Living Our Values

A core component of the JCDSRI experience is our focus on the social-emotional growth and wellbeing of our students. We explicitly teach students the value of recognizing the good in others and the world around them through our Hakarat Hatov (Recognize/Acknowledge the Good) program. Students complete a form and present it to their peers and teachers when they see the four values of JCDSRI demonstrated. Take a look at some of our Hakarat Hatov submissions from the last school year.

Faculty and Staff Highlights

The magic of the JCDSRI experience is due in large part to our incredible faculty and staff who are experienced, thoughtful and care deeply for their students as learners and human beings. We will be highlighting these special people throughout the year so that you can learn why our students run into school each and every day excited to learn, play, and explore their world.

Meet Meghan Cavanaugh!

Meghan is excited to return to JCDSRI for her third year as our School Social Worker. She holds a Masters of Social Work from Smith College School for Social Work and is an independently licensed clinical social worker. Prior to working at JCDSRI, Meghan worked at Jewish Family Service (now Jewish Collaborative Services) for 8 years. Meghan currently works in private practice when she is not at school. Every year, Meghan looks forward to building relationships with students and families. She particularly loves her time in the classrooms, teaching social-emotional lessons and having fun with the students.

In her free time, Meghan loves playing sports and wishes she could be out playing at recess time!

Coronavirus Update – August 31, 2020

Dear JCDSRI Families,

A few minutes ago, Governor Raimondo announced that public schools in Providence will be opening according to a “Partial In-Person Learning Scenario.” In addition, the Governor cleared all private schools in Rhode Island to open “Full In-Person.” According to the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) and Department of Health (RIDOH), both scenarios require that students maintain stable groups of no more than 30. Please note that all our classes are under 15 students, so we easily can adhere to RIDE and RIDOH’s reopening requirements. 

As a result, JCDSRI will be able to fully reopen on September 8.

I will be meeting with our Task Force this evening to review our reopening plans; any additional information will be shared with you by the end of the week.

With much anticipation and excitement,

Andrea Katzman

Head of School


Update from August 17, 2020

Dear JCDSRI Families:

As I shared with you last week, Governor Raimondo decided to delay opening public schools until September 14. Over the past few days, I have met with Commissioner Infante-Green and representatives from RIDE (RI Department of Education), other independent schools leaders, members of our Task Force, and members of our Board of Directors in order to ascertain how we can ensure a healthy and stable beginning to our year in light of this new information. After extensive discussions, I have want to share with you our plans:

While JCDSRI is prepared for a full in-person opening, we are postponing the first day of school. JCDSRI will begin on Tuesday, September 8 (after Labor Day) and we will extend the school year until Wednesday, June 16, 2021. We do so with the following variables in mind:

  1. According to the Governor’s protocols in her Rhode Island Playbook for COVID Response and our Task Force recommendations, adequate testing with fast turnaround that allows for a rapid response to new cases is necessary for schools to reopen. According to RIDOH, testing capability is ramping up for September, but has not yet achieved a level that would give us confidence that we could keep our community safe. (See our monitoring of the Rhode Island Reopening Metrics Status.)

  2. The Governor does not plan to provide an updated plan for RI school reopening until August 31 (a delay from August 17). We cannot open responsibly without this guidance from the Governor’s office and the RI Department of Health (RIDOH) and we require time to respond to any potential new guidance and/or requirements. 

Unless – in the new guidelines (of August 31) – the Governor and RIDOH orders all Rhode Island schools to implement distance learning, we look forward to beginning our school year in-person, and full time, on September 8.

I know that there have been changing expectations in regards to school over the last few months – and I also recognize that this may not be the final change. In spite of the uncertainty, all of us at JCDSRI have been working tirelessly to plan for a stable, loving, and meaningful educational experience for your children this year – and we cannot wait to begin!

Wishing you all the best – 

Andrea Katzman

Head of School


Update from August 12, 2020

Dear Families,

A few minutes ago, Governor Raimondo announced that she will be delaying the opening of public schools until September 14. It is still not entirely clear how this will impact private schools. In addition, she will also be postponing her decision in regards to how all schools will open (whether it be full in-person, partial learning, or distance learning) until August 31.

