by Lori Riegel
An education director of a large supplementary school, with enrollment numbers that have been increasing consistently each year, sits down for an annual budget presentation with the congregation’s finance committee. The meeting, which last three hours, involves picking apart pieces of the school’s program, from the textbook costs to the reason why payroll costs went up slightly after the state raised the minimum wage by ten cents per hour. The education director went into the meeting feeling optimistic and prepared, with a narrative prepared with research on trends in Jewish education and plans to include Jewish educator conferences in the upcoming budget. The director left the meeting feeling frustrated and unheard.
The scene is probably familiar to many education directors at supplementary schools across the country. The annual budgeting process seems to conflict directly with the mission of the school. Educators fight for every penny of their budgets, while the finance committee attempts to keep the organizational fiscally stable, let alone keep the doors open. The challenge is deeper than matching figures to forecasts on a spreadsheet. The supplementary school, as part of a congregation, has many stakeholders. Rarely do the stakeholders come together on their visions, with each shaving different ideas about the purpose of the religious school.