Pursuing Excellence Through Your Early Childhood Center
In the realm of early childhood education, congregations are not only competing with other Jewish institutions but with a wide array of programs that are
responsive and are meeting the needs of families. The increased costs of running schools and the impact of government-funded universal pre-kindergarten are
among many factors that are changing the landscape of early childhood education.
Many of today's parents of young children are finding that their needs are not being met in our congregational early childhood centers (previously referred
to as preschool) so they are going elsewhere. In order to compete, Reform congregations must take a comprehensive approach to early childhood education and
develop a unique identity in today's ever changing marketplace. The early childhood director, synagogue professionals and/or lay leaders must work together
as partners. Through the community of practice model, the URJ supports early childhood leadership teams as they navigate the change process.
Congregations currently have a well-established early childhood center (preschool) with a full-time director.
Early childhood professionals who have experience with and are open to the process of organizational change.
Congregations that have identified a team that will participate in the community of practice - an early childhood director and a synagogue board
Congregations that have secured commitments (time, financial resources) from: president, board of trustees, and professional staff.
Participants look deeply at the realities facing their own congregations and learn about the challenges facing other members of the community of practice.
Leadership teams work with partners from other URJ congregations guiding and supporting each other as they study and learn together. Members of this
community of practice engage in critical thinking and deep reflection to begin working towards the pursuit of excellence. By bringing in field experts, the
URJ provides a platform for professionals and lay leaders to examine and implement new ideas and share their findings, while forging new connections and
learning from one another. The specific goal of this community of practice is to ensure that congregations make the early childhood center a gateway to
deep, lifelong engagement for children and families alike.
Through an 18-month cycle, participating congregations: research and reflect on the realities of their congregation, study best principles of the field
together, build a network of peer support and guidance, draft and implement transformative steps toward innovation, and share measurable results with the
cohort and greater Movement.
Improve the base of support for early childhood while integrating the ECC into the greater congregational community
Innovative membership strategies to engage EC families into the congregation
Need to meet today's families "where they are" regarding offering longer hours and more flexible scheduling
Increased demand for fulltime infant care
Changes in Early Childhood Governance Structure to include "early engagement"
Expanding role of Early Childhood Director
Moving away from programmatic evaluation to more comprehensive assessment of the Early Childhood Center