Academies @ GBDS, the Gerrard Berman Day School, originally the Solomon Schechter Day School of North Jersey, prides itself on its progressive curriculum in both Judaic and general studies, as well as its warmth and cohesiveness. Starting in September 2019, a new model of administration will be implemented, which will enable the school to provide an exciting educational opportunity for all.
In 2014, under the leadership of Robert Smolen, the Academies @ GBDS, named for benefactor Gerrard Berman, launched the concept of three academies, specialized areas of curriculum that enhance, enrich and integrate the areas of general and Judaic studies. The three academies are STEM, visual and performing arts and leadership. In addition, that year the school became the first Jewish Day School in New Jersey to integrate the The Leader in Me into the school culture and practices.
The new leadership model will have a team of three, each with expertise in their specific area related to the daily administration of the school. Lina Shuster, executive director; Sheila Barbach, general studies principal; and Sarit Ginzburg, Judaic studies principal, come from diverse backgrounds that serve to strengthen the school. Together they will work seamlessly to provide an exciting learning venue for the over 120 students in nursery through grade eight. They are in total agreement as to the mission and vision for the school.
Lina Shuster, a native of the Ukraine, was born into a family deeply rooted in the importance of preserving Judaism even within a highly anti-Semitic environment. Arriving in the U.S. in 1991, Shuster attended the Sinai Academy at Prospect Park Yeshiva, where she embraced her rich Jewish religion and culture. She went on to earn a BS in psychology and an MA in organizational development from Brooklyn College. With over 15 years working in school administration and human resources, Shuster has extensive experience in recruitment, employee relations and retention, culture definition and employee engagement. Prior to joining the Academies @ GBDS, she worked as the founding director of operations at a Hebrew public charter school in Brooklyn, New York, as well as at the Staten Island Hebrew Academy as director of staff and operations. Additionally, her expertise includes fundraising and event planning, managing social media, communications and promoting community engagement.
Shuster shared, “I have a passion for superior Jewish education and I believe that educating the whole child is the key to preparing children to become leaders in the Jewish and global community.”
General Studies Principal Sheila Barbach currently fills a teacher-leader role at GBDS. In addition to serving as a middle school science instructor, she is enriching the science curriculum from pre-k through middle school with robotics, 3D design and printing, coding and programming. Her child-centered teaching methods employ inquiry-based instruction. Barbach is trained in and an active member of the Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning Project (POGIL), a community of educators seeking to transform education throughout the country. Her projects include writing inquiry-based science activity programs for middle school students and developing strategies to encourage students to learn 21st century skills, such as teamwork, oral and written communication, problem solving and information processing. Barbach holds a BA in anthropology from Boston University and an EdM in education and teacher leadership from Brandeis University. Her teaching background includes 15 years of instruction on the elementary, high school and community college levels. Barbach’s focus is on “establishing a collaborative school culture and integrating the Judaic and general studies curricula and practices throughout the school.”
Rounding out the triumvirate is Sarit Ginzburg who will serve as the Judaic studies principal. With over 18 years of experience, she comes to the Academies as a highly qualified Judaics instructor of elementary and middle school students. Ginzburg completed a two year Legacy Heritage Teacher Leadership Fellowship which culminated in an EdM in education and teacher leadership from Brandeis University. In her current role as teacher-leader, Ginzburg teaches Hebrew language to grades 5-8, as well as coordinates all Judaic studies and Hebrew curriculum from nursery 2 through grade eight. As part of her role as coordinator of events related to Judaic studies, she maintains a partnership with elementary and middle schools in Israel and organizes and leads the eighth grade trip to Israel. Ginzburg champions “a school change initiative focusing on building a culture of collaboration among the teachers that emphasizes the integration of general and Judaic studies.”
On Monday evening, March 4, Academies @ GBDS held a lively Town Hall Meeting introducing the three school leaders to the parent body as well as to the community. Joining them was Elissa Kaplan, newly appointed president of the Board of Trustees. The proud mother of four children, all students at Academies @ GBDS, she is also the daughter of the second GBDS Board of Trustees president who served in 1986. Kaplan appreciates the organizational and leadership skills of the new team, the mission of which is “to lead their small school with a big heart and with a shared vision committed to seeding Jewish identity to students that will stay with them for life, and providing an inclusive and immersive environment for students and staff.”
Academies @ GBDS will be reaching out to the community in the coming weeks through two exciting programs. On Sunday, March 10, from 10 a.m. - 1 p.m., the school will host a pre-Purim Family Maker Day, featuring opportunities for 3D design and printing, scratch animation, stop-motion animation, paper collages and other creative media. This free event will take place at the school, located at 45 Spruce Street, Oakland, New Jersey, 07436.
On March 24, the community is invited to the school’s first-ever Spring Fling Tricky Tray event, featuring wine tasting, hors d’oeuvres and dessert. The event will be held at Temple Israel and JCC, 475 Grove Street, Ridgewood. Doors open at 5 p.m. and raffle drawings begin at 6:30 p.m.. For tickets go to ssnj.org/springfling.
Academies @ GBDS is a member of PRIZMAH, the Center for Jewish Days Schools.
To learn more about the academic programs as well as the many other projects of Academies @ GBDS visit www.ssnj.org.
By Pearl Markovitz