04/07/2017 09:53 AM Posted by: Ricki Komiss Poster Avatar
Meredith Diskin, Class of 2001, is featured in the latest issue of HaYidion, the PRIZMAH magazine.

Dear Friends of Shlenker,

It is with much pride that I share this article with you.  Meredith Diskin, Anne Diskin’s daughter, was a student at Shlenker through fifth grade, graduating in 2001.  It is a story that could be told over and over at The Shlenker School, a story of frustration, concern, support, hard work, and success of a child.  It is a story of one teacher of many in Meredith’s educational career who helped her become who she is today, a doctoral student in Marine Biology! 

This article was published in the first Prizmah magazine, HaYidion.  Prizmah is the new organization representing all Jewish Day Schools, and Shlenker was asked to provide an article for this first issue!  It is a momentous occasion for us to be represented here.  Congratulations to Meredith, her mom Anne, Judy Zainfeld, and the many teachers coming after Judy who gave Meredith the opportunity to go for her dream!

Best regards,


A printable version of the article is at this link. The complete issue of the magazine is found here.


If you are a Shlenker graduate or know of a Shlenker graduate making news, we'd love to hear from you!


Categorized under:  Elementary EducationPreschool

03/09/2017 01:26 PM Posted by: Ricki Komiss Poster Avatar
Saturday April 1, 2017 7:00 PM Congregation Beth Israel

The Shlenker School 30th Anniversary Soiree

Honoring Rabbi Samuel E. Karff with the 2017 Spark Award

Saturday April 1, 2017

7:00 PM

Congregation Beth Israel

Honorary Chairs:
Sherrie and Alan Eisenman
Roslyn and Ricky Haikin
Sabria and Kevin Lewis
Beth and Craig Lieberman
Rosalyn and Barry Margolis

Event Chairs:
Jeryl Golub
Jen Halpern

Rock with The Spazmatics

Attire: Rock your 80's or cocktail attire

For more information or to reserve your table, please email or call Judy Danziger: 713-270-6127 x619



Categorized under:  Elementary EducationPreschool

02/10/2017 10:44 AM Posted by: Ricki Komiss Poster Avatar
We are pleased to welcome David Cohen to Shlenker beginning July 1, 2017.

I am delighted to announce that David Cohen will be joining our Shlenker Administrative Team as the Director of Jewish Learning for the 2017-2018 school year.  David will be on the Shlenker staff beginning July 1, 2017!   Mr. Cohen is currently the Director of Congregational Learning at Temple Sinai Congregation in Toronto, Ontario.  He is a native Bostonian and is looking forward to coming to our warm climate and great city, synagogue, and school.   David has been involved in directing all aspects of Pre-K -12 programming as well as adult education programming in his current position at Temple Sinai.  He is currently supervising a full time pre-school director, full time education office manager, part-time program coordinator, part-time Hebrew coordinator, an assistant pre-school director and over twenty part-time teachers.  David currently manages a half-million dollar budget that includes securing grants and direct gifts.  Additionally, Mr. Cohen collaborates with the local federation, the local Reform Educators Council, and partners with numerous agencies and synagogues to create community programming and strategic initiatives.  He also engages with non- Jewish organizations on inter-faith, inter-cultural, and social justice related issues.   Additional work experiences for David include work with the Jewish Federation of Philadelphia where he directed Israel Advocacy initiatives.  David also served as a public school teacher for eight years, was an Associate Director for the Anti-Defamation League of Boston MA, and has served as a non-profit consultant, helping to guide many boards and agency leaders in strategic planning, communications, and community outreach.  We look forward to having Mr. Cohen interfacing with the Beth Israel clergy for services, learning opportunities, and collaboration across the campus We are fortunate to have David Cohen join the Shlenker staff for next year and look forward to some new, exciting opportunities in our Hebrew and Jewish Learning classes and offerings! 

Warmest regards,


Categorized under:  Elementary EducationPreschool

02/10/2017 10:36 AM Posted by: Ricki Komiss Poster Avatar
A draft of the 2017-2018 Academic Calendar has been posted. Click HERE to access the calendar.
Categorized under:  Elementary EducationPreschool

01/06/2017 07:40 PM Posted by: Ricki Komiss Poster Avatar
We want all to be aware that we in the processing of moving to a new website. You should not experience any issues, but if you do please call our main office at (713) 270-6127. Thank you! We want all to be aware that we in the processing of moving to a new website. You should not experience any issues, but if you do please call our main office at (713) 270-6127. Thank you!

