Social Media

It used to take a day or two for gossip to spread. Now thanks to social media, it’s instantaneous!

My friend Ari Katz recently shared this article with me. As the director of Camp Mesorah, he had summer camp in mind. Clearly, his message applies to schools as well. Social media can be dangerous for campers, students, their parents, and institutions.

Today, hundreds if not thousands, of parents feel free to comment about perceived insults, challenging assignments, gross fish sticks, or annoying new policies. In the past, an upset parent might have commented to a friend, “My child had too much homework tonight – it was just busy work!” Or… “I thought the school trip was disorganized.” Perhaps the parent would have put a note in their child’s knapsack or called an administrator.

Channeling negative social media is a challenge. First, you need to point out the possibility of a culture that promotes negativity, snarkiness, and a lack of ownership. Mot important, you must create an alternative, open communication environment so that parents know their feelings and needs will be heard and addressed.

I remember the day I introduced my grandmother to the Internet. She asked, “Is this a good thing or a bad thing?” I replied, “both.” It’s up to us to ensure that it is a good thing.

Click here for more insights and helpful advice from Ari Katz.

To learn more about crafting compelling mission statements, creating memorable narratives, or any of my other day school marketing and development services, please feel free to send me an email or call me at 516.569.8070.

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

Where are all the Morot?

Allow me to share two seemingly related memories:

Recently I attended a Jewish communal leadership seminar where participants spent 15 minutes creating mission statements. The statement that impressed me the most was written by a young educator who not only crafted a clear, compelling mission but also articulated HOW he aimed to achieve it – within the 25-word limit!

Last week my favorite five-year-old, Bella, spent shabbat with her family at her parents’ college alma mater! She enjoyed celebrating the rabbi and rebbetzin‘s son’s bar mitzvah and was awed by college life.

Among Bella’s questions:
How do the students know when to leave the gym?
Do they forget to go to class because they are on the treadmill?
Who tells them when to go to sleep?
What happens if they wake up late?
If teenagers aren’t grown-ups, why don’t they need to have their grown-ups with them?
In the dining room, in absolute astonishment: where are all the morot?

Bella: “Mom, where are all the morot?”

Mission Statement
Ultimately the answers to these questions are just as important to your parents as those about smart boards, collaborative learning, Hebrew language immersion, and SAT scores.

Back to the mission statement: WHERE are you going? HOW are you getting there? How does a five-year-old who needs to have a “grown-up” in close proximity at all times become a self-actualized young adult who gets to minyan daily, submits work on time, makes healthy diet and exercise choices, enjoys a robust schedule of extra curricular activities AND balances all of those elegantly? Ultimately, how does that kindergartener choose friends, a career path, and a life-mate wisely?

If you can tell your parents HOW you will prepare their children to thrive as dedicated Jewish adults on college campuses – and AFTER – you will have created one of the many compelling narratives you need!

To learn more about crafting compelling mission statements, creating memorable narratives, or any of my other cost-effective day school marketing and developing services, please feel free to send me an email or call me at 516.569.8070.

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

Got Questions? – part I

Do you have a question?

I’ll bet you do! After all, on Pesach, we are mandated to re-experience the Exodus. For educators, that demands innovative, creative pedagogy guaranteed to evoke questions. With older children, we elicit and explore deep questions about the Exodus narrative, the hagaddah liturgy, and the lasting lessons both can teach us. With younger children, we use costumes, props, and dramatic reenactment.

Got matza? Got wine? Got gefilte fish?
My sedarim – which always featured locusts, blood-like water, and ma-nishtana puppets along with meaningful divrei torah – have become a bit less intense, but much more fun, since we’ve started parting the Nile (a blue, ocean-themed, shower curtain hung up in my dining room archway), welcomed Eliyahu (my good-natured, costumed nephew), and discovered wiggly, green jello frogs perched on our plates. These recent additions evoke not only squeals of delight but also a myriad of questions from the more recent additions to our family!

However, right now I’m thinking about a different type of questions – ones that your parents yearn to ask. I suggest that this year, in the goal of true partnership and transparency, you invite your parents to question you. But don’t just play lip service to the concept: really open it up! This takes a bit of daring.

Want to learn more? Click here to read Got Questions? – part II.

