think people would be surprised to learn about ADAT?

At a minimum, there are six exceptional teachers/administrators who are still at ADAT that taught and nurtured my two daughters, who are now 26 and 23 years old. 

10. What excites you most about ADAT?

The amazing teaching staff and professional administration that is committed to the future success of the school.  I absolutely think the ZDL rocks!

11. What are your goals for ADAT as the VP of Education?

To continue to promote a positive relationship between the Schools and the Synagogue community.    

12. If you could sum up ADAT in 3 words, what would they be? 

Community, Creativity, Commitment

13. What is your favorite Jewish quote and why? 

” How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before improving the world.”

–Anne Frank 

14. Who’s your celebrity doppelgänger?

Drew Barrymore

15. What is your favorite memory shared at ADAT?

I’m so fortunate to have so many favorite memories that I can’t pick just one!

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Back to “Business”

Back to “Business”

Dear Parents,

We hope you had a restful long weekend after the excitement of last week’s Intergenerational Day!

School returned to business as usual this week, but with the added highlight of celebrating our 100th day of school. Check out Facebook and our classroom updates for fun photos showing the students’ excitement over this milestone!

As we start to approach March, administratively, we begin to plan for next year. To that end, I wanted to inform you that you will be receiving your re-enrollment contracts next week for the 2017-18 school year. This is your opportunity to reaffirm your commitment to ADAT Day School, to continue the path of innovative, creative, and Jewish learning that your child(ren) has already begun with us. It is also an opportunity to re-engage in our community and play an important role in contributing to the strength of everything ADAT is as a collective parent and student body.

Our School is made stronger by the presence of you, your children, and the new families we will be so excited to welcome next year. We look forward to having you with us again.

If there’s anything I can do to support you – now or at any time – please do not hesitate to contact me.



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12 Things to Know About Sarah Schultz


Sarah Schultz began working at ADAT four years ago and transitioned into the role of Director of Admission and Community Relations in 2015. Since then, she has worked hard to build ADAT’s recruitment efforts and was instrumental in launching our Transitional Kindergarten (TK) program this year. While Sarah’s history at ADAT spans her whole lifetime, and many of you probably know her quite well, here are 12 Things to Know About Sarah Schultz. 

1. Where you were born/where did you grow up?
I was born in Santa Monica, but grew up in the Valley, and here at Adat Ari El.

2. What is your husband and kids’ names?
Mike is my husband, and my kids are Jake, Jordyn and Zoe. 

3. Where did you go to college and what did you get your degree in?
Started at USC and graduated from CSUN with a BA in Communications.

4. Why do you think Jewish education is so important?
I want my kids to know their history and the importance of what it means to be a Jew.

5. What is your favorite part of your job?
Getting to know all of the new and incoming families and providing a sense of community for our current families. 

6. Why do you love ADAT?
I love ADAT because we teach each child to be an individual and not to fit in a particular mold. We provide something for everyone. 

7. Who are your mentors?
My mother is my mentor because she always has an open mind and is able to see life from all angles. Her positivity and kind nature makes her an amazing human.

8. What is your favorite Jewish quote and why?
“I am my beloved and my beloved is mine”
I used to say it to myself often when Mike and I would spend months apart from each other to remind me of the sacrifices he was making while being away from his family. 

9. What’s your favorite movie?
Dirty Dancing

10. What’s your favorite type of cuisine or food?
I love sushi 

11. Who’s your celebrity doppelgänger?
Growing up, everyone told me I resembled Demi Moore.

12. What excites you most about ADAT?
I love the design lab and what our students get to do in there. I also love the buddy program because it creates bonds and relationships that wouldn’t normally have formed organically.

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Pride in Project Based Learning

I’ve been spending a lot of time this month thinking about who we are at Adat Ari El Day School, and why we teach through Project Based Learning and Design Thinking. I’ve had many opportunities to brag about our school lately –visitors from universities, other private schools, Jewish educational organizations, and prospective families have all come to see how we are thinking differently about education. And every time I walk through our halls and classrooms to explain what we do, I become more and more proud of our teachers and students.

This week, Morah Solomon and our Kindergarteners welcomed us back to school by transforming their classroom into a Noah’s Ark museum; students built exhibits that showed deep, meaningful learning about Noah, and wrote explanations to help us see how much thought went into each child’s work. Annemarie’s 4th grade class turned the outdoor chapel into an exhibition of their learning about California regions; they designed structures that were ideal for each of our state’s regions, drawing on natural resources, emulating Native American building techniques, and thinking creatively. And throughout the week, students and teachers worked tirelessly to prepare for our Intergenerational Day showcase.

And it’s not just the big projects that are exciting –it’s our 6th graders meeting with a representative from LA Family Housing, our 1st graders who are learning how to design in 3-D, our 5th graders writing raps about the Torah, our 3rd graders preparing for their Shabbat dinner tonight – the learning that happens in every room of this School makes me excited to come to work each day.