04/21/2016 09:01 AM Posted by: Ricki Komiss Poster Avatar
Area flooding April 17-19, 2016.

Dear Parents and Friends, 

Once again we find ourselves in the wake of an all too familiar crisis.  Many of you have just found your way out of the difficult situation of renovating your home from last year’s Memorial Day flood, purchasing new cars, and stabilizing your families. 

Please know that The Shlenker School is here for you.  In partnership with Congregation Beth Israel, the Houston Jewish Federation, and private individuals, we are here and ready to help you start again.  The teachers, staff, Board of Trustees, SPA, and even Student Senate are ready to help as well. 

At this time we have identified many families who will need assistance, but if you have experienced damage to your home, need assistance with tuition, or help with anything flood-related, please contact Nancy Pryzant Picus or Karen Miller at the school.  We will make sure your name is added to the lists currently being created by Shlenker and the agencies who are available to help. 

We wish you a safe and happy Passover.  

Warmest regards,

Ricki Komiss
Head of School

Categorized under:  Elementary EducationPreschool

12/05/2014 02:55 PM Posted by: Ricki Komiss Poster Avatar
Shlenker was recently spotlighted in the Jewish Herald Voice for our new 1:1 technology initiative. You can link to the article HERE.
Categorized under:  Elementary Education

08/22/2014 08:31 AM Posted by: Ricki Komiss Poster Avatar
Dear Shlenker Families and Friends,

Everyone learns at Shlenker! I hope you began the “school rituals” that we sent you last week early so every student is ready for a productive school year. Our Young Toddlers will learn how to separate from family and our PreK-4 students will learn how to recognize their names and move those names on the Promethean Board when they arrive in the classroom. Elementary students will continue learning their regular school subjects, but many of the assignments will involve technology. Which subject is most important? Which subject is hardest? Which subjects will your child like best or least? Each question is particular to each student.

As parents and teachers, we can best support our students by providing ample time to practice anything new. I recently read an article about a study of how children process math. The bottom line is… practice prepares students for what they need to know now, and if a student becomes proficient in early learning, they will be more successful in more difficult assignments later. Our job, as caretakers, is to provide time, space, and support (if needed) for any new learning and to continue to practice that learning until it is automated. This could apply for spelling, math facts, basic sight words, or even early language acquisition. Researcher Mann Koepke explained that “if your brain doesn’t have to work as hard on simple math, it has more working memory free to process the teacher’s brand-new lesson on more complex math.” It seems to me, the principle will work with any subject. I suppose the old axiom “practice makes perfect” still applies in every way.

Thank you for choosing Shlenker for your children. I assure you that we take our responsibility very seriously and look forward to a collaborative partnership with you throughout the year. The teachers, administrative team, and support team are all here to help you.

Warmest wishes for a wonderful year,

Ricki Komiss
Head of School
Categorized under:  Elementary EducationPreschool

10/31/2013 01:59 PM Posted by: Ricki Komiss Poster Avatar
Shlenker's PreK-3 students and teachers are featured.


-Thu, Oct 31, 2013

It’s bright and early on a Thursday morning, and it’s Ava Chosnek’s turn to share a story.

After writing the story with her teacher, classmates are chosen for the different characters. A play carpet becomes a stage, the rest of the class an audience, and the children put on an adorable reenactment of the day that Ava got a new bed and furniture at her house.

The cast takes a bow at the end of the little performance amid applause and praise. A chorus then erupts from eager children in the pre-K 3s class who want to share their stories next.

Teaching via children’s stories and dramas is the product of a campus collaboration between The Shlenker School and Rice University. The School Literacy & Culture project, or SLC, combines early literary research with practice through classroom mentoring and professional development for teachers.

Shlenker joined the project in the early 1990s, and educators at the Jewish day school in Southwest Houston have gone on to serve as SLC mentors for other teachers and schools. On Oct. 17 of this year, research pioneers and leaders of the project visited Shlenker for the first time, together, to see the work in action.

‘Finely tuned violin’
The visitors said they were captivated by what they found — storytelling and story-acting from Shlenker students like Ava — and likened the experience to listening to a “finely tuned violin.”

“These are very happy places for children to be,” observed Vivian Gussin Paley, an award-winning teacher and author on whose research the SLC project is based.

“We see little episodes of dramatic play going on everywhere, all the time” in these Shlenker classrooms, Paley told the JHV during the visit. “What I love about these rooms is that they’re rooms to play in.”

Paley was joined by Dr. Gillian Dowley McNamee, an esteemed language and literacy development specialist, and by the SLC’s founder, Dr. Patsy Cooper, and the project’s current director, Karen Capo.

