The Hershorin Schiff Community Day School Evolves Education
by Steven J. Smith
It’s fair to say the relationship Dr. Laura Hershorin has with the Hershorin Schiff Community Day School is very much a family affair, as the two people for whom the school is named — Irving Hershorin and Herbert Schiff — are her paternal and maternal grandfathers. education
Hershorin chairs the school’s board of trustees and her father, Richard, is also a board member and serves on the facility committee. According to Richard, his father, Irving, and father-in-law, Herbert, “were the pillars of the school, bringing the values of philanthropy and a quest for knowledge to its current foundation.”
“Make the world one grain of sand better than what you found.” – Herbert Schiff
Hershorin was a catalyst for the family’s $1 million gift to the school in keeping with her grandfather Schiff’s mantra “to just make the world one grain of sand better than what you found.”
Formerly the Goldie Feldman Academy, the school is located at 1050 S. Tuttle Ave. and was renamed last August. It developed locally out of a strong desire for an inclusive, progressive, pluralistic Jewish day school that meets the needs of today’s young families.
“The family fund for philanthropy that my grandfather (Schiff) envisioned was coming to fruition last year,” Hershorin said. “The timing was right and we stepped forward to help take the school into the future. And it just so happened that the philosophy and strengths of the school were exactly what my grandfathers represented and loved.”
Today, head of school Dan Ceaser oversees 50 teachers instructing 225 students ranging from early childhood to grade 8. Tuition costs range from $5,000 to $16,000 a year, depending on the grade level. The preschool student/teacher ratio is 4 to 1, elementary school ratio is 8 to 1 and the middle school ratio is 12 to 1.
Hershorin said the school embraces two important tenets espoused by her grandfathers. First, it provides a unique educational model that combines a global vision, religious and cultural diversity, project-based learning, small class sizes, service learning and community partnership. Second, by exposing young non-Jews to Judaism, it demystifies the religion and discourages the spread of anti-Semitism.
“My grandfather Hershorin was self-taught,” she said. “He was self-made. He loved learning, took responsibility for his education and was a very well read man. He represents that aspect of the school. My other grandfather Schiff represents philanthropy. He believed in supporting the community at large. Not just the Jewish community, but other religious and even secular institutions as well.”
Hershorin added what sets the Hershorin Schiff Community Day School apart from others of its kind is the absence of hierarchy.
“Every teacher knows every student,” she said. “The older students know, love and embrace all of the younger students. Their day starts out with Advisory, which is a social and emotional learning curriculum that is specifically put together to teach the values. As they break out into classes, it’s not uncommon to see mixed grades learning together at an appropriate level.”
Level playing field
Hershorin maintains no one is labeled as “gifted” or “needing remediation.” Kids are simply placed where they need to be in terms of their learning and socialization capabilities. education
“For example, Math is held at pretty much the same time for every grade in the school,” she said. “So kids can go where it is that they should be learning. And as they’re exploring a particular concept, it’s done in a project-based way.”
That starts with a driving question of interest to the students, who are divided into groups where the question is researched and developed into a project, which can be on any subject from climate change and historic world figures to recycling or battling disease. The goal is not just to learn about what surrounds a driving question, but how to apply that knowledge to solve it. education
“Kids can go where it is that they should be learning.”
“They put together a project that can be presented as a group, so they’re teaching themselves under the teacher’s watchful guidance,” Hershorin said. “They’re taking ownership of what’s happening. This process encourages them to collaborate, which is a very important skill as you go into the work force. When they make their presentation to the other students, everyone is learning together.”
This activity culminates in Learning On Display nights, which occur throughout the year to provide an opportunity for students to showcase the process of learning for parents and the larger community.
Hershorin hopes the school will become a model for other schools.
“We are living in a world right now that is extremely divisive,” she said. “We want to be a force for change, for people to get along and to collaborate and figure out their problems. The Hebrew expression is ‘tikkun olam,’ which translates into ‘repair the world.’ That’s what we’re here for.”