I was delighted to meet Tova Ovits though the JEDLAB Facebook Group, where Tova is an active contributor. Tova Ovits is an active parent leader at the Shulamith School for Girls. Most recently she became her school’s team leader in the Jewish Day School Social Media Academy, an intensive program designed to help Jewish Day Schools advance their strategic use of social media in areas such as communication, marketing, community building, alumni relations and development. Tova manages the very impressive and engaging Shulamith Facebook page. After spending some time on the page, you’ll notice that it has personality! That’s no coincidence; Tova knows how to inject wisdom and humor into her posts. Most importantly she understands how to translate the school's values on social media and engages the school’s community around them.
Without further ado, here’s the interview:
1) Tell me a little bit about yourself and why you chose Shulamith for your children's education.
I work as a freelance editor, ever since the first of my three children was born. As a child, I attended Bais Yaakov-style schools in Brooklyn, NY. My husband attended Yeshivas Chaim Berlin. As adults we discovered how much we didn’t learn about Judaism in school, so we send our children to Centrist Orthodox yeshivot, Shulamith School for Girls of Brooklyn and Yeshiva Derech Hatorah.
2) How did you become involved in your school?
My mother was always involved in my school; she was active in the PTA, helped out in the book room, and came on all my class trips. So when my kids started school, I naturally began attending PTA meetings, volunteered at book and plant sales, and joined my kids on their class trips. In April 2012 I happened to be at Shulamith while someone was uploading the Annual Dinner photos to the school’s new Facebook Page. I had been using Facebook for years, so I offered to help and ended up becoming a registered administrator of the Page! That summer, our Menahel (Principal) Rabbi Klammer found out about the Jewish Day School Social Media Academy and asked me to apply on Shulamith’s behalf. Part of the application included creating a team, and I was asked to be a Team Leader. We were accepted to the JDS Social Media Academy and I learned how to improve the Page and track our progress.
3) Tell me about how you manage your school’s Facebook page? How has it benefited your school?
During the JDS Social Media Academy we learned how to figure out who we’re trying to reach via Facebook. Then we learned how to create and curate content and track Facebook Insights to see which posts work and which do not. Since I’m not at school every day, I do more curating than creating content. Therefore, I set up a content calendar that includes Shulamith’s values: Middot Monday, Tuesday Tips, Welcome Wednesday, and Teachable Thursday. On Monday I post about middot [values] in general or specific to those that the school is focusing on for the year. Tuesday and Thursday I post information about parenting or education that parents can use when they are home with their kids. Wednesday I welcome the new ‘Likes’, and those posts are surprisingly popular even though I can’t tag anyone in them as a Page administrator! Before vacation timesI post fun and free or inexpensive day trips. This summer I’ve also been posting #MakeItFunMonday craft ideas, #ThingsToDoThursday local museums or inexpensive day trips, and #FreeAppFriday with educational games or apps about getting around in the city.
Because we’re targeting current parents, potential Shulamith families, and alumni & donors, I share lots of photos of the students’ activities that are applicable to current and not current school parents. We share information about practicing reading or teaching kids about finances or the value of honesty, and provide information about the inexpensive bike rentals in a nearby park on summer weekends.
The school benefits as evidenced by increased admission applications and interviews, as potential families see that Shulamith of Brooklyn is an incredible and welcoming school. Alumni have reconnected over vintage class photos we’ve shared, and over pictures of events they remember celebrating in the same way. Donors have connected as wellwhen we raised over $10,000 during our Purim-themed social fundraising campaign in February. We then qualified for the $10,000 matching grant from the AVICHAI Foundation as part of the Social Media Academy!
4) Can you share a specific anecdote of when you knew or felt that your work was benefiting the school, the students, and/or larger the day school community?
Whenever I’m at school with other parents, at least a few come up to thank me for my work on Shulamith’s Facebook Page. They look forward to the photos, the information, and the ability to connect with parents. I know the administration sees the benefits because they’ve asked me to continue running the Page even though my daughter has graduated.
5) How do you work with the administration on the school’s Facebook page? How have you and the administrator created an open dialogue?
Rabbi Klammer joined me and the other team leader for all of our coaching calls during the Social Media Academy; we took the call on speakerphone in his office! He added me to his online photostream so I can have instant access to the photos he takes during the school day for posting online, so I can share new content as it happens. I also curate content from everywhere, from HuffPost and Edutopia to Aish.com and OU.org. If I ever have a question about the appropriateness of sharing something, I send the link to Rabbi Klammer for his input.
6) What are your thoughts on parent involvement in school?
I believe all parents should be involved in their children’s schools. Being involved shows our children that school is so important - that THEY are so important – and that where they spend the day matters so much to us that we’re willing to spend our free time helping out in whatever way we can. This could be volunteering with the parent-teacher organization, running the Shavuot flower sale, manning the tables at the book fair, or even something as simple as making phone calls to the classmates’ parents to ensure that everyone comes to a school event. At the very least, attending PTA meetings even if your child is a straight-A student (and especially if they’re not!) shows your children that school matters.
7) Do you have any tips for parents who want to become involved in the school?
The first step toward becoming involved is to talk to your children about events at school. Find out what they like, what they look forward to doing…and what they don’t like to do. Then read the emails and newsletters from school to find out what the existing parent organization has planned and go participate to help make it better! Find out who is in charge of the area that YOU can help out in and offer to help. Can you read a book to the preschool, or talk about your job on Career Day? Do you have a great idea for a fundraiser event, or have a connection to someone who’d be a great guest speaker? Is your grandmother interested in sharing her story about how she survived the Holocaust, or how she escaped from an oppressive regime before coming to America? Why not suggest that she visit during a school assembly?