“The play is so beautifully orchestrated, back-and-forth,” noted Capo after spending the morning with Shlenker’s pre-K 3s. “The children step right into listening, negotiating and compromising.”

McNamee observed, “This is what I would hope to see going into schools anywhere in the country,” adding, “Shlenker has a beautifully developed program that is poised for listening to these children right where they are and helping them take next steps.”

‘Making sense of their world’
SLC is now in its 25th year. The project’s founder, Dr. Patsy Cooper, is a former Shlenker parent.

Cooper gave a presentation on SLC 22 years ago during a teacher in-service at the school. Sherry Dubin, a pre-K teacher at the time, attended the presentation and, immediately afterward, encouraged her administration to join the project.

Since that time, Dubin has risen through the ranks at Shlenker, currently serving as the school’s Literacy & Learning specialist. She has championed the SLC project since day one and has become one of its valued mentors, helping to train early childhood teachers in the methodology.

Teaching via children’s stories and dramas is an effective way for children to express themselves, noted Dubin, who’s found that children tell stories about the things they like, the things they fear and the things they’re thinking about.

“We get to see what’s important to them,” the veteran Shlenker educator said. “It’s a way of making sense of their world and it’s a way of thinking through things.

“It builds community in the classroom. It cements friendships that have already begun to develop, and it helps foster the development of new friendships.

“It addresses the child and what’s important to the child,” Dubin said.

Cooper, who has visited the school many times, said that Shlenker and passionate educators, like Dubin, have made “a fascinating contribution” to the project.

“I love the fact that the children at Shlenker are learning in their most natural way — and it’s deep learning,” Cooper observed. “They own their space and they are safe in it. There’s no question that they know what their role is here and the teachers embrace what the children want to do, naturally.”

‘Imaginations lead them’
Marci Powers is a pre-K 3s teacher at Shlenker who sees tremendous benefit from storytelling and story-acting.

“The children are free to play and use their imagination,” Powers told the JHV. “They’re not stifled by something we must teach them or they have to learn.

“They’re the ones who are choosing what they’re doing, and their imaginations are leading them,” she said.

Laura Hall is another Shlenker pre-K teacher, who said she is impressed with the level of involvement that storytelling and acting engenders among her children.

“You get to know the children, and they blossom in no other way,” Hall said. “You really don’t know a child till they let you in on their stories.”

In Ronda Feinberg’s case, SLC has reignited her passion for teaching.

“The ability to fantasize and play teaches children life skills of learning how to get along with people,” the veteran pre-K teacher explained. “This incredible program [SLC] teaches children negotiating skills. It teaches them math, science, the beginnings of reading and writing, and it teaches these skills in a fun and exciting way.

“The beauty of this program and adaptation here is the fantasy play that brings you to creativity for the rest of your life,” Feinberg said. “And, I think my kids are soaring.”
Categorized under:  Preschool

10/18/2013 03:00 PM Posted by: Ricki Komiss Poster Avatar
- Thu, Oct 17, 2013
A Jewish day school in Southwest Houston is leading a national trend of switching from pencil-and-paper to digital standardized testing.

For the second year in a row, administrators and faculty from The Shlenker School have been invited to present on their successes and best-practices with the switch to digital testing at the annual conference of the Educational Records Bureau — a nonprofit organization that provides assessments for achievement and admission for independent and select public schools. This year’s ERB conference will take place Oct. 23-25, in Fort Worth, Texas.
Shlenker students began the transition to online standardized testing in 2009. Earlier this week, second-graders took their ERBs for the first time using school iPads. As it previously did with the online format, Shlenker is piloting the new ERB app for tablet computers.

According to experienced educators at Shlenker, digital assessment testing is better for students and teachers, alike.

Among the benefits they listed for schools, digital formats offer instant test scores; they save time, effort and money, because they don’t have to be shipped back and forth; they encourage greater teacher accountability; and they can help improve focus and confidence, as well as eliminate common test-taking mistakes, among students.
For students who are absent during scheduled test times, the digital format allows them to take the test — again, with instant results — as soon as they return to school.

Challenges associated with the switch include having the appropriate number of digital devices for test taking; having the bandwidth to support these devices; and having capable faculty to administer the tests, as well as troubleshoot problems that may arise during the test-taking.

“It’s worth the investment” to go digital, said Ricki Komiss, Shlenker’s head of school, who has championed the cause and is leading the school’s delegation at the upcoming ERB conference. “It’s worth the opportunity to give students this chance to take the test online. You’ll get immediate results.”

