News Updates


March 17, 2011

Hillel Academy
Kingston, Jamaica



Hillel Academy, in partnership with students, staff and parents, strives to achieve the fullest development of each student's potential and talents.

We seek to create a disciplined community of lifelong learners with sound moral values through the provision of a well-rounded international curriculum delivered by a dynamic, highly-trained staff.


Founded in 1969 with 11 students, Hillel Academy was a project of the United Congregations of Israelites in Jamaica. This charitable trust school was established to offer an example of excellence in education for Jamaica, following independence. The primary or Prep School grew and moved to its current campus at the Cherry Gardens neighbourhood in 1972. The High School opened in 1979. "Learning for Living" has always been the School motto. Hillel Academy is a private, non-denominational school for both international and national students. The School follows all laws and requirements regulating licensed schools in Jamaica and has been accredited by SACS/AdvancEd since 1998/99. Sports facilities include three tennis courts, a swimming pool, a soccer field, two small playing fields, two playgrounds and an outdoor basketball court.

Current enrolment is 738 students from 33 countries, speaking 14 languages. Jamaicans make up 80% of the student body. Over 200 students hold dual citizenship; some have more than two nationalities. The next largest components are US citizens, Canadians and British students. This is the largest enrolment ever. There is room for a small increase in student numbers in the High School, but the size of the School is viewed by the Board and staff as optimal, and there are no plans for expansion. Recent global financial difficulties have impacted the community, but the School enrolment has actually increased, since new families apply constantly. The reputation of the Prep School has always been excellent in Kingston. The High School reputation has radically improved over the past five years, due to the implementation of international programs. The impact of the popular IB program, in particular, has brought students to Hillel from many other Jamaican High Schools.

At least two full scholarships are provided by the School per year group each year, and all staff are entitled to a 50% tuition discount for two children. English as a Second Language (ESL) support is available within the School program and, when necessary, provided at the parent's expense.

Our teachers, from seven countries, are certified and many have advanced degrees. Most teachers come from the Caribbean region. Professional development for teachers receives at least 2% of the annual budget to maintain updated training standards for staff in all programs. Recent training relates to special needs, Early Childhood Education, IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education )and IB (International Baccalaureate Diploma Program).

The Board of Directors is appointed through Trustees nominated by the United Congregations of Israelites in Jamaica. The Board, in turn, appoints and evaluates the Director of the School. Monthly Board meetings are attended by all appointed Directors, the School Director, the Chief Financial Officer (CFO), the two Principals, the Business Manager and the President of the PTA. Honorary Board members, who are among the School founders or long-standing supporters of Hillel, also attend meetings.

The Prep School, 8 grades (Kindergarten 1 through grade 6), follows a unique program that combines Jamaican educational curriculum requirements with best practice gleaned from US and international sources. High School begins at grade 7 and concludes in grade 13. Grades 7,8 and 9 are an autonomous curricular unit, designed to achieve the smooth transition from primary education to international, externally examined programs.

Over the past several years the community sought to develop the best educational programs for the High School, being dissatisfied with the higher education opportunities afforded to graduates of the Caribbean examination programs (CXC and CAPE) then offered. Hillel Academy adopted the British IGCSE two-year external examination program for grade 10 and 11 in 2007. It was authorized for the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program for grades 12 and 13 in 2008. The Board and administration are closely monitoring the implementation of these programs and the responses of the teachers to results. To date, results have been very strong in both programs and have exceeded expectations.

The budget for Hillel Academy is developed collaboratively, under the leadership of the CFO, and with the guidance of the Director. Principals consult with Chairs of Departments and Coordinators, who elicit requests from teachers and staff. Principals approve spending plans, consult with the Director and CFO on priorities and participate actively in budget decisions. The CFO is also in charge of plant facilities and maintenance, and reports budgetary requests from those areas. The annual budget is submitted to the Board of Directors for approval, as stipulated in the annual Board calendar. Alterations in the budget are submitted to the Board for approval. The monthly reports of the CFO to the Board track accounts management, cash flow and income against budgetary projections.

Hillel Academy commissions an external audit annually. All Jamaican fiscal laws and labour/contract regulations are observed by the School, and health, salary and retirement benefits are above island standards. Turnover is minimal. There is a pay scale agreement that was originally negotiated with the Hillel Academy Teachers' Association. Salaries have been regularly increased since that time. The School effectively services its outstanding capital debts.

A dedicated and active Parent Teacher Association supports the development and enriches the activities of the School. All parents are automatically voting members. Elections for PTA leadership are held annually. An annual report on activities and the use of funds is given at the time of the Board Forum. These reports are also placed on the website for all parents to analyze. The PTA contributes mightily to the quality of life at School. Class parent representatives are elected each year and meet regularly with the Principal and Director. The class reps maintain an effective electronic communication network, which is both an information source and a security mechanism. Adult education workshops have also been offered for parents on themes relating to learning science, motivation, parenting and critical thinking skills.

