Four L.A. schools win PEJE Challenge Grant Awards

Four Los Angeles-area day schools were selected last month as winners of the 2011 Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education (PEJE) Challenge Grant Award, making Los Angeles the city with the most winners.

The four L.A.-area schools included both the YULA Boys and Girls high schools, which submitted a joint application focused on building enrollment, and Valley Beth Shalom Day School in Encino and Weizmann Day School in Pasadena, both of which boosted their general fundraising efforts. 

Of the 127 day schools that submitted applications for the $25,000 cash award, 27 received the award for their creative initiatives to make themselves more sustainable, whether through building enrollment, increasing endowment or boosting general fundraising.

Applications were scored based on a weighted formula and ranked by PEJE professionals and a team of outside readers that included PEJE board members and experts in the field of Jewish day school education.

“The challenge for applicants was to think innovatively, to defy their status quo and to initiate bold changes within their school with the intention of stimulating growth in one of their key revenue streams,” PEJE Executive Director Amy Katz said.

All four schools have been working steadily with PEJE and the BJE, formerly the Bureau of Jewish Education, to enhance sustainability, according to Miriam Prum Hess, director of the Centers for Excellence in Day School Education and Educational Engagement at BJE.

Through increasing differentiated instruction options and boosting community outreach, the two YULA schools were able to attain dramatically increased enrollment over the past three years: 10.6 percent for the boys school and 19.7 percent for the girls school.

For Valley Beth Shalom, the challenge was “reaching out to stakeholders and donors and exciting them about the opportunity to give with real purpose and passion,” Prum Hess said. 

And at Weizmann, which doesn’t have a formal development department, the focus was on creating a strategic development plan and helping board members to make the case for giving, she said.

The $25,000 cash awards are unrestricted, meaning schools can use them as they see fit.

“It’s really an award to help them and to acknowledge schools that created innovative work,” Prum-Hess said.