Monday, December 31, 2012

Get Your Tax Deductions In

Less than 10 hours left to help solve the tuition crisis while simultaneously reducing your tax base for 2012.  Give to NNJKIDS to helps all of the local Yeshiva Day Schools or to AJE to help fund the "affordable" blended learning schools popping up all over.

Or give directly to the schools. Hopefully they will use the funds to keep tuition from rising and not to fund a third teacher in each Kindergarten class.  Fortunately they all have web pages making it very easy for anyone with a credit card to give.

Here are the links for the JDS's in BC:

Ben Porat Yosef

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

SAR Parents: Be Afraid

Word is, SAR is going to try a progressive tuition system where everyone making over $400K will be getting a tuition hike of 15% next year.  Everyone making under that amount will be entitled to a reduction in the amount of the increase.  This will allow them to avoid their typical 5% annual increase for the next several years.

The $400K crowd might be able to afford the increase, though with the expected new taxes for their income bracket, if they have 4 kids in SAR & SAR High it still won't be that easy.  But what bothers me more is making people in the 200K and 300K brackets go through the scholarship process, when they are in the top 2% of American earners. I image many of them are going to start looking at Westchester Torah  Academy.

I have no problem with multi-millionaires from Fieldston wanting a school with tons of bells & whistles (though I'm skeptical that any of them actually improve education).  They earned their money & have a right to spend it however they want.  They donate a lot of money & the clout they have from those donations force the school to focus on "academic excellence" rather than affordability.  My problem is that until now there was no other option for everyone else who just wanted a normal yeshiva education for their children that they could afford.

Personally, if I was a multi-millionaire from Fieldston I would be much more concerned about the future of Modern Orthodox Judaism in America than I would about maintaining the Blue Ribbon School Award of Excellence in my children's school. I would much rather donate to AJE than SAR.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Season to be Jolly

How awesome is it to have off from work when your kids have school?  I hope the He'atid clones copy this policy.

Monday, December 24, 2012

AJE Embraces Innovation

The following op-ed from the founders of the Affordable Jewish Education project is being published in the Jewish Week this week.  AJE is a sponsor of He'atid, Tiferet Academy and Westchester Torah Academy:

Embracing Innovation In Yeshiva Education
Mon, 12/24/2012
At the Affordable Jewish Education Project (AJE), we are proud to be partnering with three new yeshivas to aggressively embrace educational innovation with an eye towards affordability.
Yeshivat He’Atid launched this past September in Bergen County with 116 students, and Tiferet Academy and Westchester Torah Academy will open in September 2013 in the Five Towns and Westchester, respectively. There have been concerns expressed about both the newness of our model and the effects new schools will have on existing yeshiva day schools.
Given the havoc the tuition crisis is wreaking on our communities, however, we feel an urgent need for an immediate push to embrace innovations in the way we teach our children.
While we would be honored to be able to take credit for these incredible educational innovations, the ideas that our schools are implementing are already the norm in many schools across the country; we are simply partnering with experts in the field to adapt those models to our schools. Over 40 states have virtual schools or online learning initiatives and a recent study estimated that "two thirds of districts are offering some online or blended program." The compound annual growth rate of pre-K through 12th grade online learning is 43 percent, and that number is growing every year.
Some of the largest foundations focusing on U.S. education are already investing aggressively in blended learning initiatives in order to improve educational quality in both public and charter schools. The foremost goal of the Gates Foundation’s “Next Generation Learning Challenge” grants totaling $24 million is "increasing the use of blended learning models." The Dell Foundation, Hume Foundation, and Hewlett Foundation have also spent millions of dollars on similar initiatives.
Why has blended learning been growing in popularity at such a rapid pace? Because studies are showing that it works. A 2009 meta-analysis by the U.S. Department of Education found that "in recent experimental and quasi-experimental studies contrasting blends of online and face-to-face instruction with conventional face-to-face classes, blended instruction has been more effective."
Rocketship Education, which runs seven elementary charter schools servicing 2,500 students in Northern California and has been implementing blended learning since 2007, has shown very impressive results. Despite 90% of its students coming from poverty and starting out 2-3 grades behind, Rocketship's students outperform every elementary school in the area and are on par with their affluent peers in Palo Alto.
In KIPP: Empower, a blended learning elementary school in Los Angeles that uses the same in-class rotation model being adopted by our new schools, 94% of students scored at or above the national average in math, with 54% scoring in the top quartile. Those results were even better in reading, with 76% of students scoring in the top quartile.
We have the tools available to provide a personalized learning experience to our students in small groups by empowering our teachers with tools to track each student’s progress using real-time data. Why not take advantage of these amazing tools? In our schools differentiation is the rule, not the exception; each child experiences a truly individualized educational program.
It is possible that in the short run, establishing new schools may negatively impact some existing day schools. On the other hand, we have never encountered any industry, for profit or non-profit, where the value to the consumer has been enhanced by limiting choice. Yeshiva day schools exist only to serve the community. They are a means, not an end. If they are structurally unable to meet the needs of the community in their current form, we need to have an outlet that does.
Our current yeshiva day school network leaves the vast majority of families priced out of yeshiva tuition, or left with little remaining income for savings or for worthy charities. This has placed an unbelievable burden on young families. We strongly believe that providing a Jewish education to our children should require sacrifice, but a reasonable sacrifice. Our day schools all teach middot, derech eretz and chesed to our students, but the task becomes easier when the school itself sets an example that is sensitive to all families across all levels of income.
It is our hope and expectation, however, that our new schools - and we are already starting to see this in the respective neighborhoods in which we are operating - will encourage existing schools to finally embrace innovation in ways they had been unwilling or unable to do so previously.
We firmly believe that by adopting this model we can elevate educational quality and simultaneously reduce the cost per student of educating our children. We are not saying that all yeshiva day schools need to follow our exact model. What we are saying is that there should be at least one option for every student in every community to enjoy the benefits of a high-quality Jewish and secular education at a price that is affordable for the average family. Ultimately, a rising tide lifts all boats and we believe aggressive innovation could dramatically expand the pool of students attending Yeshiva day schools, thereby strengthening not only the new schools but the broader Yeshiva day school ecosystem.
Mark Nordlicht is founder of The Affordable Jewish Education Project (AJE) and Jeff Kiderman is the executive director of AJE. They can be contacted at

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

How Much Should Be Spent on Security?

In the wake of the horrible tragedy in Connecticut there's been a lot of talk about making schools safer.  I think some good suggestions that aren't crazy expensive include having every classroom door have a lock on it, having shades on all windows and the classroom door window, and having emergency pull stations in every classroom that automatically calls the police & sets of an alarm to alert everyone in the building.

There have also been some absurd suggestions, like having every kindergarten teacher come to class with a loaded gun every day.

The real question is do we spend the money to fully secure the building against a crazed armed gunman.  My answer is no.  It is simply not practical.  A crazed gunman can simply shoot a guard and shoot glass to get in.  To really secure a building you would need multiple highly trained armed guards.

Even with emotions running high we must think rationally.  Can we really protect ourselves 100% against every potential danger?  Sometimes it's just up to the man upstairs.

There's been some criticism about schools charging a "security fee" along with other junk fees.  Personally I think it's good that this cost is broken out separately from tuition and other expenses.  I think parents are more willing to pay extra if they know the money is being used to keep their kids safe.  If it's just built into regular tuition parents might assume the money is going towards superfluous administration, assistant teachers or extra-curricular programs.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Does He'atid High Already Exist?

I didn't realize it when I wrote my last post but apparently there is a low cost Yeshiva High School that is already in operation in New Jersey.  It's called the Pre-Collegiate Learning Center and it's in East Brunswick, NJ.

And when I say low-cost, I mean LOW COST.  $5,000 per student!!

How do they do it for $5,000 per student?  Watch the video below (but don't expect any detailed budget analysis):

Or check out their website.  Or like them on Facebook.  Or read about them in the Jewish Week.