The Hillel website ( ) has recently been restructured and is used as a vehicle for information and communications. It is updated frequently.

The Hillel Foundation was formed in 2008 to raise funds for scholarships, professional development and capital projects. It has printed promotional magazines and sends a monthly electronic newsletter. It also has created the first Alumni Association and website. A search is currently planned to find a new Director for the Foundation.


Many private schools are challenged to prove the validity of their claims for their learning achievements. Hillel is unafraid to face outside standards and has compiled a strong record in every evaluative program attempted to date. In Prep School the students of grade 6 take the Jamaican national GSAT (Grade Six Achievement Test) examination each year, and have excelled continuously. Grades 1, 3 and 4 are also annually evaluated in Jamaican national examinations, with fine results. The American ERB (Educational Research Bureau ) examinations (selected for grade 3, 4, 5 and 6) have also been administered on-line since 2009 to compare our students with those in the USA. Given that our students are often a year younger than many US students, we are very pleased with the results, which show them near to the "suburban US student" averages and above the general "student averages".

High School students are compared to outside standards in PSAT (grade 12) and SAT (grades 12 and 13), as well as ERB (grade 8 from 2010). Grade 11 students complete the British IGCSE to gage their performance according to international standards . Grade 13 students take the IB diploma examinations. In all these fields of comparison, Hillel students perform very well. The university admissions record for Hillel students also testifies to their successful preparation and counselling.

Teachers, also, are evaluated, since their predicted grades prove the level of accuracy of their knowledge about student learning. Both CIE (Cambridge International Examinations Board) and IB give the School feedback on teacher performance annually, with regard to accuracy of teacher assessment. This is in addition to the regular appraisals required for all Hillel employees.

Teachers in both Prep and High Schools meet to discuss results as a staff and in departments to compare outcomes to expectations. They also examine the component parts of the exams to gain insight into possible improvements needed in instruction, teacher training and resources. This, then, is shared with administration to provide swift support as needed and to plan for staffing and professional development needs, longer term. The regular reports to the Board may lead to queries, which are answered promptly and fully, for example, the September, 2010, inquiry upon results for the first IB session. The interpretation of results and teacher responses to them may not yet be as effectively shared between Prep and High School staff as could be wished.

In terms of internal assessments of learning, Hillel Academy is a continuous assessment-based school. While end-of year exams are held for grades 5, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 12, assessments using projects, stories, essays, presentations, quizzes, lab reports, graphic representations, portfolios etc. contribute to the summative evaluation of learning. Formative evaluation is planned with in-class work and with the mock exams for GSAT (Jamaican Grade Six Achievement Tests), IGCSE and IB. Departments and the leadership groups of both High and Prep School evaluate and modify elements of their programmes, based on the data received.

Regular report cards ( twice yearly for Prep, four times per year in High School) and parent conferences keep parents informed of the progress of their children. All parents have the e-mail contact information for the teachers and are encouraged to be in frequent communication about learning. Parents are welcome in the School always.

Support for gifted students and students with special needs is offered in both High and Prep School. Three rooms and four full-time staff are dedicated to serving the various kinds of learning challenges present in the community. In addition, the nurse has a well-equipped infirmary. She informs all involved staff in the health challenges which might impact the performance of students.

Student leadership is nurtured through an appointed Monitor system involving grade 6 in the Prep School. In High School the Student Council is an elected leadership body, while the Prefect system of appointed students is also active. Training will be provided in January and February, 2011, for those students who have volunteered to begin a Peer Mentoring program in High School. Student involvement in the yearbook has also begun over the past two years. Prep and High Schools have an annually appointed Head and Deputy Head Boy and Girl. A House System reaches across the two divisions of the School, and each house has its Prep and High leaders. The House System functions primarily for intramural sport in High School. In Prep School it is also heavily involved in promoting desired behaviours through a merit system. Environmental Clubs in both Prep and High School foster leadership opportunities through conservation, information and recycling projects.

A considerable menu of sporting and non-sporting activities is offered to students to complement the academic programs at Hillel. There has been an active Brownies chapter for 38 years. Key Club, community service projects and faith-based clubs are available, also. Competitive experiences, such as debate, football, table tennis, international math day, volleyball, dance, gymnastics, band, swimming, chess, martial arts, skeet shooting, stock market analysis contests and tennis hone skills and keep students in contact with the larger community and the world. Students and staff who excel and are, therefore, chosen to represent their country in competitions are supported academically and logistically, as much as possible. Our students and staff have represented Jamaica in swimming, football, equestrian events, golf, tennis and volleyball.


