End Of An Era
Dr. Mark Smiley announces his decision to step down
as headmaster of Hillel Day School.
Copy Editor/Education Writer
he news became public Nov. 5, with a
letter sent to members of the Hillel Day
School of Metropolitan Detroit school
community: Dr. Mark Smiley, headmas-
ter of the K-8 school, has announced his resignation,
effective July 31, 2003.
'After 16 years, I believe it is time to take a new
step in my career in Jewish education," Dr. Smiley
wrote. "This new direction will include: mentoring
new principals of Jewish day schools, studying in
rabbinical school, writing and devoting my energies
to the day school movement."
Robert Orley of Franklin, president of the
Farmington Hills-based Solomon Schechter school,
said Hillel's nationwide stature had increased dra-
matically during Dr. Smiley's tenure.
"Mark has been able to put together a really out-
standing administrative team and a superlative aca-
demic team," Orley said. "I consider him a friend,
and he'll be sincerely missed."
The 45-year-old headmaster said he'd been consid-
ering his plans for the future for some time, and is
especially interested in completing his rabbinic stud-
ies at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in
New York City.
Two factors convinced Dr. Smiley that this was
the time to make the move.
First, he said, the economic situation at the
Farmington Hills school has been steadily improving
since Liz Schubiner was hired as director of opera-
tions about 18 months ago.
In addition, the school developed a long-range plan
as part of applying for accreditation by the
Independent Schools Association of the Central States.
"With ISACS, we have a clear blueprint for the
future and ways to develop new leadership for the
future. It's time for me to develop my skills as well,"
Dr. Smiley said.
Although he has not yet accepted another job, the
Hillel headmaster said he was weighing several dif-
option for my younger son, who is learning disabled.
"Leaving will be bittersweet for them. On one hand,
they love what they're doing now, being part of the
JAMD community, part of the Hillel community"
Yael was born during his first staff meeting at the
school, he recalled.
"On the other hand, my children are children of
the world," said Dr. Smiley, who grew up in
Toronto. "They spent a year in Israel, time in
Amsterdam, in the [Camp] Ramah community and
in Hamilton, Ontario. .And the opportunities I'm
looking at bring us closer to family, in Toronto, in
the New York area."
As long as the fainily remains in metro Detroit,
Aviva Silverman will continue in her current job as
Dr. Smiley receives the Torah from Ellen Glen, past president of Hillel Day School, at a 1996 ceremony.
His departure from Hillel isn't tied to disillusion-
ment, Dr. Smiley said.
"I love the place, and you can quote me," he said.
In addition to personal fulfillment, family consid-
erations also played a part in his decision to leave.
Dr. Smiley and his wife, Aviva Silverman, have three
children: daughter, Yael, 15, a student at the Jewish
Academy of Metropolitan Detroit; and sons Dov,
13, and Ben, 10.
"Dov says going to a school with a high school
attached is important to him," Dr. Smiley said, "and
we're looking for a community that has a day-school
On The Budget
Hillel president Orley, who will chair the search
committee for a new headmaster, said the board is
appreciative that Dr. Smiley gave them plenty of
time to choose his successor.
In addition, the school, which is in its 44th
year, is in a stable enough financial position to
handle a transition, he said.
"The current plan is for a balanced budget this
year," Orley said.
Despite last year's budget deficit of $338,000,
the school is continuing its tuition-assistance pro-
gram, which serves about one-third of its 720 stu-
dents. This year, $1.4 million will be devoted to
tuition assistance, Orley said.
"The key to balancing the budget for this year
is how well we do on our fund-raising projec-
tions," added Hillel treasurer Jim Berger of West
The school anticipates revenues of $7.3 million
in tuition and fund-raising, minus financial aid,
he said, with a corresponding $7.3 million in
Hillel's head of Jewish studies for grades 6-8, he
said. She also teaches a class on the ethics of Jewish
living for the Florence Melton Adult Mini-School, a
program of the Agency for Jewish Education of
Nancy Adler of Farmington Hills, president of the
Hillel Parent Teacher Organization, said Dr. Smiley
told PTO members about his need to "Jewishly edu-
cate his youngest son, who has special needs.
"The parents understood that and know that's
what he has to do," Adler said. "We all wish Mark
and Aviva and their family well."
Fund-raising projections amount to $750,000,
about the same as last year's fund-raising total. This
does not include money allotted from the Jewish
Federation of Metropolitan Detroit or the Shiffman
Family Day School Tuition Assistance Fund. Hillel's
budget allocation from Federation's 2002 Annual
Campaign is $604,359, and the school has received
$127,000 this year from the Shiffman Fund.
"Versus where we were last year, we've reduced
expenses slightly more than $600,000," Berger said.
"And we did it in a way to minimize any detrimen-
tal effect on education, keeping class sizes within the