Or attend the next parlor meeting, this coming Tuesday, December 18 in Highland Park, NJ at 7PM.  For more info or to RSVP, please contact the office at (732) 387-2693 or send an email to

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

He'atid High

Now that our kids are getting a little older it's time to start worrying about high school tuition.  Some of the Yeshiva high schools that draw a lot of students from Bergen County include Frisch, TABC, Maayanot & MTA.  I compiled the total cost for sending a child to each of these schools for 4 years, assuming no scholarship, one-child in the family attending, fees paid on time, no dorm & no changes in the fees.  Here's what it comes to:

Frisch      $105,950
MTA         $97,840
Ma'ayanot $85,365
TABC       $88,576

Some of the critics of He'atid argue that younger children don't have the attention span to learn from a computer.  I disagree.  But I wonder if those critics would have the same problem with a high school that emphasized computer-based learning.  I don't really get how computer based learning saves money in early childhood if you still have 2 teachers in the room but in high school there can be periods where you don't need a teacher at all.

We need someone that can get this off the ground.  Help us GD!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Low Tuition from the Hudson to the Sound to the South Shore

The Jewish Week is covering the 'Axis' of low tuition Yeshiva Day Schools in the Tri-state area including He'atid, Westchester Torah Academy and Tiferet Academy.

In other news Tiferet had a successful open house (see pictures if you're on facebook) and WTA announced a Principal (details after the jump).

Maybe 'Chump' was right to declare "victory"?

[UPDATE: He'atid Open House video below]

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Interview with Tiferet Academy Board Member

This interview was published by the Five Towns Jewish Times about the new Tiferet Academy opening in the fall in Woodmere, NY:

Q & A With Tzvi Saperstein Of Tiferet Academy

By 5TJT Staff

5TJT: Tzvi, as a board member of Tiferet Academy, can you summarize the current plans for the school?

TS: Tiferet Academy represents the future of yeshiva classrooms, featuring cutting-edge educational practices known as 21st Century Learning and financially responsible operational policies that allow for lower, sustainable tuition pricing. We are excited to open our doors next September, with classes for pre-K through third grade. Our facilities will be in the local Five Towns area.

5TJT: You say that Tiferet is the future of the yeshiva classroom. How’s that?

TS: In a traditional classroom, you have one teacher lecturing to a large group of children for hours at the average pace of the classroom. This doesn’t effectively teach the students at their own level, which is unfortunate.

At Tiferet, we are focused on teaching every child at his/her individual pace and making sure that students develop skills like critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration. To accomplish this, the classroom is divided into different sections where children can learn in different ways. In one section, a small group of students learn from a teacher in the traditional way. In another section, they will learn collaboratively with other students on hands-on projects, under the direct supervision of a teacher. At another section within the classroom, students can interact with laptops or iPads, to test their mastery of the lesson and either move ahead if they understand it, or get additional assistance from a teacher, if needed.

5TJT: How does that help teach children?

TS: It helps in three ways: It allows for more individualized face time with the teacher, because instead of teaching 20 children at once, they can teach a group a fraction of that size. Secondly, it allows for the development of social and collaborative skills, in that students spend a lot of time working directly together. Lastly, because the software is assessing students on a daily basis, teachers are able to track a student’s progress and know where the knowledge gaps are in real time. Teachers and parents no longer need to wait for quizzes and tests to see how much of the material a child truly understands, and get them the help they need immediately.

5TJT: Does that mean you can replace teachers with technology?

TS: Not at all. If anything, we empower teachers even more by providing them with complete insight into their student’s subject mastery in real time. Instead of having to waste time grading tests by hand, the technology frees up the teacher to focus on the lesson content and their individual relationship with the child. We can also give them even more administrative responsibility, which helps the school operate even more efficiently.

5TJT: Does technology help with Judaic studies as well?

TS: It does. While there are far more providers of general studies, more and more Jewish and Hebrew providers have been offering software programs as well. Where certain content doesn’t yet exist, we will teach in the traditional way, with emphasis on more project-based and collaborative learning.

5TJT: Who is going to be heading Tiferet?

TS: The board selected Rabbi Avraham Sacks, a warm, engaging administrator with a fantastic administration background to be our head of school. He previously served as the head of school at Hillel Academy in Pittsburgh, and before that as assistant headmaster of Ramaz Lower School, where he worked for 13 years in various administrative and teaching roles.