A parent and teacher in-house survey in 2008 revealed that the key concerns of the community were parking and sports facilities. This was taken as a confirmation of community satisfaction with the academic programs and instructional delivery, which were not mentioned as areas of concern. Concern was expressed by staff and administrators that space was lacking for the expansion of upper level High School classes. The School proceeded with a major facilities upgrade, including eight additional classrooms, a major road reconstruction and the completion of additional roads, three new parking areas, fencing, a new exit and guardhouse, and two new sports fields, all completed in 2010.

Modern academic requirements demand the teaching of research skills. Libraries in countries prone to hurricanes run great risks investing in resource materials. The storage of print materials is also problematic. Concerns about securing and expanding the opportunities for access to research tools and resources led the PTA to sponsor both the EBSCO and QUESTIA, well-respected on-line database resource sites. QUESTIA and Turn-It-In serve the upper High School grades, but EBSCO is useful for students of all ages and their parents. Math instruction was supported by the subscription to AUTOGRAPH. Software supports the interactive white boards in both Prep and High School, and Brain Pop, plus Junior Brain Pop software has been acquired recently for Prep School.

Concerns to assure security on campus, fuelled by the enlarged campus size, led to consultation with the security officers of several embassies and High Commissions. The result was a locally managed plan for increased security which was endorsed and largely funded by a grant from the United States Department of State, which provided panic buttons, CCTV, peripheral protective fencing, motion sensor alarms and, in the Prep school, magnetic gate closures. A plan for an annual review of School security by a joint task force of regional security officers is currently in place, and the Hillel Emergency Response Handbook, outlining the procedures for fire, earthquake and emergency drills, among other things, has been reviewed and updated. A further grant request to improve CCTV coverage, lighting and structural elements was submitted to the US Embassy in January, 2011.

Efforts to preserve our green spaces and protect the environment have increased in recent years. The Jamaican Forestry Department donated both advice and plants to support reforestation work after the recent building campaign. Building projects have included rain water capture provisions and have been proactive in the planned management of flooding and erosion threats. Irrigation and drainage structures have been inspected and upgraded to take their environmental impact into account. Recycling efforts for paper and plastic continue. IT systems improvements are planned to move Hillel toward the eventual goal of being a paperless school. Inspections by the National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) have been successful.

Communication difficulties due to the technological infrastructure available on the island and our own growth, plus the need to manage communications during weather or civil emergencies, led to improved electronic and telephone networking, piloted by the PTA. This parent/school communication network was tested during the difficult days in May, 2010, and during Hurricanes Tomas and Nicole. It proved to be effective. Improvement of the technology infrastructure and the implementation of more advanced technology to information storage and sharing is a topic currently high on the agenda, and the mission of a committee and the SMT.

The website was found to be less effective as a communication tool than was desired in 2009. A basic overhaul was begun early in 2010, based on feedback from parents and staff. Professional guidance supported serious improvements. The School is beginning to implement the use of Moodle-based interactive on-line platforms for learning support outside the classroom, as well. Continuing maintenance and expansion of the facilities on the website is an on-going task.

At the time of the previous accreditation renewal five years ago, a School Improvement Committee was formed. It met for some time with decreasing frequency. However, the Board of Directors, Senior Management Team and PTA executive meet very regularly and have taken on the devolved responsibility for monitoring and planning School improvement.

The annual agenda of the Board of Directors requires regular mandated consideration of plans for and progress on School improvement and on the Master Facilities Plan, which is a part of the School Improvement Plan. The Director conducts community surveys to establish key concerns. Priorities are set by the Senior Management Team. Board Committees are established when needed to assist in the assessment of needs, design of action plans and supervision of innovations, as a support for the School administration. School improvement is the key topic of discussion and action.


The achievements of our students make us proud, but we are more impressed by the character and self-discipline they demonstrate every day. Community service has always been a component of Hillel life. The expansion of the IB concept of CAS (Creativity, Action and Service) has embraced the entire School. There are School requirements for service, but the innovation and dedication of students, staff and parents make the impact of Hillel Academy in the larger community meaningful and significant. Whether small and personal or public and wide-ranging, the contribution of each child to ease the suffering and better the life conditions of others and protect the environment is fostered and valued by the School community. Service is a gift; it is also a life skill and a learning experience for us. CAS (Creativity, Action and Service) plans are made across the School and examples of activities relating to service are often placed on the website.

We are extremely proud of the active support and encouragement we count on from our parents. The work and dedication of our teachers, however, is an element about which we cannot say enough. The partnership we claim in our mission statement is a reality here. Over the 42 years of service to our community the example set by Hillel Academy continues to fulfil the mission of our founders. Maintaining this fine heritage is our challenge for the future.

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