The new slogan at the Hebrew Academy Community School (HACS) in Margate, Florida is “We’re Number One.”
The Hebrew Academy, a Chabad Lubavitch school for boys and girls in grades early childhood through eighth, is the first Jewish school in the United States to receive a prestigious tri-accreditation status from SACS, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, COJE, Central Organization for Jewish Education and NCPSA, The National Council for Private School Accreditation.
The award culminated a rigorous six month accreditation process wherein representatives from the three organizations systematically and thoroughly scrutinized and probed every aspect of the school, which is in its eighteenth year of operation and has a student body of more than 350.
Rabbi Yossi Denburg, dean of the school and director of Lubavitch of Coral Springs, and Mrs.Rivkie Denburg, Judaics principal, are relieved that the six month process is over and that their school more than lived up to the goals which they had set.
The Hebrew Academy already had Florida accreditation, but this was a much more involved process. The school had to make strategic plans with three and four year projections. “This forced us into critical thinking about our long term goals and made us analyze the ways in which we are fulfilling them.”
A values curriculum which integrates the secular and Judaic disciplines was the cornerstone of their strategic plans. “Impacting the value system of our students has always been our mission statement” said Denburg “and while our teachers were already integrating on a large scale, we now had to ratchet it up, beyond the textbook.”
“This whole process, while very difficult, is incredibly rewarding in terms of giving the school introspection, direction and focus” said Denburg. “It’s something that everyone can use in their daily lives as well.”
In an interesting aside, The Hebrew Academy accreditation process was the catalyst for COJE, the Central Organization for Jewish Education and a project of Chabad Lubavitch’s educational arm, Merkos, to be certified as the first Jewish accreditation agency recognized by NCPSA.
Denburg noted that during the accreditation proceedings for their school, The National Council for Private School Accreditation was actually “watching COJE watch us.”
The NCPSA apparently liked what they saw and COJE , who had undergone a grueling application process that took several years, was granted accreditation.
The accreditation of COJE will have major ramifications for all Jewish private schools in the future. Because Jewish schools were previously judged by accreditation agencies that had little or no Jewish knowledge, the Judaic studies component of the schools was given only a small percentage on the overall base.
Jewish studies in a Jewish school, however, are neither tangential nor peripheral. “When COJE is part of the accreditation process, the 75% of hard work that goes into the Jewish curriculum will be fully understood and valued” said Denburg “and will propel the school’s rating that much higher.”
COJE director, Rabbi Nochem Kaplan, in his remarks to the Hebrew Academy, said that in observing the children, both in and out of the classroom, he saw something remarkable.
“Kids who are involved…happy, and…content…They are focused on the academics of course. That is expected…But the focus on some of the ethical and character training we saw, which was exhibited in the classrooms, on the playgrounds – their interaction with one another, it really is unique.