Please feel free to call me at 516.569.8070 or send me an email to learn more about how to turn your present parents and stakeholders into loyal ambassadors and supporters. I’m also happy to discuss special projects as well as annual retainers. Chag kasher v’sameach!

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

Got Questions? – part II

Parents’ questions will yield:

 Enhanced relationships
 Important, actionable data

How you invite these questions depends on your school’s culture. Possibilities include:

 Open school-wide town hall meetings
 Small parlor meetings
A physical question box that children decorate or build (in a preschool class or a high school woodworking class)
A user-friendly online form

Follow up is key! Of course, you must respond to each query in a personal and timely manner. More important, you need to analyze the queries. The questions may show you areas that need slight tweaking or larger overhauls. Questions may motivate you to open up clearer lines of communications, revamp your Ivrit curriculum, revisit tenure polices, or just pat yourself on the shoulder for an A-plus job. Either way, opening up lines of communications will show parents that you value them. How can this Pesach be different for your parents than any other chag? Let this be the one that is transparent, inviting, and demonstrates that parents are your partners!

Click here to read Got Questions? – part I.

Please feel free to call me at 516.569.8070 or send me an email to learn more about how to turn your present parents and stakeholders into loyal ambassadors and supporters. I’m also happy to discuss special projects as well as annual retainers. Chag kasher v’sameach!

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

Better Safe then Sorry! – part I

Unexpected Occurences

As you probably know, I am a New Yorker. That means that lately I’ve been feeling cold, very cold. I yearn to go outside without layers of clothing, boots, scarves, and gloves. I‘m finding it challenging to appreciate the fleeting beauty of pristine snow falling because I know it will morph into piles of snow that need shoveling, slush, and traffic conditions. But as my mother-in-law always told me: you can’t control the weather!

Those words made me think about other things that we can’t control. I often advise people who are in varied states of anxiety or even panic about situations beyond their control, that they can control their reactions. But – as school administrators you can, in fact, assert control over unexpected potentially dangerous situations. You can prepare for emergencies.

Sure, you have your annual fire and student emergency cards. But how prepared are you? Are students, staff, and parents all familiar with your clearly articulated, comprehensive emergency plans? A self-assessment is a good first step. 

A meeting with a security professional may be a critical second step. I asked Dr. Joshua Gleis co-founder and vice president of Slingshot Security, LLC to share his five top tips for day schools, read on to learn more!

Click here to read Better Safe then Sorry! – part II

Should you have any questions about marketing, resource development, assessing present materials, or any of my day school services, please feel free to send me an email or call me at 516.569.8070.

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

Better Safe then Sorry! – part II

Top Security Tips

Five top security tips for day schools, provided by Dr. Joshua Gleis co-founder and vice president of Slingshot Security, LLC:

Operational Security – Focus on your human capital, not your financial capital
You can have the best bomb proof doors in the world, but if your staff leave the doors open or unmonitored they are all worthless. Too many institutions spend money they raised or received for grants on products they do not really need or are not that important. The best move is to focus first and foremost on operational security – it is the cheapest and most effective use of your resources. It requires little money (see #2), as it focuses on training staff and students how to identify and properly handle potential threats before they become emergencies, and how to properly act in an emergency if one does occur. Improving day-to-day security operations, running drills for staff and students, ensuring security guards are following proper procedures and protocols are all important. Having a solid risk assessment that serves as a blueprint and roadmap of your immediate and long term operational and target hardening needs is an important first step. Developing a solid operational plan is also critical.

Do it Right the First Time – Hire a Professional
Too many times I have come to schools and found that they have squandered their money on security products they either did not need or were not relevant for their facility. Take CCTV security cameras for example. They can and do play an important role, but one must do a cost-benefit analysis of the usefulness on spending the bulk of a DHS grant on security cameras when there are other high priority products and services you may need. Remember that these cameras are predominantly used for investigations after an attack takes place. CCTV systems will not deter most active shooters, terrorists, or other deadly attackers. Even actively monitored cameras often miss crimes being committed or are discovered too late – look up the statistics for yourself. Too often the CCTV systems purchased are the wrong systems for the facility at-hand and are positioned in incorrect locations, which is why a complete risk assessment outlining exactly what you need is so key. A do-it-yourself or free law enforcement risk assessment is definitely better than nothing, but there’s only so much you can learn off the internet, and only so much law enforcement can give you for free. I’ve had many clients that were advised to have blast proof window film installed on their windows, but they were not told what thickness or how it should be installed. The result has been that they were sold the wrong products – safety film, not blast film – which is too thin to provide intruder prevention or true blast film qualities. The result: living with a false sense of security and money needlessly spent. Hire a trusted professional with a proven track record – it will save you a lot of time and money in the long run.

