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Second-Tier Leadership

This report was originally produced as part of a larger report of findings entitled Spreading and Sustaining Innovation: Accomplishments and Lessons Learned. Background information about the Coalition of Innovating Congregations, the partner organizations, and the initiatives for congregations are found in the full report. The full report and executive summary are available online and for download at www.innovatingcongregations.org/all.
Download this article as a pdf or view the full report


Establishment of Second-Tier Leadership Across Networked Congregations

Before the Coalition began its work, the director of education was responsible for all of the congregation’s educational innovation—as well as numerous other responsibilities. Now congregations have second tier leadership. Professional Learning Teams (PLTs) lead by example and create professional learning within their congregations. In addition, 14 congregations have worked with Coalition Educators—engines of innovation—who move great ideas from one congregation to another.
And congregations also have Educational Leadership Teams where lay people and professionals collaborate in the work of innovation—visioning, creating models and monitoring their success.

As congregations began their educational innovation through LOMED, observations and interviews with directors of education as well as network mapping revealed that the director is typically responsible for all administrative tasks, teacher education, staff supervision, and curriculum development in the congregation. In addition, their jobs include informal elements like building strong relations with families and supporting the work of the clergy. This often creates a bottleneck, where the pace and degree of change is limited by the amount of time, focus and skills of the director of education. Directors reported that, although they wanted to focus on innovation in their educational models, they simply did not have the time during the year to do so because of all of the demands placed on them. Educators also reported difficulty being creative when working alone.  Teachers served as instructors within their own classrooms and rarely served as leaders within the religious school. These patterns provided the impetus to create two forms of second-tier leadership in LOMED congregations: the Professional Learning Team and Coalition Educators.

Professional Learning Teams (PLTs)

Drawing on research from the fields of organizational and educational change, LOMED recognized the importance of distributed leadership and required participating congregations to establish Professional Learning Teams (PLTs). The teams consisted of three to five people, including the director of education, a lead teacher, and two to four teachers committed to innovation. While the role of these teams evolved over time, the teams worked collaboratively to define learner outcomes, to design and facilitate exemplary learning based on design principles and whole person learning, and to design and facilitate professional learning for other teachers in the congregation.  PLT members attended Coalition-wide, regional learning sessions and webinars, experimented with new approaches with their own learners, and applied the learning from reflection on their own practice to support growth and improvement among other teachers. PLTs have changed the staffing structure for congregational education, making it possible for teachers to develop new skills and commitments, contribute more to their congregations, and spread ideas and effective practices to their colleagues.

The size of Professional Learning Teams in LOMED congregations, on average, increased over a three-year tracking period. Congregations began with PLTs averaging just over four (4) members per team in fall 2010 and had increased to an average team size of seven and a half (7.55) two years later. The average number of meetings stayed about the same. In LOMED Chadash congregations, the average number of PLT members increased somewhat in one year* (3.45 in 2011 to 5.1 in 2012) while the average number of meetings decreased (9.73 to 5.64).

*LOMED Chadash congregations did not form Professional Learning Teams in their first year (2010-2011).

See page 53 in the Lessons Learned section of the full report for more information on successes and challenges with PLTs and professional learning for teachers.

Coalition Educators (CEs)[1]

To address the challenges of overload, and to build a more robust staffing configuration to access resources, connect congregations with one another, and to spread their successes, CSI created a new and unique model of second-tier educational leadership for congregational learning—Coalition Educators. Coalition Educators would become a key to spark, spread, and sustain innovation in congregations.

A Coalition Educator (CE) is a shared resource, working for 10 hours a week in each of three different synagogues simultaneously.  The Jewish Education Project recruited, trained, supervised, and provided ongoing support for three talented educators. The title Coalition Educators indicates that these educators work for the Coalition of Innovating Congregations, and are movers of innovation throughout the communal network.   By working in more than one congregation, they became a source for increasing communication, coordination, and ultimately collaboration among congregations.

The CE played several roles in each congregation, including thought partner and implementer of the innovative vision developed in partnership with the Education Director and the ELT.  She (so far all of the CEs have been women) was a vehicle for the flow of educational resources into the congregations, as well as a source of teacher education and curriculum development within those congregations. The CE spent the balance of her time pursuing professional learning so that she could continue to grow as an educator.[2]

Accomplishments of the Coalition Educators:

  1. Change from the Center:  CEs spend a great deal of time working with the education directors at their congregations but, because their job description included planning professional learning for the faculty, serving as a faculty resource, and, often, teaching in the whole person learning model, they have also developed strong relationships with teachers and learners in their congregations.  Often, CEs meet with and mentor teachers as the teachers work toward a particular goal for their own professional development.  When a CE serves as a teacher in a whole person learning model, her learning experiences often serve as laboratory for other teachers, allowing them to witness powerful learning first hand.  And CEs enjoy real connections with their learners, which, in many cases, include both children and adults.  Their first-hand knowledge of what matters to families enables them to design learning that is relevant and meaningful, and to take into account the needs and desires of those learners when working with the Education Director on the direction of innovation.  Their ongoing contact with directors, teachers, and learners enables CEs to effect change from the center.
  2. CEs serve to develop teachers’ sense that they are important voices in developing whole person learning models.  Mentors:  A key component of the CE program is mentoring.  Each CE spends an hour a week with a mentor who is outside of their congregational system.  Speaking with the mentors gives the CEs an opportunity to reflect on their work, to problem solve, to refine their curriculum, to develop interpersonal and time management skills, to navigate the sometimes conflicting needs of three congregations, and to sharpen the developing vision of innovation in their congregations.  CEs report that the time they spend with their mentors is among the most valuable of their commitments.
  3. CE Professional Learning:  Investing ten hours of professional learning a week means that CEs spend a full quarter of their work time developing skills, building networks with other innovators, and being exposed to new ideas.  Their professional growth directly benefits the congregations they serve, allowing them to bring bits and pieces from a Rosh Hodesh training or a new idea heard at a Jewish Futures conference to the development of a whole person learning model in their congregations.
  4. 2nd Tier Leadership:  Teachers are an essential component in educational innovation; for it to succeed teachers need to see themselves as innovation leaders. CEs serve to develop teachers’ sense that they are important voices in developing whole person learning models.  CEs also help education directors view their faculty as team members who can assist them in this work.  CEs design professional learning for the entire faculty, and also work directly with the Professional Learning Teams (PLTs) to nurture their skills and to create a group of teachers who function as 2nd tier leaders within the congregation.  These leaders help keep the cycle of innovation moving forward so that the education director does not stand alone.
  5. Networking:  Because CEs have served nine congregations at a time, ideas from these congregations easily migrate from one to another.  A CE might implement a multi-grade learning program in one congregation, and then reframe it for application in another.  In addition to sharing ideas among the nine CE congregations, CEs are exposed to new ideas from the entire coalition and beyond.  They often bring their knowledge of the network to a particular congregation.
  6. Shared Resources:  CEs work part-time in three congregations.  The sharing of resources has brought many benefits, including a strong network as described above.  An important additional factor is the sharing of the financial burden of hiring a highly skilled educator.  In addition to the three congregations, The Jewish Education Project is an important partner coordinating hiring, mentorship, and professional learning for the CEs, paying a portion of their salaries and providing fringe benefits.  Experience revealed that, in this particular model, three partner congregations were too many and both the CEs and the congregations felt it was difficult to fulfill the high level of commitment to each congregation. Time was one issue. Geography was another. More difficult, however, was navigating the diversity of cultures and expectations of multiple systems. As a result, The Jewish Education Project determined that, moving forward, CEs will work in two congregations. An ongoing challenge for congregations working with Coalition Educators is how to fund the position.

Collaborative Leadership: Educational Leadership Teams (ELTs)

To strengthen the educational system and champion innovation in congregations, LOMED required congregations to establish Educational Leadership Teams (ELTs) consisting of a member of the clergy, the Director of Education, a lay leader, and a lead teacher. Members of these teams have partnered to focus on educational innovation—clarifying educational vision, introducing and expanding new models of Jewish education, learning and making decisions based on experience and data, and setting learning priorities for the congregation. Some congregations came into the coalition with little or no experience with lay involvement in planning for innovation and change. To support their work at “home,” and to build networks beyond the individual congregation, ELTs also participated in Coalition-wide gatherings once or twice a year.

LOMED Congregations increased the average number of ELT members over a three-year period. In fall 2010, congregations had an average of just over five (5) members on their ELTs. Two years later, there were nearly eight and a half members (8.45) on average. The average number of ELT meetings also increased slightly in LOMED congregations (5.68 in 2010 to 7.89 in 2012). LOMED Chadash congregations did not show much change in average ELT size, with the same average number of members in 2010 as 2012 and a small dip in 2011. The average number of meetings also stayed about the same, close to an average of seven (7) meetings per congregation.

For further information on congregations’ experience with ELTs, see page 52 in the Lessons Learned section of this report.

This report represents nearly five years of data collection, analysis, and reflection. We wish to thank our consultants Cindy Reich (the Experiment in Congregational Education) and Anna Marx (The Jewish Education Project) for their work in compiling this report as well as collecting and analyzing much of the data presented in the report. We also gratefully acknowledge Cyd Weissman, Director of Innovation in Congregational Learning at The Jewish Education Project, for her leadership, The Experiment in Congregational Education and its director, Dr. Rob Weinberg for taking the lead in coordinating the evaluation efforts for the Collaboration to Sustain Innovation, and Dr. Bill Robinson, Chief Strategy Officer of The Jewish Education Project for his guidance and insight.

[1] The Coalition Educator section is based on a report by Dena Klein and Suri Jacknis, drawing on semi-structured interviews with Directors of Education and Coalition Educators conducted by Dena Klein, Suri Jacknis, Shaina Wasserman, and Anna Marx during 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13. The social network analysis was done Estee Solomon Gray, Patty Anklam, and Bill Robinson, based on data from a survey conducted in 2009.

[2] In 2010-11, the first three Coalition Educators served nine congregations. The following year they served in (Over 3 years, 14 congregations have been served by a CE and 5 different educators have served as CEs). In 2013-14 2 Coalition Educators will serve in 4 congregations total.

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