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Striving for excellence

HALB aims for accreditation by independent schools association

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The Hebrew Academy of Long Beach, which encompasses the Lev Chana Early Childhood Center in Hewlett Bay Park, the elementary school in Woodmere, and its two high schools — David Renov Stahler Yeshiva for Boys, also in Woodmere, and Stella K. Abraham for Girls, also in Hewlett Bay Park — is working toward full accreditation by the New York State Association of Independent Schools.

There are 21 such accredited schools on Long Island, including Lawrence Woodmere Academy in Woodmere and two Jewish schools: the North Shore Hebrew Academy High School in Great Neck and the Schechter School of Long Island in Jericho.

To earn accreditation, a school undergoes a year-long self-study of its governing board, curriculum, finances, classroom teaching and learning, and overall school operations. Then a committee of experts, chaired by a head of school, visits the school and reviews how those practices match its stated mission.

“We’re always striving to improve, and want to be affiliated with excellence,” HALB Executive Director Richard Hagler said. “We’re looking at being recognized as one of the better private schools, and belonging to the New York State Association of Independent Schools is a process of self-improvement.”

Granted provisional membership in the association, HALB has begun the self-examination process. A school has a five-year window to earn the accreditation. The visiting committee reports to the NYSAIS Commission for Accreditation, which then meets to recommend the term and conditions of accreditation to the organization’s board of directors, which makes the final decision.

“The process is a very thorough comprehensive review,” said George Swain, the association’s director of evaluation and professional learning. “We feel very strongly that while schools can be independent, the real value is understanding how board and leadership decisions are made, the types of programming the schools have, their standards of excellence and best practices.”

HALB schools have attained Middle States accreditation, another form of school evaluation that reviews public and private elementary, secondary and colleges in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

“Certainly to be recognized by the NYSAIS as a premier educational institution in the state of New York, it is really important for us to do this difficult introspection ourselves and become the best school we can and be true to our mission,” Hagler said.

As stated on its website, HALB is “dedicated to creating a warm and nurturing environment, to developing academic excellence in Judaic and General studies, and to helping each student achieve his or her unique potential. HALB strives to cultivate in our students a passion for Judaism.”

Lawrence Woodmere Academy has been an accredited NYSAIS member for over 20 years, and underwent a five-year review in 2019, an association requirement for reaccreditation. LWA experienced some upheaval last year, including having its headmaster step down, shifting administrators and teachers into different positions and bringing on new board members.

Board President Vincent Gerbino said that membership in what he called “the premier accreditation organization” in the state has been beneficial. “For a small private school such as LWA, having NYSAIS support ensures that we can deal with most concerns with a vetted and well-researched game plan,” he said, adding that he regularly seeks advice from the association and attends its seminars. “Our NYSAIS ac-creditation means validity and support for what we do each day, and that is to shape and educate our children.” Calling HALB LWA’s neighbor, he wholeheartedly welcomed the school to the association.

The North Shore Hebrew Academy High School, which opened in 2001, earned NYSAIS accreditation roughly 15 years ago, Headmaster Dr. Daniel Vitow said. He compared the reaccreditation process to an IRS audit, but said that attaining and maintaining the accreditation is worthwhile.

“You want other people to look at you and hopefully give you constructive input,” Vitow said. “It’s given us the ability to expand our offerings in very positive way. It forces us to analyze, probe and think in a more sophisticated way on every level.”