Schools that administer ERBs and are considering a transition to online testing have consulted with Shlenker for advice.
Fall testing
In order to maximize the benefits of going digital, Shlenker conducts its yearly standardized testing in the fall, rather than the spring.

“The reason we do testing in the fall is because we use that data to drive our classroom instruction throughout the year,” explained Casey Suter, Shlenker’s Elementary School principal, who is joining Komiss as a presenter at the ERB confrence. 

Having access to testing data immediately and early on in the school year affords teachers time to identify strengths in curriculum, and to work on areas that might need improvement, Shlenker educators agreed.

They also noted that the strategy makes teachers more accountable and provides them with important information that they can use to their advantage in working with their students.

“That type of immediate feedback is both very powerful and empowering,” said Lisa Sachs, Shlenker’s Math & Technology coordinator, who is joining her colleagues at the upcoming conference.

The former classroom teacher has been instrumental in advancing Shlenker’s digital embrace, according to Sachs’ colleagues.
Digital natives
Doing online testing dovetails with Shlenker’s approach of integrating technology across curricula.

Students at the school are doing more and more learning online, Sachs noted. Current digital offerings include a typing program, a math practice program, Shlenker’s regular math program, and reading and science lessons.

With math-related testing and assignments, the school insists that students still keep pencil and paper handy, in order to solve equations and show their work.

While printed homework is limited to the page on which it’s printed, assignments that are done online allow students to advance further with that lesson, teachers observed. Schoolwork that’s done on a computer, in general, can feel less like chore and often is completed in less time, they added.

Shlenker recognizes that today’s students are digital natives. Technology is part of their everyday lives — of their worlds. Computer skills they learn at school are reinforced at home, and vice-versa. Though technology use comes natural to students, Shlenker also recognizes the reality that it can take time and patience for teachers and faculty, who weren’t raised on digital technology, to master the same skills.

The school is encouraged by the positive feedback it continues to receive from its students, who appreciate having only one question presented on the screen at a time, rather than a printed page of questions; students also report to like the headphones setup of online testing, allowing them to laser focus and block out distracting noises.

Digital tests also eliminate the possibility of accidently skipping a question while bubbling in answers on a Scantron form, which throws off every answer that follows, or the possibility of unitentionally skipping an entire page or pages in a printed test booklet. Getting an answer wrong from an incomplete eraser-job or messy form is no longer a problem either when taking a test online.

Additionally, the digital format can lend itself well to students who have learning differences, teachers noted.

“Computers are what our kids know and do. iPads are what they know and do,” said Karen Miller, Shlenker’s director of Counseling & Family Services, who also is presenting at the ERB confrence.

Planning, pep-talk
Planning is key to successful online testing, according to Shlenker faculty.

“A big component of the success of our experience with online testing has been that we are constantly looking at where glitches might occur and preparing to deal with those issues that can come with technology,” Miller said. “We give the kids a lot of direction and feedback on what they’re going to see on test day and we do a big pep-talk with the kids before they walk in.

“We’re always trying to problem-solve ahead of time,” Miller said.

Sachs added, “We realized early on that we had to do certain things to prepare the students for online testing. For example, our math program offers an online assessment at the beginning of the year and online assessments throughout [the year] that teachers can assign.

“We try and focus on those experiences with other areas of the curriculum that simulate online testing experiences,” she said.

Shlenker’s head of school said that doing online testing in elementary school better prepares students for the standardized testing they’ll encounter in middle school, high school and college. Tests like the SAT and GRE now offer digital options for students.

“We talk to parents and let them know that this is a good thing and, developmentally, this is where students are,” Komiss said. “By the time they get to middle school and high school, this will be second-nature for our children.”

The school’s counselor concluded: “Bottom line, if we didn’t think online testing was beneficial for the students, we’d still be doing paper-and-pencil.

“In our experience, online testing has been better for the students,” Miller said. 

Link to this article at the Jewish Herald Voice HERE.

Categorized under:  Elementary Education

08/30/2013 11:29 AM Posted by: Ricki Komiss Poster Avatar
Dear Parents and Friends of Shlenker,

I am delighted to welcome you and your children to Shlenker this year.  I know that you have made an important decision to send your children to private school, and we are so happy to have each and every precious child with us.  I hope you will find, as most of our parents did last year when they returned our Parent Survey, that Shlenker will be a great value to your family.  As a community, we learn together, pray together, celebrate together, and support each other.  For many families, the connections they make at Shlenker last a lifetime.  At Shlenker, Jewish values are taught throughout the day and within all subjects.  Middot, Jewish virtues, are the principles we consider to be of central importance such as how we act, what we stand for, and who are.  Middot challenge us to raise the level of our interactions with each other, with ourselves, and with God.  The expectations found in this world create the expectations we have at Shlenker for our students, teachers, and parents.