5TJT: What was your motivation in helping found Tiferet?

TS: Well, I am a father of three children myself and very interested in making sure that they get the best possible education, using the best tools and methodologies we currently have available. When I learned about the 21st Century Learning educational model and saw what the potential impact could be on the yeshiva community, it was really exciting to me. It represented a much better way to teach our children as well as a way to help operate schools with greater financial efficiency.

I also loved the idea that we would be a part of a growing, collaborative movement, along with Yeshivat He’Atid and Westchester Torah Academy. The potential for independent yeshivas to share resources and learning between their schools as a way for everyone to operate more efficiently has never existed before to this degree in the yeshiva world.

5TJT: What are some of the challenges you will face in opening Tiferet?

TS: I think we have to dispel certain myths about 21st Century Learning and incorporating technology in the classroom. People tend to fear change and progress because they aren’t familiar with it. So my biggest challenge is to demystify how the Tiferet classroom will work and how big an advantage to educating a child it actually is. Along with Rabbi Sacks, I recently drove out to a school called Achievement First in Connecticut to see a 21st Century Learning public charter school in action and was amazed by what I saw: 80% of the kindergarten class were able to read without any trouble. I’m really excited to see those kinds of results in Tiferet!

We also have to stress to parents that the quality level of a 21st Century Learning education is not new or “experimental.” The success rates have been proven. These educational practices have been in place for over a decade in private and charter schools, with tremendous long-term success. They are only getting better and already far exceed scores from traditional education in standardized testing.

5TJT: If the education is more advanced, how are you able to lower tuition costs so much more significantly than other schools?

TS: Because 21st Century Learning allows us to operate significantly more efficiently, we can save money and return those savings to the parent body in the form of lower tuition. When you add in some of our operational plans, such as not forcing parents to pay extra money towards a scholarship fund, the tuition savings are impactful.

5TJT: Does that mean you won’t have any financial assistance for parents who need it?

TS: We absolutely plan to offer assistance for parents who need it due to circumstances out of their control. Funds will be raised separately from ba’alei tzedakah and from Tiferet parents who voluntarily choose to donate money towards our scholarship. We will not make our scholarship fund mandatory, nor are we padding our tuition numbers to cover some of the scholarship fund. This is because we want to offer long-term sustainable and stable tuition prices for our families.

5TJT: Will there be an open house so parents can learn more about Tiferet?

TS: Yes! We are holding Tiferet’s open house this Sunday, November 18 at 7:30 p.m.! We’ll be doing a presentation in the Lawrence Woodmere Academy auditorium at 336 Woodmere Boulevard in Woodmere where people can hear from Rabbi Sacks in person, as well as a representative from Education Elements, experts in 21st Century Learning, and others. We’re putting on a really exciting and eye-opening program. Any parent that wants to see where the future of yeshiva classrooms are headed should definitely come and listen. They can find more information and RSVP for the open house at

5TJT: We are looking forward to hearing more about Tiferet in the coming months. Thank you so much for your time!

TS: My pleasure!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Guest Post: Teaneck Community Charter School & THS Open Houses Tonight

Teaneck Community Charter School Open House Thurs Nov 15
On November 15th Teaneck Community Charter School will host an open house for prospective families at 7 p.m. at 563 Chestnut Ave. in Teaneck.

Come take a tour of TCCS, meet the administration, faculty and learn more about the unique educational opportunities offered at TCCS. School hours are from 8:30am - 3:15 pm with before and after care options available. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact the office at (201) 833-9600.
Applications can be found online at

TCCS educational philosophy
•Students work in diverse, cooperative teams to produce tangible results
•Students use computers and technology in all aspects of their education from
•Small group instruction ensures that all students meet high standards of
literacy and numeracy- no more than 17 students per class and only 2 classes per
•Students are empowered to utilize higher order thinking skills, to take
responsibility for their actions, and to solve problems independently and
•Real-world, hands-on projects encourage students to apply the skills they gain
in the classroom
•Parents are full partners in their children's education. Families work together
to improve the physical environment, enrich education and participate in

