Jewgle Perth

Perth's Real Jewish News

A good decision, but is this a new direction?

Carmel School has appointed David Taylor, head of primary, to the position of Principal.  David Taylor is a consummate professional and somebody who knows and understands the workings of the school.  The recruitment process undertaken by the school was global, and this choice was obviously made with regard for the continuity of the school, being the sustainability of the school from an academic and economic point of view.  Kol Hakavod for this, as the schools advocacy for migration, the schools standing as a top level private educational institution, and the educational and administrative strength will be well protected through this appointment.

Not everyone is happy.  Some people don’t like Mr Taylor’s style, others expect a greater deal of classroom intervention through the management of issues concerning their children.  I don’t share this view.  I think that Mr Taylor is as good, if not better than anybody else when performing those difficult tasks of dealing with bullying, discipline, and dealing with students individual needs.  This is in my view a great area of strength within the appointment.

There are a couple of points that do needs to be further analysed, when assessing what this appointment means for Carmel School and the Perth Jewish community into the years ahead.  When the school announced that Ms Lorraine Day would not have her contract renewed, it justified this decision by noting that the school wished to pursue a change of direction.  The limitation was that it did not articulate exactly what this direction is to be.  Many of us were hoping that it meant the recruitment of a religious Jewish Principal who could deliver a stronger and more integrated Jewish ethos to the school.  There are several factors to consider here.  Firstly, a majority (but ever decreasing majority) of the parent body have no desire for this.  Secondly, the cost of such a person is a huge imposition on the schools limited resources (realistically at market rates it costs several hundred thousand to get the right person).  Thirdly, the role of Principal would need to change to make such a move effective.

Just think!  A Jewish Principal would be a fundraiser.  S/he would approach donors and be able to show what is really important to the future of this community and its members.  A Jewish Principal would be the dugma of the Jewish character of the school.  They would daven with the school community, give of their neshama to the advancement of the students, and form relationships with the Hebrew speaking educators and leaders that currently lead Israeli students to Torah.

With this said, the appointment of Mr Taylor does not preclude the above from occuring.  The school has some funds and is in the process of sourcing a campus Rabbi.  Should that person have the full autonomy and working relationship they need to acheive this, then maybe the school will have the right balance within its senior staff.  The head of Jewish studies is a great administrator, innovator and has brought about huge positive changes to the way in which formal and informal Jewish education works within the school.  However, he is not a Rabbinic leader or a motivating force for parents.  If both he and Mr Taylor have the ability to place a Rabbi into the school with full and overriding authority to mandate the Jewish ethos of activity for staff and students, then the school would be a much better place.

My conclusion is that if Carmel School is not to have a Jewish Principal, I can think of noone better than David Taylor.  However there is currently a strong dynamic that is missing from the schools leadership team, and that is the operational guidance of a Rabbi who can fulfil the schools mandate as a Modern Orthodox Jewish day school.   

I am interested in what Jewgle readers think about this.  When inviting comment, I would like to caution that we need to take a positive and reasonable approach to this discussion.  We are extremely fortunate to have Carmel School.  We have 600 children who learn each day, great facilities, and often do not stop to appreciate what we are acheiving with this.  To the merchants of doom and gloom, I am the first to say that the school is not perfect, and there is a lot that we do miss out on.  Often that is an issue that comes down to the choice of application for the limited resources.  That is why the school needs to cater for all its students, including the non-religious Jewish families that support a Jewish education for their children.  But it is also more than economics.  It is a positive attribute of the school that it meets the spectrum of the communities needs within the one facility, and this needs to be taken into account when considering what type of professional management and leadership the school requires.

I congratulate the board on its appointment, while also noting that the decision makes the appointment of its Rabbi an even more critical and urgent consideration.  The school needs Jewish leadership.  That does not necessarily mean a Jewish Principal, but it certainly means a campus Rabbi with autonomy over his authority to impact cultural change.  

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