Over the next few days, I have numerous meetings planned with other private school Heads of School, with representatives from RIDE, and with our Task Force, during which I hope to receive more concrete information. We will let you know our decision about our start date by the end of next week, and I hope earlier than that. 

Please be assured that your children will experience a meaningful and joyful beginning to their school year, whether we start on September 2 or the 14. In addition, we believe our carefully crafted reopening plan will allow us to begin in person; that said, we ultimately will need to await the Governor’s announcement on August 31 before we will know if that is possible.

I know that the changing expectations in regards to school over the last few months has been difficult on you and your children and I am so sorry to – once again – burden you with more uncertainty. Please be assured that all of us at JCDSRI are committed to creating as stable, loving, and connected educational experience for your children as possible.

Thank you for your patience and understanding. I will be in touch as soon as I have more information to share.

Best – Andrea

Update from July 31, 2020

Dear JCDSRI Families,

I know I speak for the entire JCDSRI faculty and staff when I say we cannot wait to begin school on September 2! Whether you are a returning family or new to our community, we are excited to greet you and begin a year filled with learning and growth. We are a little over four weeks away from our first day of school, and I want to take this opportunity to update you on our reopening progress, invite you to engage in further conversation, and ask for your support.

JCDSRI’s ReOpening Task Force – with input from families, faculty, staff, and in close coordination with state and local authorities, public health officials, and our Board of Directors –  has developed a detailed, carefully considered plan for an in-person reopening that is 5 full days a week. Dedication to our mission – as well as concern for the safety and well-being of our students, families, and faculty and staff – have informed all of the Task Force’s decisions. As the public health situation evolves and the state provides new guidance, we will adjust accordingly and will keep you updated. Please see the Together Again: Reopening JCDSRI – Fall 2020 PDF here for full details, including information on partial in-person and distance learning, should additional options become necessary this year.

I want to offer my profound thanks to our Task Force members, Dr. Nathan Beraha, Rebecca Kislak, Dr. Lesley Landau, Mara Ostro, Jill Davis, Erika Rusley, Harshita Lakhiani, and Anthony Bucci, for their wisdom, expertise and focus. Their work reflects current medical recommendations, as well as a commitment to our school’s 4 values and to p’kuach nefesh (protecting human life). I am grateful that the Task Force members will continue to provide us with guidance throughout the year, ensuring that we can ably respond to any challenges we might face.

I also want to thank you, our exceptional parents, for your feedback, support, and trust. At JCDSRI, we believe that children learn best with and from each other in a caring community; we also know that when educators and parents work in close partnership, children thrive. I look forward to collaborating with you this year as we create the very best learning environment for your children. 

JCDSRI has the advantages of small class sizes, supportive families, and a deeply committed faculty and staff. As a result, we anticipate that in-person learning will resume in September and that we will continue to keep our students in school for extended periods of time. While we are thankful to have the opportunity to plan for an in-person beginning to our year, I also recognize that this start of school might bring with it conflicting emotions for many of us – anxiety and apprehension, as well as anticipation and relief.  I have those feelings, too. I am aware that we will be faced with the unexpected, yet I remain confident that our community is uniquely situated to respond flexibly, thoughtfully, and generously to the moment. 

The Task Force has indicated that in order for us to resume in-person learning, our entire community must work together to uphold standards of behavior and public health best practices that support wellness. We believe that we must take responsibility not only for ourselves, but for the health and safety of our neighbors, friends, and strangers. In order for us to return to in-person learning, we require a commitment from everyone in the JCDSRI community to review and follow our safety protocols. Included in our Together Again: Reopening JCDSRI – Fall 2020 are ways you can help us mitigate the risk of spreading Covid-19 in our school and in our state. We request that families stay up-to-date on Rhode Island health guidelines and follow them outside of school as well as at JCDSRI. Every adult in the school community needs to take responsibility for their family’s health in the interest of keeping everyone in our community safe.

