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I am proud to announce that Bornblum Jewish Community School is now accredited by the Southern Association of Independent School (SAIS).

This accreditation is the result of hard work by many talented people, under the leadership of our Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Jill Cross.  Becoming SAIS accredited is no small feat, and our faculty, staff, board, parents, alumni and students all participated in the accreditation process.

For a year and a half, our team diligently worked on a school self-study, exploring both the strengths of our school and opportunities for growth. This self-study approach was key to desire to work with SAIS because their process focuses on helping schools to identify and work towards goals in growth areas that we identify.

Together in teams, our staff identified three growth areas and proposed growth steps for each: 1) Curriculum integration, 2) Growth of Bornblum Middle (our middle school program) to increase academic and social experiences, 3) Increase parent engagement to improve students’ overall academic, social, and emotional well-being.

Then, this past February, we welcomed Dr. Jack Talmadge, from Episcopal School in Knoxville, as our accreditation chair, who worked together with Lori Kubach from Jewish Leadership Academy in Miami, and Emily Heflin from Epstein School in Atlanta, to look at our school, our goals, and to provide commendations and recommendations. Their visit, followed by a full report to the school and approval from the SAIS board, led to the announcement this week, that our accreditation has been approved.

The accreditation process yielded many things to be proud of! Among the areas that the accreditation team commended are: Our outdoor education program, design thinking, support and enrichment, the Mishpachot program, our Design Lab spaces, integration of high-quality Jewish Studies, our strong sense of community, the support of our staff and faculty by our leadership, Bornblum Middle’s capstone project, middle school advisory, advance class options for middle schoolers, class trips, opportunities for student leadership, our monthly Community Kabbalat Shabbat, parent communication sessions like Bagels and Brew and our upcoming Cups of Connection meetings, our parent-teacher partnerships, a strong sense of what it means to be a pluralistic community, the dedication of our faculty, and our high-quality facilities.

Over the next several years, we will address recommendations made by the team by allocating time for curriculum work during school, developing our curriculum maps in both Hebrew and English, taking capstones to the next level, considering new options for scheduling, including time for additional outdoor education, highlighting what we are doing in our middle school, developing a digital portfolio for our Bornblum Middle students, creating and marketing a portrait of a graduate, streamlining the school’s communication portals, and seeking additional opportunities to showcase the academic engagement and student achievement with parents at all grade levels.

As we begin to reflect on the accreditation experience, one of the benefits was the opportunity for our staff and faculty to engage in a design thinking modality to work on our self-study. Once our growth areas were identified, staff were strategically divided into three groups. The groups had empathy interviews with alumni, current students, parents, and members of our school community to dive into the experiences of those impacted by our school. They then brainstormed and worked on potential solutions and areas that we should address as we continue to grow as a school.

The process was meaningful and insightful and allowed us to see how much we have grown these past five years.  It also showed us opportunities for growth that lay in front of us. This aligns so well with our school because we teach our students to have a growth mindset and to continually strive towards new goals that are set daily. I am proud of our school for the work that we have done and the growth that we recognize is in our future.

As Joseph found himself in the pit, he undoubtedly struggled with his emotions, wondering if he would ever see the light again, hoping to get out of the darkness.

Each of us can light a spark in another person. We must use the light of inspiration and view ourselves as the Shamash (the helper candle). We must illuminate places where there is darkness, whether physical, educational, or spiritual. We are the ones capable of lifting someone from the pits and providing them with the opportunity to learn and grow. We do this by educating our children, by putting them in a community that not only supports them but lights up the path in front of them. That is what we give our children each day at Bornblum, but we cannot do it without the help and support of the sparks of light that shine in our community, our parents, grandparents, donors, and supporters.

Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom and a Chag Urim Sameach, a happy “light spreading” Chanukah.