I hope you have already noticed some of the new and exciting improvements to our campus.  All students are enjoying our magnificent new gym where Early Childhood and Elementary students have the opportunity to be active in a safe and beautiful setting thanks to a very special Shlenker family.  Our youngest students have a lovely and secure outdoor environment with a Butterfly Garden emerging with new plants outside the Early Childhood classrooms!  Thanks to our SPA, we have 38 new computers in the classrooms and newly covered furniture in the atrium and Teachers’ Lunchroom.  SPA belongs to all parents, and we appreciate having all parents as members!  Finally, the BackYard continues to develop.  Soon we will have a bridge connecting the playground to our lovely natural reserve for all to enjoy.

Our Friday Final has changed.  You will still find calendar details and basic information; however, it will be much shorter.  Monthly, you will find a lead article from one of our administrators.  Much of the information you use on a daily basis will soon be located on our new Shlenker App, which we will roll out soon.

In closing, I wish each of you and your families a healthy and happy Rosh Hashanah and that we will all be inscribed in the Book of Life.

Best Wishes, 
Ricki Komiss
Head of School

Categorized under:  Elementary EducationPreschool

03/15/2013 03:19 PM Posted by: Ricki Komiss Poster Avatar
Dear Parents and Friends,
Is everything in education these days about “bells and whistles,” or in today’s vernacular, “iPads and Smartboards?”  What happened to “good ole teaching?”  I am happy to say, “good ole teaching” is alive and well at Shlenker.  Whether students are in the early childhood program or fifth grade, teachers sit side-by-side with one student or a small group of students to encourage them, practice with them, review with them, or push them.  It is what we do, and it is what we expect to happen in Shlenker classes.  
Older Toddler teachers have been working with Sherry Dubin and experts from the Rice Literacy and Culture Project for three years on ways to bring literacy into their classrooms.  They have had so much training that our own Barbie Freedman was asked to present at one of the workshops for the project.  Watching teachers work with students to develop vocabulary, work on class stories, or sit with a student to help him create his own story makes the Shlenker young student programs unique.  
By Kindergarten, students work with teachers to create stories and work on math concepts at their developmental level.  Sometimes we, the parents, expect something our children are not yet ready to give us.  It is the teacher’s job to see when it is appropriate to push and pull or to review and relax with the students.  We, the parents or grandparents, should be patient because the teachers at Shlenker are professionals who know just the right amount of small group or one-on-one attention each child requires. Even the fourth and fifth grade teachers work individually with students to ensure they have grasped a new concept or to create additional learning opportunities for a student who has mastered a curriculum requirement.  
Your children are the beneficiaries of this wonderful special time with their teacher!

Categorized under:  Elementary EducationPreschool

09/24/2012 02:02 PM Posted by: Ricki Komiss Poster Avatar
In his sermon on erev Rosh Hashana, Rabbi Lyon passed out orange bracelets for everyone in the congregation. They were the typical rubber bracelets with wording on them. This wording hit a homerun for me. The words on the bracelet were “And this too shall pass.”

In his sermon on erev Rosh Hashana, Rabbi Lyon passed out orange bracelets for everyone in the congregation. They were the typical rubber bracelets with wording on them. This wording hit a homerun for me. The words on the bracelet were “And this too shall pass.” In Hebrew, the words Gam Zeh Ya’avor circle the other side. My mother used to say this phrase to me when I was a child. It was mostly used when something bad happened, like I didn’t get asked to spend the night with a friend or I didn’t get the date I wanted. Maybe someone fell ill and would eventually get better. I never really thought about the reverse of the events. For instance, when something really good happened, we never said, “and this too shall pass.” However, the phrase does go both ways.

I was coming into the building yesterday when I met a student and her parent. The student was upset, and the mother was consoling her. I asked why she was upset and she shared that the work in her class was difficult and she was worried that she wouldn’t accomplish her goals of making really good grades. I happened to have my orange bracelet on, and I showed it to her. I explained the meaning and talked with her about taking a few moments with her mom to make a plan of action for being successful. If she followed the plan and worked hard, she may not make perfect grades, but the feeling of anxiety about her work might pass. She finally smiled, left with her mom, and returned to school soon after ready to tackle her assignment.

Of course, it isn’t always that easy. Sometimes things don’t pass so quickly, but I have found that when something happens that can eventually be resolved, “This too shall pass,” is a comfortable way of sharing that you care.

