SMDS-RJA head of school to step down


Saul Mirowitz Day School – Reform Jewish Academy (SMDS-RJA) has announced the recent resignation of head of school Philip Dickstein effective at the end of this school year.

Dickstein replaced founding head of school Marsha Grazman when she retired last summer. When he accepted the position, Dickstein let the board know his wife would not be moving to St. Louis immediately.


But in a letter to the SMDS-RJA community dated May 14, Dickstein confirmed his wife has received a “significant promotion” and will not be moving to St. Louis, which influenced his decision.

“This was a very personal decision based on family priorities,” Dickstein said.

SMDS-RJA president Marc Bluestone said the board knew of Dickstein’s unique situation when they hired him.

“We are disappointed he won’t be staying,” Bluestone said. “But we are better off even after just one year with him.”

Patty Bloom, SMDS-RJA vice president in charge of marketing said the school was blessed to have Dickstein for the year and his professionalism and vision have propelled the school forward.

“There are things he saw that he loved about the school and things that needed improvement,” Bloom said. “He trusted the people advising him and empowered them to make change.”

For example, according to Bloom, Dickstein didn’t feel the school had enough technology. He visited other schools with SMDS-RJA staff to see what technology other schools had and how it was being used. As a result of the research and a successful capital campaign SMART Boards will be placed in every classroom and the school is also looking into updated and additional computers and laptops.

“I feel super confident that our primary mission of educating kids will proceed without a hiccup for the balance of this school year and into next year,” Bluestone said.

Some of the new administrative changes had already in the planning stages for months, said Bluestone. Second grade teacher Sarah Bliss will be moving into the position of full-time principal in charge of curriculum development and teacher support and training. Bluestone said they are finalizing the details and expect to announce in the near future the hiring of a Director of Development and a Director of Admissions and Marketing.

“Carol Rubin, the heart and soul of the school, will become the Director of Jewish Life to further fully integrate Judaism into everything we do at the school,” Bluestone said.

The executive board has been very busy since Dickstein’s announcement. The first priority was notifying the school community in the “fastest, honest and most forthright” manner, said Bluestone. Once the full board meets, he expects they will begin to conduct a national search for a new head of school.

“Everything is going to be better than fine,” Bloom said. “Many volunteers are stepping up to the plate to help out.”

Those volunteers are some of the strong points of the school, said Dickstein: the many talented teachers, staff, family and board who will enable the school to continue to move forward.

“The academy is a remarkable, welcoming, nurturing place and I will miss the community very much,” Dickstein said in an interview with the Light. “The school is and will continue to be a shining light for the St. Louis Jewish community.”

Dickstein said he had grown a lot this past year himself.

“Previously I had not worked in the Reform Jewish community,” Dickstein said. “I have been impressed with the sense of inclusion in the school. The students, staff and family have a deep and proud spirituality and a sense of pride in being Jewish.”