HomeJanuary 2011What Makes Schools Great?

What Makes Schools Great?

While the nation works to “leave no child behind” in public schools, local parents and educators must be equally concerned about our best-performing schools. Are we world-class? Will we produce students who can compete well in a global economy and be worthy citizens of the new millennium?

I believe one of the most important aspects of making a school great is to focus on the mission of the school. Since I have experienced both public and private education, both as an administrator and as a student myself, I have clearly realized the power of being able to develop a mission and truly focus all efforts toward the achievement of that charge. All stakeholders and prospective school community members must truly devour the tenets of that mission.

Internal educators and families should know the mission well enough that they are able to explain it to anyone else in one minute or less. Students’ actions should be walking statements of a school’s mission. Everyone who comes into contact with someone from a highly successful school, should say to himself or herself (and others, for that matter,) “I want my child to graduate and be as wonderful as the graduates from The Hebrew Academy.”

So, how does this lofty goal become a reality? The simplicity of my answer is complex. CAR it! Communicate, act and reinforce.

Communicate – Share the good news of the mission in every forum possible. Use the tenets of the mission to make instructional and fiscal decisions. Use the calling of the mission to discipline children, to develop rules and to celebrate success.

Act – In every action that takes place, a consideration of the mission is evident. When children are learning new material, they can easily trace their learning back to the mission of the school. When young adults begin making life and career choices, they are dependent upon the mission of the school to focus their efforts. When parents seek help in educating their family, they trust that the mission is being well supported in the school’s actions and work. When tough choices have to be made, the mission is the guiding light – and those choices are acted upon rather than swept under any rug.

Reinforce – Whenever school administrators, parents, teachers or students are gathered together, their sense of community is reinforced by a review of the mission. All people are assured that they can depend on the integrity of the actions of the school – the mission is reinforced by the actions and decisions of the school. If a request does not reinforce the school’s mission, then it is not undertaken. Efforts are focused on the mission, thereby efficiently and effectively using our limited resources. Great schools do not try to be everything to everybody. They use their mission to remain true to the community. As a result, their community grows in strength and numbers.

So, who is The Hebrew Academy? Our mission focuses on four main tenets; we seek to develop our students:






Three out of four of these aspects are in the affective realm. Therefore, when we look at our program, we seek to establish a strong, healthy curriculum that is delivered by caring and expert teachers. We honor instructors who look beyond the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic. We seek to graduate good scholars who are great people. We want to send citizens off into the world who have the scholarly discipline to be able to communicate within a global society in order to make a positive difference in others’, as well as their own, lives.

What does all this esoteric stuff mean in real life at The Hebrew Academy? It means that when a student makes a mistake, he/she reflects on the core value (Middos Toddos) that he/she negatively affected. It means that teachers know and love each and every student for his or her strengths and weaknesses. It means that parents and teachers are transparent with each other – willing to admit mistakes and move on to best support the students’ positive development.

Most of all, at The Hebrew Academy, we have a high calling. We have set forth a mission that is lofty. We must continue to CAR (communicate, take action and reinforce) our mission through our words and deeds. As we CAR more and more, we will be able to state with confidence and conviction that we ARE world-class, that we DO produce students who compete well in a global economy and ARE worthy citizens of the new millennium?


Dr. Megan Carlson always enjoyed working with children and feels blessed that so many wonderful teachers helped her when she was a child.  Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, she moved to Palo Alto in 1973.

Carlson taught special education in Nebraska, where she earned her teaching credential. She then taught regular education in Carson and Palos Verdes. At 24 she became the youngest principal in Los Angeles County, administrating at Point Vicente Elementary School. She then moved to Redondo Beach Unified School District, where she was the principal at Adams Middle School and a district administrator in charge of pupil personnel, staff development and technology. After her daughters were accepted to Chadwick School in Palos Verdes, Dr. Carlson became the Head of the Village School there.

After a year and a half stint in the corporate world, Dr. Carlson was asked to be the interim principal at The Hebrew Academy, where she is happy to work with the adults and students to develop capable and happy Hebrew Academy scholars. She resides in Huntington Beach.

For more information on The Hebrew Academy, please contact the admissions director, Alex Greenberg, at (714) 898-0051.


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