In every example of who we are at ADAT, it always comes back to our phenomenal students and teachers. Our students are so proud of their work that they can’t wait to show it off: “Shara! Shara! Come see how I designed this hut to deal with heat in the desert!” And our teachers embody the collaboration we encourage in our students so much that it’s inspiring. Seeing art, technology, science, math, language arts, and Judaic studies blend together seamlessly is a testament to the dedicated faculty we have. And, as proud as they are about the work they do, I am equally as proud of them and the way we have redesigned learning.




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Parenting is Challenging Business – We Are Here to Help

Parenting is Challenging Business – We Are Here to Help

Parenting is challenging business.  That is why, as Director of Parent Education, I have been given the opportunity to support all of you in this endeavor.  With emails, newsletter articles, and individual strategy meetings, I am at your service.  I encourage you to attend the parenting workshops we offer.  Our Parenting Partner chair, Jennifer Liba, has brought professionals with extensive knowledge and experience to share invaluable information.  Nutritionist, Kim Orbacher, helped us adjust to our new nut sensitive environment.  Clinical psychologist, Shirly Eylor Asif, helped us understand procrastination and how we can steer our children around this obstacle.  Coach Katherine Salzberg provided us with solid strategies for handling our children when they ignore us.

The next offering from Board Certified Public Health Nurse, StaciJoy, is called The Little Thing:  Health Transformation for the Tortoise and the Hare.  On February 9 at 7:30 pm, StaciJoy will tell us how we can improve our quality of life and that of our children through movement, attitude, and nutrition.  Later in the year, Jeanne Grosset will bring us Turn Around My Health:  Eating with the Seasons.  The idea that eating foods of the season, as humans did before processed foods and global imports, can improve health is intriguing to me.  I look forward to learning about it along with all of you.

In May, I will be the speaker for Summer Brain Gain.  Every summer educators bemoan the dreaded summer slide, where students could lose 2 months of school learning.  You ADAT parents do not have to worry about that, because by implementing Brain Gain methods, your children will come back to school ahead of where they were in June.

Parenting is definitely a challenging enterprise and we are here to help. I always welcome your comments and ideas on how to make the Parent Place speaker series the best it can be. Your input is important in creating the “village it takes to raise children.”



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12 Things to Know About Jodi Lasker


12 Things to Know About Jodi Lasker

Jodi Lasker came to ADAT this year as the Director of Jewish Life and Learning. Her primary area of focus is Judaic Studies and community building. In that role, she is working to bring together the ADAT community in unique and exciting ways. She has re-instituted the grade level Shabbat dinners, and with the TK one a success a few weeks ago, it is clear that it was a welcome and positive addition to our community building efforts. She has also been coordinating the Shabbaton for our community in response to many of you who expressed their desire to come together at a retreat. Stay tuned for more ways to enhance your involvement in Jewish life and our community at ADAT. In the meantime, here is the latest installment of 12 Things to Know – this time about Jodi Lasker:

1. Where you were born/raised?
I was born and raised right here in Valley Village at Adat Ari El.

2. What is your spouse and child’s name?
My wife’s name is Jenn and our daughter is Sydney.

3. Where did you go to college and what did you get your degree in?
For undergrad, I majored in Sociology and minored in Jewish Studies at UCSB. Then, I went on to get my Master’s in Education and an MBA in Not-for-Profit Organizations at the University of Judaism.

4. Why do you love ADAT?
It is my home – I walk into the DFC each Friday to celebrate Shabbat just as I did in the early ’80s. I look at the bimah and see my parents’ wedding photos, as that is where they were married. Then I look around at the completely unfamiliar classrooms and style of education and realize how jealous I am that these students are receiving such a more sophisticated and relevant education than I did 30 years ago.

5. What do you love most about your role at ADAT?
I love connecting – with students, teachers, and parents. I’m working to add the next layer to our community with each of our constituencies.

6. What is your favorite subject to teach and why?
My favorite subject to teach is social justice, as this is where Judaism and contemporary society intersect. It is where we see Judaism as a moral compass as we interface with ethical issues with friends, family, community, country, and world.

7. What was your last job and where?
I was a Judaic Studies teacher at Heschel Day School for 16 years.  I coordinated their Tel Aviv-LA Partnership for 10 years, ran student council, and initiated and ran several other community building programs over the years.

8. Why is Jewish education so important?
Jewish education allows us to go in every direction at the same time – backwards, forwards, and to reach within our souls. This environment creates space to be curious, authentic, emotional, spiritual, to have doubts, to dream, and to always assign meaning.

9. Who are your mentors?
My mentors are teachers who challenged me, opened my mind, and the many supervisors and colleagues over the years who have raised me up and taught me to want to be the best I can be. I have also learned so much from my family; my parents, brother, aunt, uncle, and wife all inspire me with their efforts to be productive, ethical, righteous, generous, and kind.

10. What is your favorite Jewish quote and why?
If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
If I am only for myself, what am I?
If not now, when?

-Pirkei Avot 1:14

It’s all there – be a self-advocate, be an advocate for others, and act … don’t just talk about acting.

11. What’s your favorite movie?
This week, Hidden Figures

12. What’s your favorite type of cuisine or food?

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