Best wishes for a healthy, happy year filled with blessings for your family.

L’Shanah Tovah,


09/27/2011 08:32 AM Posted by: Ricki Komiss Poster Avatar

It happens every year. We begin school with smiles and promises of a great year, and I always begin my talk with the elementary students by saying, “Today everyone has all “A’s” and “E’s” in conduct. What happens with that tomorrow is up to you.”

Somewhere around Week 6, we start feeling some resistance. Why? The teachers have proceeded into the new curriculum for their grade. The work is no longer familiar and relatively easy. Ultimately, some students begin to struggle. Parents wring their hands. “Last year’s teacher must not have prepared them enough, and the work is harder,” they might say. And of course, the work is harder, but it is not because the students were not prepared. It is rather because the new work for their grade is being introduced. Do not worry; teachers at Shlenker have had the best training in differentiated instruction, teaching reading and writing, and math instruction. Additionally, our very small classrooms enable teachers to have time for individualizing their teaching.

What can we do as parents? Keep supporting your child by providing a place and time for him/her to do homework. Help with planning for long term assignments and tests. If your child is having difficulty in a specific area, contact the teacher. Every child may not internalize a newly taught strategy or remember new information at the same rate or in the same way.

With all of us working together, students will begin to feel comfortable learning new information, and the beginning of next year will be a “piece of cake” because the students will be well prepared from their hard work this year!


Best wishes,

Ricki Komiss
Head of School

Categorized under:  Elementary EducationPreschool

03/11/2011 09:30 AM Posted by: Ricki Komiss Poster Avatar

Let's talk about the state of Shlenker as a private school...

The Honorable Annise Parker, Mayor of Houston, was at Shlenker recently to read to our Elementary students as a prelude to the Book Fair. It is exciting to have someone as well-known and prestigious as the mayor of the third largest city in the United States come to your school. Following her book reading, Mayor Parker asked the students a few questions. The first was "What does the city do for us?" It was an interesting question, but the students had a difficult time processing the answer. It took several tries before they began to grasp the importance of city services like police, fire, ambulance, trash pick-up, and water, all of which seem so obvious. Once they started thinking, the list became very long.

Maybe we think of private school education versus public school education in the same way. Both private and public schools teach reading, math, writing, spelling, social studies, and science. However, what then is special about Shlenker? Watching the dialogue between our state government officials and our local school districts has been painful at best. I can't tell you where the public schools will finally end up, but I can tell you some of the benefits of a well-established private school like Shlenker. Shlenker is mission-driven, so our students are taught a rigorous academic curriculum in a nurturing environment with an overlay of Jewish traditions and knowledge. Our students will continue to thrive in small classes taught by outstanding certified and qualified teachers. The intimate school size allows opportunities for teachers, administrators, and staff to know all the children. Shlenker provides many opportunities for prefoessional development and mentors for the staff throughout the year. Curriculum materials and technology are a part of the expectations for every classroom. Fine arts, science, and physical education will continue to be taught by the most amazing and qualified teachers and will be a part of every grade. Students will benefit from foreign language training with Hebrew from age three through fifth grade. Probably the most unique differences between Shlenker and public education are the wonderful Shabbat and holiday services, mitzvah projects, family education and community-building school-wide, and grade-level dinners, projects, and services. Unlike public schools, Shlenker is extremely mindful of our dyslexic students, special-needs students (who are mainstreamed most of the day), and gifted students.

If you are looking for value-added opportunities for your children in school, you will find them at Shlenker.

Contact Ricki

Categorized under:  Elementary EducationPreschool

01/25/2011 02:16 PM Posted by: Ricki Komiss Poster Avatar
The impact of legislative decisions on private schools.

Do Private Schools Have a Voice in State Government?


Whether you read the news in the newspaper, on your computer, iPad, or Smart Phone, I am sure you are abreast of the budgetary struggles occurring in our state government concerning education funding during this session.  As a non-public school, The Shlenker School is not affected by the whims of our state legislators.  But do we have a say in what they are proposing — especially if it affects our school?  The answer, fortunately, is yes. State government can most definitely have an effect on our funding, our policies, and even our accreditation, and we do have a say.  Currently, there are four topics being tossed around before the legislators in Austin.  At this time, we are not aware which, if any, of those topics will be introduced as a bill.  The four educational topics for independent schools being discussed are:

·        Before and After School Childcare Licensing Exemption

·        Educational Quality and Diversity

·        UIL Participation

·        Accreditation and Equal Treatment

It is extremely important for the Independent schools to stay in front of our legislators and for that reason, an organization called TANS (Texas Association of Non-Public Schools) was founded over thirty years ago. There are District Directors around the state of Texas who support the decisions that are appropriate for our schools and who write or visit our representatives in the Legislature to express our beliefs.  I have been serving on the TANS board for two years, and I am very glad there is an organization that looks out for our independent school interests.  In Houston, there are two District Directors, Dr. Jeff Williams, Head of School at Second Baptist School and me.  We are planning a trip to Austin to visit our legislators’ offices to discuss the bills that are introduced and to advise the legislators on our positions. 


