3rd year of growth at Hillel

By Marshall Weiss, The Dayton Jewish Observer

Hillel Academy Co-Principal Dr. Kathy Mecoli (L) and 2nd & 3rd grade teacher Jenna Wright go over curriculum before the start of the school year

Hillel Academy, the Dayton area’s Jewish day school, began its year with 13 new students from 11 families for a total of 38 students enrolled in grades kindergarten through six.

When Hillel’s board hired Co-Principals Dan and Dr. Kathy Mecoli to reboot the school — from staff to curriculum — enrollment was down to 22 students from kindergarten through fourth grade.

“And of the new children, there’s only one from a sibling family,” Dan says, referring to a child who has older siblings already enrolled at Hillel.

The Mecolis have added a writing teacher for the upper grades; Cantor Jenna Greenberg, wife of Beth Abraham Synagogue’s new rabbi, Joshua Ginsberg, has joined the Judaic/Hebrew instructors at Hillel, which include Rabbi Karen Bodney-Halasz of Temple Israel, Rabbi Levi Simon of Chabad, longtime Hillel instructor Sandy Sloane, and Elana Katz, who will now teach the students via Skype from Columbus, her new home. This marks Hillel’s first venture into distance learning.

With two years’ of funding from the state, Hillel purchased 40 iPads for its students; they’ve downloaded an app to the iPads for students to easily toggle between Hebrew and English on their keyboards and to write Hebrew with their pens.

“A lot of schools will have a technology lab and a teacher who is the technology teacher,” Kathy says. “But we think this will embed it much more into the curriculum.”

“It’s going to allow us to have the kids use the technology to broaden what they can do,” Dan added, citing the school’s twinning with a school in Israel through Partnership2Gether as an example.

Kathy says that their goal is to help students become independent learners.

“We think that the progress they’ve made in math, reading, language arts has been very good over the last two years,” she says. “But now our focus is on the skills for independent learning.”

With Hillel capping out at sixth grade, Kathy says the school is within reach of the board’s informal goal of 50 students enrolled from K to six.

“With the sixth-grade moving on next year, our hope would be to be stable with our number around 40,” she says. “But then perhaps in two years, we could get to the 50 mark.”

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