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Rory Paul



The lack of desire for individuals to go into Jewish education administration is a crisis; Other schools looking to implement sliding fee scale system

by Rhonda J. Prepes, P. Eng., December 15, 2010

Rory Paul, Head of the Gray Academy and CEO of the Winnipeg Board of Jewish Education attended the 2010 PEJE Assembly for Advancing the Jewish Day School Field that was held in Baltimore in October. It is the premiere leadership conference of the Jewish day school field in North America.

"Attending gave me the opportunity to go to various sessions and bring back information and ideas to Gray Academy in addressing institutional sustainability in terms of affordability, leadership, academics, retention, marketing and the relationship of Jewish day schools to the community," said Paul.

PEJE is an American organization of all Jewish day schools (community based, synagogue based, orthodox, secular and everything in between). The function of PEJE is to provide ongoing research, development, education, leadership/administrative/curriculum training for people who work in the Jewish day school field. For more information, visit

There were over 1,000 attendees representing 250 schools and 40 Jewish Federations, foundations, and central agencies for Jewish education from across North America and internationally.

The Winnipeg Jewish Review asked Mr. Paul what message he brings back from the PEJE Assembly. Paul answered, “The primary message I got from this conference was the notion of celebrating Jewish day school education. How privileged we are to be involved in Jewish education. It is a high calling. It is a wonderful opportunity for the children and for the community. It is the essence of the Jewish people.”

"Jews today are living a life unlike any we have ever known, in terms of acceptance and religious freedoms. On the surface this seems like a good thing, but it also may be the beginning of the demise of the Jewish people. It leads to intermarriage, declining synagogue membership, declining Jewish school enrollment, etc. because it is adversity and conflict that unifies, unites and strengthens Jews.

Paul continues, “It was demonstrated at the Assembly that formal and informal Jewish education are the top two things that are going to keep a Jewish community together. Formal education is day schools. Informal education is after school programs, summer camps, and resident camps. This is the primary message that I got from the Assembly.”

Paul said he attended sessions that discussed “How do we make Jewish day school education more affordable for the middle class?”

“The Gray Academy has a unique sliding fee scale system with subsidies funded by the Jewish Federation. In the last two or three years, five or six communities have contacted us to look at implementing this system for their schools,” he says proudly.

He also attended sessions on “Sustaining leadership in the Jewish day school system”.

“The lack of desire for individuals to go into Jewish education administration is a crisis. There are many reasons for this: job satisfaction, you are removed from the students, dealing with parental and board issues, it is more than a  nine to five job, and remuneration is little behind,” explains Paul.

The Assembly looked at structuring leadership differently and various methods to encourage people to pursue careers in Jewish education administration. There was lots of discussion and ideas thrown about, but no definitive solutions.

Paul notes that it is hard to appease all the different facets of Judaism at just one Jewish day school in Winnipeg. There are Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Traditional, Chassidic, Reconstructionist, Humanistic, and secular Jews. They all have different belief systems.

“Winnipeg is an amazing place. It is an accomplishment that a community of 15,000 Jewish people has a Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12 day school. The school currently has an enrolment of 610 students. That is 33% of the available children in Winnipeg. After school Jewish programs and the Hebrew-English bilingual schools capture another 15% of the available children in Winnipeg. So, about half of the Jewish children in Winnipeg are involved in some sort of Jewish education.”

“The Gray Academy succeeds in offering a wide range of programs that try to appease the different facets with varying religious views. We have done a good job. We are never going to make 100% of the people happy, but, we work really hard at trying to do that.”

The Gray Academy is also a member of RAVSAK (from the Hebrew Reshet Batei Sefer K'hilati'im which means Network of Jewish Community Day Schools) an American organization of community based pluralistic (where diverse religious groups are accepted) Jewish day schools. The function of RAVSAK is to provide opportunity for mentorship and guidance, and provide networking opportunities between Jewish day schools in North America. For more information, visit

“Going to PEJE or RAVSAK conferences affirms for me that what we are doing here is of very high caliber and is considered to be amongst the best academic programs, both in Judaic and general studies,” says Mr. Paul.

“One of my proudest moments was in 2005 when the Gray Academy became accredited by S.E.A.L. Canada (Standards in Excellence and Learning). We met a series of 12 standards in a three year process, which means that we are one of the top 80 schools in Canada, Bermuda, and Switzerland. We have also been accredited by the National Association of Independent Schools of North America.”

“We have climbed up from the desperate situation that Gray Academy was in 8 years ago when I first got here and now we are at the pinnacle.”

The AVICHAI Foundation (committed to the perpetuation of the Jewish people, Judaism, and the centrality of the State of Israel to the Jewish people) in conjunction with RAVSAK just completed a study of all North American day schools.

This year there has been an overall decrease in enrollment of 0.66%. The prior year, there was a decrease in enrollment of 4.6%.

In Canada alone, this year there has been an overall increase in enrollment of 1.06%. This year, Gray Academy has had an increase of 5.0%. Last year, Gray Academy had an increase of just under 5.0%.

“We have not only weathered the economic storm, but we have put ourselves in a position of really trying to do something with the sliding fee scale for the middle class.”

“This year for the first time, the 5.0% increase in enrollment is primarily coming from native Winnipeggers. There are 60 new students in 2010-2011, and only 19 are new immigrants. So, 41 students came to us from public or independent schools. We took in students from 11 public schools and 3 independent schools this year. In past years, the majority of the new students coming to the school were new immigrants.”

Asked by the Winnipeg Jewish Review if he felt the enrollment at Gray Academy would be effected by the opening of the Lubavitch Center, Paul answered, “I don’t think that the opening of the Lubavitch Learning Centre will have much effect on the enrollment at Gray Academy. There may be two families that choose to send their children there. It is not a licensed school. It is a learning centre.”

“The retention rate at Gray Academy for this year is 97%. Last year it was 96%. This means that the Board of Jewish Education is doing a good job of keeping Jewish education affordable. People understand the value they are getting for their tuition dollars. They also see the added value in sending their children to a Jewish day school as opposed to a public or otherwise school.”

“It doesn’t hurt that our Judaic studies courses are accredited by the Province of Manitoba, so our students actually graduate with two diplomas.”

“One of the areas the Gray Academy needs to look at as we strive to grow and become more known world-wide is the need to get involved in the world of communications, marketing, and media. We have North America’s first and only Jewish International Home stay program at the high school level. International students, particularly from South America, Mexico, Chile and Brazil stay at Winnipeg Jewish homes and get a Jewish education.”

“The Assembly allows me to network with not only North American Jewish schools, but international Jewish schools as well.

Rory Paul, who has no intention of retiring any time soon, has been CEO at the Gray Academy for 8 years. Before that he was with the Seven Oaks School Division for 26 year as an administrator and a teacher.

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