As an independent school, we at Shlenker are dependent mostly on tuition and donations to develop our budget.   That is why other subsidies such as the Jewish Federation of Houston, Annual Giving, the Soirée, donations, and designated grants are so important to our programs.  Tuition drives our ability to provide the remarkable programs and classes that we offer our students every day.  Regardless of the actions taken by the state, Shlenker will continue to have small class sizes and outstanding specialists.  We will continue to bring the newest and most innovative curriculum and technology to our students as well.


Ricki Komiss 

Head of School


Contact Ricki

Categorized under:  Elementary EducationPreschool

12/06/2010 08:26 AM Posted by: Ricki Komiss Poster Avatar
How will our students access information in the 21st century?

How far can we go with technology to stay within the comfort zone of our students?  We determined this year to have our students from second through fourth grade take their standardized tests on computers.  No more bubbling in, no more tracking from the test to a paper, no more losing your place in the test.  We found the students adapted immediately to the new format.  The tests were, in some cases, even interactive. The most incredible result was that the scores were available immediately! 


As we make decisions about textbooks for the twenty-first century, we would be unrealistic to assume the status quo.  Almost all textbooks come with an online version or at the very least, a component that is online.  Wow!  This allows us to differentiate for the students as in the math online program that we use at Shlenker.  Students go online at their home, take a short quiz about what they learned in class that day, and depending on their score, a homework page pops up.  Of course, they receive feedback immediately too. 


What do we know?  We know that typically between the ages of six and seventeen, “the amount of time kids spend reading books for fun declines, while the time they spend going online for fun and using smart phones to text or talk increases", according to the 2010 Kids & Family Reading Report. Additional findings from this report express concern from parents that the use of cell phones, texting, emailing, and gaming take time away from important activities such as the ones indicated below:

Reading books (41%)

Doing physical activities (40%)

Engaging with family (33%)


However, the study revealed that kids are motivated by using technology, and many said they would read more if they had the opportunity to read e-books on an electronic device.  It looks like technology is here to stay!


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Categorized under:  Elementary EducationPreschool

11/11/2010 04:29 PM Posted by: Ricki Komiss Poster Avatar
Reasons that Shlenker students learn Hebrew.

Why Hebrew, Why Now?

Why Hebrew?  The first question is relatively easy to answer since we are a Jewish Day School preparing our students for Jewish life as an adult.  Hebrew is the appropriate language to teach at Shlenker and we begin with three year old children by teaching oral language such as Shalom, Shabbat, Abba, Ani, etc.  The language progresses in Kindergarten to more oral vocabulary and students begin writing in cursive Hebrew letters in second grade.  By fifth grade, most Shlenker students are able to read from the Torah and can recite or chant the prayers easily.   Their text books are geared to modern Hebrew and conversational language, and classes are conducted in Hebrew. 

Here’s why!  New research has begun to chip away at some of our traditional beliefs about second-language acquisition and the benefits acquired with it.  This research, completed by the New National Science Foundation, points to the assertion that “we all learned our first language and we can learn a second one.”  Previously it was believed that the window for learning a new language is between birth and age seven.  It was further believed that the window for acquiring new languages closes almost entirely after puberty.  However, interdisciplinary research conducted at several universities suggests that the time frame might be much longer and that students who learn more than one language may become more adaptable in other subjects as well. Babies of English speaking parents seemed to respond to language more than other sounds.  It is believed that specialization of sounds occurs during a two month period from eight to ten months old.  The researchers discovered during that period, babies start to specialize in sounds of their native language and are less likely to distinguish sounds from other languages.  An example of this specialization occurs with English speaking families where the baby will hear the difference between the “L” and “R” sounds.  There is also evidence that the personal touch of a native speaking teacher or tutor who demonstrates the second language through gestures and personal anecdotes directly to the child will be more effective than audio or video recordings.

