West Hartford day school puts its best (new) face forward

By Cindy Mindell

WEST HARTFORD – This month, Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Hartford (SSDS) is rolling out a new logo and website designed to more fully engage parents, students, and alumni and to attract new enrollment.

The idea to consider rebranding for the school, which was founded in 1971 and offers a dual Judaic and general studies curriculum from preschool through eighth grade, was first raised two years ago, when Head of School Andrea Kasper had just been hired.ssds-logo

“What I gathered from the school community as I was learning about it is the sense that people don’t know exactly who Schechter is,” Kasper says. “They have ideas of who we are and a lot of them are dated. We decided that we need to be sending out a really strong, clear message and in order to do that, we had to have clarity around what that message was going to be. We felt that Schechter’s look needed to be refreshed; it needed to better represent who we are and how we want to be perceived.”

With a generous gift earmarked for just that purpose, the school launched a two-year strategic rebranding process, guided by the Cleveland-based Viva La Brand consultancy. For the first year, Kasper and the consultant gathered input from all relevant constituencies.

“We met with parents of current students and alumni, and parents who toured the school but chose not to enroll their children,” says Kasper. “We also spoke with board members, donors, faculty, and administration. The process helped us think about what our value proposition is for people who are here: what is it that they really cherish about a Schechter experience and education.”

At the same time, the SSDS board put together a long-term strategic plan, rewriting the school’s mission and vision, and reiterating with faculty input three core values: wisdom (chochmah), community (klal Yisrael), and good heart (lev tov).

Among the “talking points” that emerged is the unique makeup of the student body. “One of the things that we really want people to know about us is how diverse Schechter is – Jewishly, socio-economically, and in terms of nationality,” Kasper says. “We represent secular Jews and Orthodox Jews and everyone in between; our families speak more than seven languages at home.”

In the second year, SSDS worked with the West Hartford marketing firm, Knowles Kreative, to redesign the school website and modernize its logo.

The two-year process has been an invaluable learning experience for Kasper.

“It provided more evidence for an impression I got throughout my interview process [for head of school], that this is a school community that is impassioned by the mission of Jewish day school education, and that people feel strongly about its purpose and about its necessity. I think people feel so emotionally about their day school education – what they want from it, what they hope their kids get out of it – largely because it’s grounded in what they hope for their community and for the future of Jewish life and learning in the country.”

The “new Schechter” will debut in large part through the redesigned school website, which not only boasts fresh content but is also easier to navigate and offers many opportunities to contact and connect with the school.

“Schechter’s been here for 45 years and it’s gone through many iterations and has evolved in all kinds of ways,” says Kasper. “We saw this as an opportunity to be very intentional about our branding and to make sure that, across the board, the look that we’re putting out is cohesive and clear and bound to how we speak about Schechter. We wanted to make sure that we look like what we would like to look like and help encourage the perception that we’re also a vibrant, modern iteration of a Jewish dayschool which provides excellence in education across our entire curriculum.”

CAP: SSDS head of school Andrea Kasper with a student

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