Teaneck High School Open House
On November 15, Teaneck High School will host an open house for prospective
students and their families at 7pm at 100 Elizabeth Avenue in Teaneck in the
Helen B. Hill Auditorium.
Meet members of the administration, faculty and student body.Learn about the
comprehensive academic programs, Specialty Academies, Israel Club and extensive
extracurricular activities and programs
For more information:

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Westchester Torah Academy Announces Location, Open House

Westchester Torah Academy, AKA Yeshivat Netzach, will be having its open house at 8pm on Monday, November 26th at its location in the Temple Israel of New Rochelle (1000 Pinebrook Boulevard).  No word on any free tuition raffles.  The school is opening IY"H in September, with Kindergarten and 1st grade classes, with Pre-K and 2nd grade under consideration.  Their website talks about blended learning, 21st century education, high-quality, sustainable, affordable etc.  In other words, He'atid.

It was originally going to be called New Roc Torah Academy but I guess they wanted to appeal to other Westchester communities like White Plains & Scarsdale.  It's also only 20 miles from Englewood so definitely an option  for Bergen County.

So the movement is definitely taking off.  Time will tell if it's sustainable in the long run but definitely making life a lot easier for young frum families in the short run.

Tuition schedule is as follows:
  • Pre-K – $8,750
  • Kindergarten – $9,750
  • 1st Grade – $9,750
  • 2nd Grade – $9,750

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Win Free Tuition in Woodmere, NY

The open house for the new Tiferet Academy in Woodmere is still on for next Sunday, November 18 at at 7:30pm at The Lawrence Woodmere Academy, 336 Woodmere Boulevard in Woodmere, New York 11598.

The school, which is modeled after Yeshivat He'atid, will be holding a free raffle to grant one free tuition to one family in attendance at the Open House. For each person who lists you as their inviter, you will get an additional raffle ticket and therefore increase your chances of winning the free tuition.

From their website:

You are encouraged to invite your friends on Facebook and through other outlets. Here is an example post you can copy and paste as your Facebook status:
Win free yeshiva tuition at Tiferet Academy’s Open House:  Sunday, Nov 18th @ 7:30pm @ The Lawrence Woodmere Academy in Woodmere: 336 Woodmere Boulevard. Every person you invite increases your chance of winning, as you get additional raffle tickets for each person who lists you as their inviter. To qualify to win the tuition: Like this post, copy and paste this post as your Facebook status, & RSVP for the Open House here:  

Monday, November 5, 2012

Making an Effort

Hope everyone is warm & safe.  Refuah Shelemiah to anyone who was hurt in the storm and our electrical grid should make a speedy recovery as well.

I think all of the local area schools did their best to open as quickly as possible as soon as electricity was available and it was safe to do so.  They also mostly used email, facebook, texting to keep all of the parents informed and many of them opened up to parents who needed electricity.  Many also opened before the local public schools did. BPY opened on Thursday when most of Paramus was still in the dark.  SAR in Riverdale moved quickly to find space in local shuls to have classes.

But they really need to make up the days missed.  I'm glad they all cancelled the wasteful teacher training day scheduled for election day (tomorrow) but it still doesn't cover the 4 or 5 days missed.  Usually there are 2 days alloted for snow emergency days but they might still be needed for the winter.

I think they can get rid of the Chanukah day, New Year's, the Thursday before Yeshiva Week, Erev shavuot, teacher in-service & day have school until the last Monday in June.  Thoughts?

[UPDATE: As reported by NBC New York:

New York City public school students who got an unexpected break because of Sandy will be seeing their winter break in February cut to make up for it.
City officials announced Monday that the last three days of that week, February 20-22, will be full school days instead of vacation days. Another half-day in June will now be a full class day as well.]

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Flipped Classroom tried at....Moriah

At the He'atid parlor meetings we were told about the concept of "flipped classrooms," where lessons would be taught online through pre-recorded lectures & problem solving (or "homework") would be done in class with a teacher present to assist when necessary.  The term "flipped classrom" was invented by educational pioneer Salman Khan as part of his "Khan Academy."  Khan seems to imply that the purpose is to individualize the educational experience & let students learn at their own pace, but He'atid seemed to imply that it was a cost-saving measure.

I'm not clear how it saves money since you still need a teacher for the same amount of hours.  Perhaps it would reduce resource room needs if the teacher was helping students with the exercises.  But even if it doesn't save money it certainly would help the parents if they didn't have to sit with the kids while they are doing homework.

Anyway, one local Jewish Day School tried the model recently & it wasn't He'atid.  From Moriah's website:

Students in Mrs. Koslowe's 6th Grade math classes tookpart this week in a "Flipped Classroom" experiment, while leaning about Exponents.  In a Flipped Classroom, learning takes place primarily online and most class time is used to practice and reinforce concepts.  The teacher moves from his/her role in the traditional classroom of "Sage on the Stage" to a new role of "Guide on the Side"  Mrs. Koslowe's students watched the online Video Tutors that work in conjunction with our Pearson Math textbooks and began practicing at home by taking the 5 question online quiz on the topic of Exponents and Simplifying Expressions that contain exponents.  Quizzes are scored by the computer and can be retaken, with similar questions of the same genre, until a perfect score is achieved.  A link to Pearson's web page is accessed through Mrs. Koslowe's homepage on HAIKU, our new homework and learning management program.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Westchester Day Cuts Pre-school by 25%

You can now send your children to nursery in Westchester for the bargain basement price of $13,500. The LWMO YDS Westchester Day School in Mamaroneck is less than 1/2 hr from the GW bridge (without traffic) according to Google Maps.  I put up a link on the right to their tuition schedule.  Before you laugh at how outrageous the fees are, keep in mind that they don't have the same "junk fees" so popular in New Jersey.  With the reduction they just announced they are in the same ballpark as our "legacies"

I can only suspect that they are lowering it to compete with the forthcoming New Roc Torah Academy the same way BC legacies lowered to compete with He'atid.

The text of the letter to the parents can be seen after the Jump.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

He'atid Announces Tuition for 2013-2014

Dear Parents,

We are delighted to open registration for the 2013-2014 academic year at Yeshivat He’Atid.

We are  pleased to announce that tuition will remain the same for the 2013-2014 school year. The tuition schedule for the upcoming academic year is as follows:

       Pre-K: $7,990.00 (Initial non-refundable deposit, to be applied to tuition: $995)
     Kindergarten, First and 2nd Grades: $8,990.00 (Initial non-refundable deposit, to be applied to tuition: $1,245)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Teaneck BOE Candidates on Charter Schools

Here are some statements made by each of the BOE candidates about Charter Schools:


"Charter schools are a fact of life," said Trustee David Diuguid. "We should focus our energy not in attempting to block them, but in making sure that those that come here come for a worthwhile reason."  Residents should have a voice about which charter schools come to their communities, Diuguid said.


The quest for funding and the demise of charter schools continues to be espoused by many within the NJ hierarchy without adequate regard to efficient and effective spending.


Board of Education Vice President Gervonn Rice said she hoped to lobby the governor about reforming charter school legislation to allow voters in local districts to weigh in on the creation of charter schools and to ensure they are held to the same standards as traditional public schools.
“It should be the same level of accountability,” she said.


Quality public education is a cornerstone of democratic government. Not only does it help children to become more intelligent and informed voters as adults, it also provides access to opportunities for the socioeconomic betterment for every student. That is why I support Save Our Schools NJ [Ed: see below from Save Our Schools, NJ]. –Sarah Rappoport, Teaneck

From Save Our Schools NJ:

Assault on New Jersey’s Public Schools Part II – Eroding Local Control

In addition to being starved financially, the schools are facing an onslaught of legislative and executive actions that take away local control and further limit the funds available for public education, including

§  Charter school expansion that ignores local voter preferences
§  Siphoning off of limited public funds for private and religious school vouchers


Shelley Worrell · Teaneck High School

The PTO Council supports the Teaneck Board of Ed's postion: The following is the position of the Teaneck Board of Education regarding the proposed New Jersey Garden State Virtual Charter School:
• We are not against charter schools.
• We are not against virtual learning.
• We are not against virtual charter schools.
• We ARE against the present statutes and regulations that allow a virtual charter school application to threaten the very existence of the Teaneck public school system. Therefore, we demand a moratorium on all virtual charter school applications until the laws are changed to protect Teaneck’s and all New Jersey public schools.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

SACS Appeal

Teaneck Patch reports below on the appeal by the infamous Hebrew language charter school that already had two failed attempts at opening.  I really wish they would step aside and let someone else try to open a Hebrew charter school in the area.  I doubt anyone would trust them again at this point.