The most exciting news from this research supports the long held belief that children who are exposed to and learn more than one language have greater cognitive flexibility than monolingual children. Children who have learned two languages may have greater adaptability to changes in curriculum or activities than children with only one language, and additionally they exhibit greater flexibility in problem-solving than monolingual students.

This research was taken from Education Week and written by Sarah D. Sparks.

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Categorized under:  Elementary EducationPreschool

10/21/2010 08:24 AM Posted by: Ricki Komiss Poster Avatar
A look at The Shlenker School's philosophy of Professional Development.

Does Professional Development Matter?

At Shlenker, opportunities for professional development are abundant.  However, the types of classes and services teachers and administrators receive respond directly to their goals and to the instruction in the classroom.  Our experience tells us that when a teacher requests support in an area, that teacher will work twice as hard as she would if a class were mandated.  Therefore, professional development classes are responsive to a particular area or need that is identified by the staff. For instance, several years ago, the Shlenker elementary staff agreed that they would benefit from classes in Readers’ and Writers’ Workshop to help improve the overall reading and writing ability of our students.  Although we had been working on writing for many years and through a number of reliable sources, we still felt our overall program could improve.  Shlenker has brought in two consultants, one to work with the teachers from K-2 and another to work with language arts teachers in 3-5.  By working alongside the teachers and bringing ideas and challenges to the teachers, the consultants successfully helped mold a new way of teaching children to write and also initiated the idea of Just Right books to improve the children’s ability to read and to enjoy reading.  Even though teachers have worked on this program for several years, they still request having the mentors to maintain and strengthen their efforts. 


We work closely with math consultants to align our math program from Pre-kindergarten through fifth grade.  Our Rice University consultant will spend several days on campus again this year to support teachers in their effort to pace the math for the students, to provide additional materials if necessary, and to improve instruction through the use of technology.  At Shlenker, teachers can feel the improvement in the strength of the math program each year.  And without having it as a goal, we see the fruits of our labor in the ERB and ISEE test scores.


The same principles hold true for our early childhood teachers.  Toddler teachers have worked with literacy mentors from Rice University for two years and are about to embark on our third year.  This program teaches our teachers the best ways to read stories, listen to early language, and prepare young students for reading and writing.  Toddlers, indeed, respond to a well-told story! 


Finally, one of the most significant areas of professional development is in the area of technology.  As our hardware becomes more and more sophisticated, teachers require more support.  We are fortunate to have two outstanding technology professionals on our campus to teach innovation, and to support all of our programs.  All of our new curriculum programs are equipped with technology components that make the learning interactive for the students.  Teachers must stay on the cutting edge of technology in order to teach successfully in this new era of instruction.


At Shlenker, professional development is all about driving instruction to be the best it can be.  Through teacher goals, benchmark testing, and analysis of the success of our students and alumni each year, we try to engage teachers in opportunities that will support their teaching efforts and improve student outcomes.


At Shlenker we believe that giving teachers the opportunity to drive the professional development opportunities that they feel will make them more successful in the classrooms has had a dynamic impact on student outcomes.


The Shlenker School:  Dynamic Academics Woven With Jewish Values


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Categorized under:  Elementary EducationPreschool

10/01/2010 01:57 PM Posted by: Ricki Komiss Poster Avatar
Why do we have it and what organizations accredit Shlenker?

Accreditation — Why do we have it and what organizations accredit Shlenker?

Being an accredited school and licensed by the state are extremely important regulations for schools. At Shlenker, we believe that we need to be “better” than the expectations of our agencies. In order for students to receive credit for their elementary work in middle school, they must have attended an accredited school. Teachers must have full certification in order to teach at Shlenker and to receive years of service credit if they go to a public school to teach. Often we are asked, particularly by out-of-town applicants, what our accreditation is at Shlenker. Some parents will only look at schools that are fully accredited. Receiving accreditations is a time consuming and often strenuous exercise; however, it gives the school a chance to review all practices and improve in areas that need work.

Shlenker is accredited and licensed in the following ways:

  • NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) accredits the Early Childhood Program from 15 months through PreK-4
    • This accreditation occurs every five years
  • Licensing — Shlenker's Early Childhood Program, Young Toddler through PreK-4, is licensed by the State of Texas
    • This licensing occurs annually
  • ISAS (Independent Schools Association of the Southwest) accredits the Early Childhood Program beginning with 3 year olds and continues through 5th grade of the elementary school
    • This accreditation takes place every 10 years

These accreditations are very important for parents to recognize as their children move through the grades and into middle school and beyond. It is our intention to always maintain our strenuous degree of oversight and to achieve at a higher level than required.

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Categorized under:  Elementary EducationPreschool

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