Elements of the DSLTI Program

DSLTI envisions Jewish educational leaders who express their Jewish identities in broad and varied ways. Graduates’ Jewish lives and their leadership reflect diverse expressions of Jewish learning and living. DSLTI aspires for its graduates, as the champions and “chief models” of the mission and vision of their schools, to lead Jewish lives of meaning, responsibility and active engagement with Judaism. DSLTI aims to create opportunities for participants to engage in personal and communal learning and reflection about Judaism and their personal Jewish identities.

In an effort to make a process of reflecting on personal Jewish identity more explicit and to develop a shared language for talking and learning about “Jewishly purposeful” leadership, below are five “pillars” of Judaism. DSLTI aspires for Jewish educational leaders to be reflective, intentional and growth-oriented about how these pillars play out in their lives.

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Underlying Assumptions

Elements for Individual Leadership Development

Elements that Develop the Cohort as a Collegial Learning Community


Underlying Assumptions

Judaism, Education and Leadership

DSLTI upholds a vision of excellent Jewish day schools headed by inspiring and capable Jewish educational leaders. Although no single school head will be able to master the entire worlds of Judaism, education, and leadership, all successful ones will be perpetually engaged in learning from these three sources and in bringing their growing knowledge to life in their schools. Every aspect of DSLTI programming focuses directly on some aspect of J, E, L and integrates these themes and perspectives.

Reflective Practice

“Reflective practice involves thinking about and learning from your own practice and from the practices of others so as to gain new perspectives on the dilemmas and contradictions inherent in your educational situation, improves judgment, and increases the probability of taking informed action when situations are complex, unique and uncertain. With ongoing reflection, your practice can develop into a systematic inquiry that begins alone with reflection on your own teaching and learning experiences but becomes collective when informed by your interactions with colleagues, students, and theoretical literature.” -Center for Support of Teaching and Learning of Stanford University DSLTI reflective practice consists of regular writing and discussion. Fellows consider DSLTI experiences, learning, readings, and applications in their school setting. They have opportunities to share these reflections with mentors and other fellows.

The Individual and the Cohort

The program admits fifteen aspiring leaders with the goal of preparing a cadre of Jewish day school heads who will use their training individually to inspire their schools and collectively to elevate the entire field. Their two consecutive three week summer sessions and the retreats in between combine intellectual, interpersonal, emotional, and religious experiences designed to stimulate their individual growth and their development as a cohort.


Elements for Individual Leadership Development

Drawing on cutting edge practice in leadership development, fellows collect data about their own performance to assess their strengths and weakness, and with the support of their mentor develop a course of action to increase their skills and capabilities.


I. Pre-Program Interview

Fellows conduct an interview with their school supervisors to get their assessment of current leadership strengths and weaknesses and their recommendations for skill development.

II. Benchmarks 360° Assessment

DSLTI requires each fellow to complete the Benchmarks360° assessment designed by the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL). This assessment tool measures the skills learned through development that are critical for success, as well as possible career derailers. The 36-page feedback report compares the individual’s self-descriptions with the ratings of the boss, peers, and direct reports. Fellows process the findings with an outside consultant and with their mentors. This feedback is used to create their developmental action plans for leadership growth which become a central focus of the mentoring.

III. Vision of a Successful DSLTI Graduate

DSLTI articulates its vision of a successful graduate in six areas of competency and ties every element of the program to building skill and knowledge in these areas. Participants work with their mentors to assess their current capabilities in each area and to set personal goals for moving to higher levels of mastery. By graduation, DSLTI fellows are expected to achieve mastery of these competencies.


DSLTI employs five outstanding day school heads with complementary professional and personal strengths as core faculty and mentors for each cohort of participants. A veteran DSLTI instructor serves as senior mentor and functions as a key member of the DSLTI leadership team. Each fellow is matched with a personal mentor who provides new perspectives and helps the mentee gain new insights through regular private meetings. Mentors look at assessment data with their fellows to identify developmental needs; they help them create action plans for growth; and they provide support and encourage reflection along the way. The diversity of the mentor group provides multiple leadership role models for fellows and convincing evidence that there is no one right way to lead. Most DSLTI alumni maintain active relationships with mentors long after graduation.


Fellows will gather data assessing their leadership performance from the Pre-Program Interview, the 360° Benchmarks ® assessment and the competencies described in the Vision of a Successful DSLTI Graduate. Fellows will reflect on these findings, select areas of challenge with their mentors, and then create leadership development plans to be implemented in their schools.


Each fellow keeps a journal of ongoing reflections which are shared regularly with mentors and periodically with other fellows. The Reflective Leadership Journal provides a place for fellows to write to themselves about:

• the varied individual and group experiences of DSLTI,

• their new insights and perspectives on life in their schools

• the ups and downs of their developmental action plans

• their reading

• the challenges of translating theory into practice and vision into reality.


During the school year between the two summer sessions, fellows are expected to visit the schools of their mentors. During this visit, they will have the opportunity to observe academic and operational practices in a well-functioning school, to shadow the head, to meet with the leadership team, and to attend a board meeting. Alumni describe this visit as a highlight of DSLTI and a stimulating source of new thinking.


Elements that Develop the Cohort as a Collegial Learning Community


DSLTI creates a vibrant learning community that equips participants with content knowledge, practical skills, and a new lens through which to reflect on leadership issues. Summer and retreat sessions are academically rigorous, but they don’t stop with theory and research. They engage participants to apply theory to practice through case studies, simulations, role plays, and planning exercises. Fellows probe real school dilemmas to generate multiple solutions, weighing each one’s benefits and liabilities. Working as individuals, in pairs, and in other assigned groups, they learn to take responsibility for their own thinking and for contributing to a group collaborating to achieve outstanding results. Woven into and among session topics is a thread developing communication skills like listening and speaking, giving and receiving feedback, building relationships, and taking the role of a community leader. Participants also practice specific school management skills including managing staff performance, financial and budget analysis and planning, fund raising, student recruitment, and parent relations. Sessions are team-taught by DSLTI Mentors, JTS faculty, and outside experts.

The Jewish Lens

DSLTI stays focused on developing leaders who put Jewish learning, religion, and peoplehood at the forefront of their practice. Activities like Beit Midrash, Spiritual Check-in, Reflective Practice, and personal study provide rich Judaic sources, texts, and communal experiences. Jewish text study (usually in hevruta) introduces each week’s major educational leadership theme, punctuates the learning midweek, and closes the week with sessions on reflective practice. As part of their preparation to lead Jewishly in a school, each Fellow will be asked to facilitate a

Jewish group experience at DSLTI. These might include preparing a D’var Torah or leading a service during a retreat, facilitating a Spiritual Check-in, or guiding a text discussion. The specific experience a Fellow will lead should be discussed with her/his Mentor.


Getting deeper into the professional literature of Jewish study, education, and leadership is a key part of DSLTI. Fellows and mentors continuously share readings from the professional and popular press, from research journals and books, and from the traditional texts of Judaism. Required reading for the summer and retreats frames topics and provides a common language on which sessions can build.


The following subjects are addressed during the two four-week summer sessions and at three day retreats.

Orientation Retreat – Introducing the DSLTI Program and People First

Summer Curriculum – Frameworks of Leadership

• Leadership, Vision, and School Culture

• The Head as Educational Leader

• The Head as Systems Architect

Fall Retreat – School Governance and Board Relations

Spring Retreat – Research and Data in Decision- Making and Admissions, Recruitment and Retention

Second Summer Curriculum – From Theory to Practice

• Strategy and Finance

• Development, Marketing and Communication

• Human Resources and Leading Change