Finally, I look forward to seeing you at one of our JCDSRI ReOpening “Town Hall” Zoom Meetings for parents & caregivers. Our Task Force Members will be joining me to discuss our reopening plans with you.

In addition, Meghan Cavanaugh and I will be holding a special JCDSRI student “Town Hall Meeting” on Wednesday, August 12 during which your children will be able to ask questions about our reopening plans.

We ask that you submit all questions before the Town Meetings on this Google form. This will allow us to answer as many questions as possible during our time together; please also indicate which town hall meeting you will be attending. 

I know that – with your help – we can successfully implement a sound reopening plan that retains our nurturing, joyous, and meaningful learning environment. I look forward to speaking with you on August 6 or August 10. In the meantime, I hope you are enjoying the summer!

Sending gratitude and affection you way – and wishing you a sweet, happy, and peaceful Shabbat,


Head of School

STEAM Splash 2019!

Our fourth annual STEAM Splash event took place this spring. STEAM Splash is a yearly design-fest that brings together the skills and interests of community members with the unbridled enthusiasm of our students. Parents and friends from our community, along with partners from Brown and RISD, ran 30 different STEAM-themed workshops over a three-day period. Students in Pre-K through fifth grade enjoyed a “splash” of fun, educational play, encouraging their love of science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

Forty years strong!

Last month, over 200 guests, including current families, alumni, teachers, friends and donors, celebrated our school‘s four decades of impactful education during our Gala. It is not a coincidence that the celebration occurred right before Passover. After all, Passover is a holiday that, perhaps more than any other, reminds us of the importance of education, of peoplehood, and of courage.

I am reminded of a midrash, the People of Israel are standing on the shore of a sea. Water – deep and wide – stretches out before us. Behind us, an army of Egyptian horsemen is advancing quickly. Moses receives the message from God that we are to cross the sea. He urges us forward – but the water is too deep, too rough, too dangerous. Suddenly, we hear a cry and see a man – Nachshon – jump into the water. He stands, starts moving forward . . . and just as the water reaches his neck, the sea parts. For a moment we are stunned – and then in a great rush, we cross over the dry sea bed, leaving the Egyptians to be swallowed by water.

What was it that drove Nachshon into the sea? I think it was his understanding that faith alone – while a profound and powerful force – was not enough to save us. Faith without action can leave us shackled and helpless. That may be why the Hebrew word for courage – ometz – is best translated as a “willingness to take action.”

Nachshon demonstrated ometz even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. I am grateful that in every generation, there have been courageous leaders following in Nachshon’s footsteps – including the founding families of our school. Like Nachshon, they worried about their children and their ability to live free, meaningful lives as Jews. Who would become the community’s future leaders, educators and caretakers? How would they teach their children that they were also part of a covenantal community – one that honors our sacred obligations to one another?

Using the model of Nachshon and so many others in our tradition, our founders courageously heeded the call v’sheenantam l’vanecha – teach them to your children. They founded a school: one that would be passionate about Jewish learning, value relationships, engage meaningfully in Jewish life, nurture a connection to Israel, embrace an egalitarian spirit, and commit to tikkun olam – the healing of the world.

JCDSRI still reflects these core values articulated by our founding families 40 years ago. And at the same time that we remember our origins, we also celebrate the ways in which we continue to renew ourselves for every generation. Throughout the years, we have been blessed with hundreds of individuals and families who have supported our school with courage – with ometz – a willingness to take action. This legacy – and our hope for the future – continues to be reflected in the lives of our children. We continue to understand that our future depends on the decisions and commitments we make today. May this exceptional school – founded by courageous families and sustained by all of us – continue ad meah v’esrim – until 120!

Inventing new colors

Young children love the immediate satisfaction of painting. Mixing colors is a magic and instant alchemy that has enthralled our Pre-K students for the past few weeks in art. Mr. Mirsky challenged the children to “invent” as many new colors as they could. With this prompting, children learned the basics of color theory and improved fine motor control, but they were also given the opportunity to create something the world has never seen before. That’s the sense of discovery we love to encourage in our art room!