Spend your money wisely – Purchase security services and products with a specific purpose in mind: Saving lives
Often times the simplest products are those that are most critical. Too many schools conduct lock down drills without having working locks on their classroom doors. Or they buy high-tech security products that automatically disengage, by law, by the simple pull of a fire alarm. Focus on products that will most immediately save lives. Then build from there. Having a solid access control system, a working Public Address (PA) system, and proper blast proof window film are some examples of good security products.

You get what you pay for – Not all security guards are created equal
A casual observer should not know what guard is armed and what guard is unarmed. Security guards should be trained in counter-surveillance. They should mix up their routine and conduct visible patrols throughout the day. They should often be standing outside, not sitting inside. Don’t spend your money on a security guard just for the sake of saying you have “security.” If you have a doorman-type security guard, you may want to consider a better use of your money by investing in a good access control system and hiring better guards during more critical parts of the day.

Increase Your Awareness and Cooperation with Law Enforcement
We are blessed to live in a country where you know you can rely on law enforcement to reply effectively in the event of an emergency. But there is much you can do to assist law enforcement. Security is everyone’s responsibility, and the more reporting you provide of suspicious activity, and cooperation you show to your local, county, and state law enforcement agencies, the better they can help you. Having your local police and fire officials be familiar with your facility in the event of an emergency can literally mean the difference between life and death. Consider opening up your facility on off-hours or quiet days to these local departments. Make sure officials have updated blueprints of your buildings and grounds. The more functions and drills they hold at your school, and the more information that they have, the better they will be able to respond in the event of an emergency.

Dr. Joshua Gleis is co-founder and vice president of Slingshot Security, LLC; a boutique security consulting firm that specializes in operational training, security design, political risk analysis, risk and threat assessments, and perimeter security products. Slingshot’s clients run the gamut from schools and houses of worship, to government agencies, politicians, investors, and investigative and security firms. Joshua is the security consultant and recommended vendor for a number of cooperatives that encompass over 300 participatory organizations.

Joshua is the author of Withdrawing Under Fire: Lessons Learned from Islamist Insurgencies (Potomac Books, Inc.), and lead co-author of Hezbollah & Hamas: Politics, Terrorism & Irregular Warfare in the Arab-Israeli Conflict (Johns Hopkins University Press, Fall 2012). He received his PhD and Masters in international relations from the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy – the nation’s oldest school of international affairs. Joshua has published multiple articles in books and journals, and has advised U.S. government agencies on topics related to counter-insurgencies, counter-terrorism, and public diplomacy.

Click here to read Better Safe then Sorry! – part I

Should you have any questions about marketing, resource development, assessing present materials, or any of my day school services, please feel free to send me an email or call me at 516.569.8070.

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

Faster then a Speeding Bullet

Cultivate Parent Promoters

What’s faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound? Answered that one? Try this: what is a more effective recruitment tool than a state-of-the-art facility, stellar high school and college admissions, and relatively affordable tuition? Parents! A compelling data-driven report, LEARNING FROM PARENT VOICES How to Turn Positive Perception into Enrollment Growth, developed by Measuring Success and PEJE, documents the critical importance of parent perception – even over academics, STEM, and college acceptances – in terms of recruitment. Simply stated, “Word of mouth blows advertising out of the water.”

Solid parent ambassadors can enhance positive perception and dispel myths. Not only can they can encourage potential parents to visit an open house, they can stay in touch during the decision making process – providing warmth, encouragement, and solid information. They can make your job easier and your results more successful!

Click here to read additional articles of interest

Love the ideas, but wondering how to implement them? Feel free to call me at 516.569.8070 or send me an email for cost effective mentoring. Best wishes for a successful year!

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman