Brandeis Marin Head of School Dan Glass
Brandeis S.F. Head of School Dan Glass

Brandeis 5-year plan focuses on academics and teachers

Fostering more continuity between classes and between grades. Focusing on ethics and spirituality. Helping teachers pay off their own student loans.

These are among the pillars of a recently unveiled strategic plan at the Brandeis School of San Francisco, the framework for a five-year process of reimagining how best to serve students and retain the best teachers, many of whom struggle with the Bay Area’s high cost of living.

The Brandeis 2023 strategic plan includes a goal of increasing fundraising at the 55-year-old K–8 Jewish day school, which had 358 students at the start of this academic year.

Dan Glass, now in his fourth year as Brandeis’ head of school, said that the plan envisions a redesign of the academic program and schedule to allow students to explore what he calls “longer curricular arcs.”

That means “trying to create longer spaces of time so kids can go into a single set of questions or subject matters.”

“When we talk about longer curricular arcs, we mean, how do you have a sustained conversation … over several years,” he said. “It’s how you flow from one subject to the next, and thinking about the nine-year experience of being at Brandeis and how stuff from grade to grade aligns.”

Glass said there will also be a focus on “how these things have bearing on Jewish identity.” Ethics and spirituality, already included in the learning process, will be further emphasized.

The school is one of 14 nationwide participants in a project run by the New York–based Collaborative for Spirituality in Education, which develops curricula for teaching spirituality to school-age children.

“We’ve done mindfulness training for all of our teachers,” Glass told J. “We’ve done a lot around what spirituality looks like for young people and how you nurture it and what Judaism looks like in the Bay Area.”

One of the biggest challenges facing schools and other institutions is retaining young professionals who struggle to afford Bay Area housing prices. Brandeis is in its second year of a pilot program run by the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation in which teachers get monthly financial aid to pay off student loans.

The Brandeis 2023 plan also looks at possible changes to the campus, including a more permanent facility for the JCC preschool housed there. The school and the JCC are partnering on a new summer camp for elementary students this July that will use Brandeis facilities and some of the school’s teachers.

Glass said that one of the keys to making all the changes over the next five years is fundraising, which he said has always been a struggle for Jewish day schools in San Francisco.

He theorized that because the Bay Area Jewish community is so heavily assimilated, the area’s biggest Jewish philanthropists didn’t see day schools as crucial.

“They saw Jewish day schools as kind of an isolationist project, and it never really captured their hearts and minds,” Glass explained. “That’s something we’re hoping to change. We raise less money than I think we should, and we’re hoping to make some big strides over the course of the next few years.”

Rob Gloster

Rob Gloster was J.'s senior writer from 2016-2019.