In the following guest post, Justin Sakofs writes about his Leadership Line experience. If you’d like to tell your LL story, send us a note.
As an aspiring educational leader—I’m currently teaching for my sixth year full time—you have to learn the subtleties of the employment process very quickly. Hiring for Jewish educational leadership is complex game. Job postings go out according to seniority, and when you seek to move ranks, you keep an eye on who is changing positions and which opportunities open up as a result. I wanted to move from the classroom to administration. The question was: How?
Back in December, I reached out to PEJE’s Leadership Line. I felt alone, and needed some navigational help; PEJE seemed the logical place to look. School break was just finishing up and, when not attending to the demands of my job, I searched avidly for a new gig. Not an easy task. In fact, it felt like I was trying to cross the Atlantic in a rowboat. So, using the Leadership Line form, I threw out a virtual message in a bottle—and what followed was an experience I could not have imagined.
The expected automated response came through and, in the next 24 hours, I received an email from Shulamith Elster offering to help me with my situation. Our relationship began, as many do, by just getting to know one another. As my initial email was vague, we needed to talk more about what I was brought to the table. We spoke about my experience and my aspirations. Shulamith understood my dilemma, and explained the courtship that I would enter as I sought a headship. Our discussion encouraged me to look at opportunities two ways. First, we surveyed the scene to see which opportunities presently existed in the Jewish day school market. Second, we looked at recently completed searches to learn what contemporary schools look for in a candidate. From this, I gained insight as to how to read a job description. Even better: I gained a confidant, who helped me continue to recognize my skill and confidence to be successful in the next step.
Shulamith told me that I should seek out mentorship from other educational leaders. So I emailed a likely individual, my former supervisor, who asked about my professional aspirations and helped me develop a plan to get there. He helped me refocus to “think like a Head” for the interview process.
I also contacted a Head of School with whom I once interviewed for a principalship. We met up at the North American Jewish Day School Conference and had a great conversation. He gave me a little more hizuk and I regained the confidence to continue.
I applied for a local position of leadership. The process was a good experience; but it didn’t pan out, and that was okay. I continued to plug away looking at other opportunities. I tried for a variety of positions, knowing that eventually I’d find one that would fit me—and provide a community where my wife and son would also find their places.
After four months of actively searching, I’m proud to say that we found and accepted the next step. Come this summer, we will be moving to Chicago where I will be assuming the role of Director of She’arim K-4 at Sager Schechter of Metropolitan Chicago.
Thanks to Shulamith, and the Leadership Line, for giving me the inspiration, and information, necessary to make the move.