Dreaming Big from page 8
presentation platform, comfortable seating
easy to move and reconfigure, a "learning
cave" with windows, a glassed-in confer-
ence area and glass folding doors to open
the current library to the school's heart.
The area can accommodate 300 people.
The second phase is the Innovation
Hub to engage students with all aspects of
creativity, including art, technology and
the environment. The space will include a
"libratory," an art studio, science lab, group
areas, a greenhouse, gardens, indoor and
outdoor learning porches, an audio/video
studio and a makerspace, where students
can engage in creative, hands-on tinkering
and learning blending art and science.
Kristin Fontichiaro is a clinical assistant
professor at the University of Michigan
School of Information involved in the
growing Makers movement. She visited
Hillel to hear more about the Innovation
Hub and perhaps help find a good fit for
Hillel's new director of innovation.
"Makerspaces are growing across the
country:' she said. "They are not unusual,
especially in the West Coast independent
schools, but they are pretty unusual in
Michigan right now. Engaging with our
hands is how we grew up playing; children
today did not. They want to crochet or sew
by hand because it feels good. When kids
can learn by doing, it's very powerful."
Phase III of the renovation will be the
Cafe and Kitchen, designed as a learning
and gathering space with outdoor and
indoor seating. The smaller Dorfman Gym
will be converted into the Cafe and a new
music room will be added nearby.
Additionally, the traditional main hall-
ways lined with lockers and classrooms
will become wide avenues filled with
comfy furniture and places for quiet con-
versation, informal meetings and more.
Construction is expected to start June 12
and be mostly finished before school starts
in the fall. Phase IV, which still needs
funding, calls for converting classrooms
into learning communities. Freedman sees
potential for the new spaces to be used by
the larger Jewish community as well.
Tuition Grant Program
"Three years ago, we conducted market
studies to help us understand our com-
munity, how it is perceived and what bar-
riers keep people from coming to Hillel,"
Freedman said. "Cost came out as a sig-
nificant factor and also fear of the future
— how high will tuition go? Last year, we
did the same study with an admissions
consultant and the same things came out
over and over:'
For inspiration, Freedman pondered the
words of Pat Bassett, recently retired head
of the National Association of Independent
Schools in Washington, D.C., to which
Hillel belongs. Bassett suggested the con-
cept of reducing tuition the longer a family
was at a school, which rewards loyalty and
also recognizes yearly cost increases.
10 February 20 • 2014
production/media studio with green
large scale soft seatin
collaborative technology loun
Hillel Day School of Metro Detroit I Master Plan
January 21st, 2014 I © Fielding Nair International
"He thought relief should be coming
along the way and not just at the front end
because it costs more to raise older kids
than it does younger ones:' Freedman said.
"That intrigued me:'
Freedman assembled a group of Hillel
teachers, professionals, board members
and volunteers to brainstorm ways to act
on this suggestion.
They came up with a tuition grant pro-
gram for grades 1-8 that will begin for the
2014-2015 school year. If a child begins
the program in first grade, the family
will receive a $1,000 reduction that year,
followed by an additional $1,000 each
year the child remains in the school, with
potential to reach up to $36,000 in eighth
grade, if all the yearly savings are totaled.
"For the student who goes through
grades 1-8, the total annual tuition the
family will pay through graduation will
actually decrease over eight years as a
result of this grant:' Freedman said.
"This program effectively lowers the real
tuition dollars parents will need to pay:' he
said. "The program brings predictability
to the tuition process, along with stability
While tuition will increase modestly each
year, the value of the grant will outpace
the increase, effectively lowering the real
dollars families will have to pay the longer
they stay at Hillel."
The program is open to any currently
enrolled student or students making lateral
moves from another school. The $1,000
reduction starts in whatever grade the
student may be in when the family enters
the program. There is no income test to
participate, but families do have to opt in
Tuition for the 2014-2015 academic
year at Hillel will range from $11,280 for
kindergarten to $17,975 for grades 1-8.
More than half (54 percent) of the school's
564 students receive financial aid. Families
earning up to $160,000 (one child) or up
to $200,000 (two children) are eligible to
apply for assistance.
This leaves 46 percent of families pay-
ing full tuition. Many are middle-income
families used to being on the giving end
rather than the receiving end. Some are
reluctant to provide the financial informa-
tion required when applying for assistance.
"It's a really creative way to provide
middle-income families with an incentive
to start early and continue with Hiller
said Jared Berman of Novi. He and his
wife, Amy, have two of their three young
children at Hillel. "We would not have
qualified for financial aid, but the tuition
still is not insignificant to our lives.
"We are thinking of this proposition for
all three kids because we fell in love with
Hillel and love the core values and Jewish
identity they are getting. This grant pro-
gram could save us more than $100,000 by
the time we're done — if the grant contin-
ues and if we stay. That's significant.
"We are very excited about this. For
some, it could be the extra thing they need
to commit to Hillel if they are on the fence:'
What makes Hillel's tuition grant so
unusual is the donor's full coverage of
the program for all who want to partici-
pate. The Davidson Foundation granted
$7.5 million to launch the program, with
additional matching funds up to another
$7.5 million contingent on funds raised
by Hillel for its tuition assistance program
"Our annual campaign needs to stay
strong; this only works if we can do finan-
cial assistance Freedman said. "This
Jewish community and Federation is how
we are able to thrive in a tough recession:'
The school's annual budget is $8.6 mil-
lion. Its Federation allocation is $609,129,
with an additional $491,457 coming from
the Shiffman Tuition Assistance Fund and
the Jewish Education Trust.
"Hillel Day School's tuition grant program
is designed to help more Jewish students
attend and stay in Jewish school by making
it more affordable said Jonathon Aaron,
president, William Davidson Foundation.
"By promoting Jewish education, we hope to
foster a strong, vibrant Jewish community in
Southeast Michigan for future generations,
as Mr. Davidson wanted."
Charles Cohen, an affordability special-
ist for PEJE (Partnership for Excellence in
Jewish Education) in Boston, said, "Hillel
is definitely lucky to find a funder like
this. The goal is retention — the more
time students spend in a day school, the
more effective it is at creating a lasting
Cohen says other day schools are try-
ing various approaches, including capping
tuition at a percentage of adjusted gross
income or targeting new students or cer-
tain grades for discounts.
"Hillel is the only one doing something
this comprehensive for both retention and
recruitment:' he said. "We will be watch-
ing Hillel; it can be a model for other
Freedman looks at the two transfor-
mational gifts through the lens of Hillel's
"We need kids in Jewish days schools
for our future; we need knowledgeable,
educated and committed Jews — to the
community, Israel and God:' he said. "Our
mission is crucial to the future of the
Jewish community, and the community
is working together to make it as easy as
possible for these families:'