Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

JAO works with Federation to implement strategic changes


The Jewish Academy of Orlando (JAO) is proceeding with plans, first announced in February, to consolidate its operations in the main building on the Maitland Jewish Community Campus, enabling the 38-year-old Jewish day school to sharpen its focus on its curriculum.

When the 2016-17 academic year begins next month, JAO will have relocated the school’s operation entirely into the main campus building, which JAO has called home for most of its existence.

JAO worked closely with the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando (JFGO), which owns and manages the Maitland campus, to develop a strategic plan that addresses the school’s academic needs and goals while freeing up unused or underutilized space on campus.

During the 2005-06 expansion of the Maitland campus, a 45,000-square-foot building was constructed for JAO, in part to accommodate anticipated growth, and the school has operated out of that structure as well as the main campus building since 2006. The newer facility has 22,500 square feet of space that the JAO never utilized.

“JAO is changing the way we do business,” said Jordan Steinberg, immediate past president of JAO’s board of directors, who spearheaded the recent strategic changes at JAO. “This bold step forward is the result of a positive new culture of communication and transparency between JAO and the Federation.”

Alan Rusonik, head of the Jewish Academy, praised the JFGO’s “incredible spirit of collaboration” over the past several months as the two organizations developed a plan for the school’s relocation that they mutually agreed would enhance its reputation as an award-winning institution of learning.

Rusonik also commended Federation for its financial commitment to the school. “Federation’s generous support this past year has been invaluable,” he said. “It allowed us to direct our energy and attention to our mission.”

“A school, at its heart, is about its students, not a physical structure,” Rusonik said. “By consolidating our operations into a more suitable space, we will be able to focus more of our time and resources on our students. We’re ushering in a new era, and our students will enjoy an enhanced academic experience as a result.”

Once the JAO relocation is complete, the Federation will explore options to lease the vacant space to a tenant whose mission is consistent with that of the agencies on the Maitland Jewish Community Campus.

Rhonda Forest, chair of the JFGO board of directors, said that with the new JAO strategic plan in place, Federation is reaffirming its commitment to the school.

“For nearly 40 years, the Jewish Academy has been an integral part of the Greater Orlando Jewish community and has contributed immeasurably to Jewish life in Orlando,” Forest said. “We are committed to serving as a partner for JAO as it continues to thrive and shape the lives of Jewish students for generations to come.”

Olga Yorish, JFGO’s executive director, said the Federation’s commitment to JAO is financial as well as strategic.

“This year the Jewish Federation has assisted the Jewish Academy by financially backing some of its operations,” Yorish said. “The Jewish Academy is an important member of our family, and we always look out for our family.”


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