Shalom Academy Appeals Rejected Charter Application

Federal grant money on hold for proposed Hebrew-immersion school, official says.

State Education Commissioner Chris Cerf in July rejected the school’s bid to open in Teaneck, saying the school had not proven it was ready and could not supply the required documents. Cerf’s decision came after the school was granted a planning year to secure a location.

A spokeswoman at the U.S. Department of Education, which awarded Shalom Academy a $200,000 grant last year, confirmed the school had filed an appeal. Federal grant money is frozen during the process.

“The school is appealing its denial. They did not receive continuation funding so their grants will remain open but on hold through the appeals process,” the spokeswoman said.

Shalom Academy founder Raphael Bachrach did not respond to a message seeking comment.

The charter school was planned to serve students in Teaneck and Englewood. Both districts opposed the application, raising concerns over the program and budget impact.
Shalom Academy planned to enroll 160 students. The school filled those spots and some grades had waiting lists, a representative told Patch in June.

Teaneck and Englewood were required to allocate funds for students from each community to attend the K-5 school. The Teaneck Board of Education allocated $1.4 million for Shalom Academy as part of the 2012-2013 budget while Englewood had set aside around $785,000.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Jewish Week Looking for He'atid Parents to Interview

From Julie Wiener of the Jewish Week:

I cover education for The New York Jewish Week and am working on an article about Yeshivat He'Atid and some of the other new Jewish schools (already launched and in planning stages) that are following He'atid's  "blended learning" and lower-cost approach. I'll be visiting the school next week and meeting with teachers, administrators and lay leaders, but I'd also like to interview parents who have children in the school. I'm particularly interested to learn how happy (or not) parents are so far, how the school compares with other Jewish schools where they have enrolled children, and what concerns they have.

If you are interested in being interviewed by phone, please e-mail me at I can protect confidentiality if necessary (although I prefer on-the-record, for-attribution interviews) but I do need to know your name so I can confirm you are a real person.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Open House Ads

[editor's note: some of these open houses were postponed because of the storm.  See school websites for more info]

Anyone reading Jewish newspapers like the Jewish Week, Jewish Press or Jewish Standard has seen a flood of expensive advertisements put in by the local schools to attract people to their upcoming open houses.  2 weeks ago the Jewish Standard had an ad like the one above that had all of the open houses listed together in one ad.  I thought it was a great idea that the schools would consolidate their advertising costs to save money, similar to the way I suggested back in December in a post title Marketing Expenses.  Unfortunately when I turned the page there was a half-page color ad for Moriah.  The next page had a half-page ad for BPY.  So instead of the combined ad replacing the individual ads they are now in addition to them, with the costs born by Jewish Federation donors and, as always, the tuition payers.  Will the schools ever change their ways?  Is their competition with one another more important than working together for the good of the community?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Teaneck BOE Elections

The Board of Education Candidates Forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters and Teaneck PTO Council is scheduled for Monday, October 15 at Teaneck High School (3rd floor Student Center).

The Forum will begin at 7:30.

Candidates for three year terms include two incumbents (David Deguid, Gervonn Rice); Sara Rapaport, co-founder of Teaneck 2020; and David Gruber, author of the Teaneck Causes blog and a member of Congregation Netivot Shalom.

Your attendance is critical to raise the interests of the community.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Teacher Compensation at Public Schools

Chart above comes from a Teaneck Patch article showing Teaneck with the highest paid teachers in Bergen County. I'm curious to know how the salaries compare to Yeshiva Day School teacher salaries so we can know if there really is a chance teachers would bolt to public schools if we added days to the calendar, as one reader suggested.  Of course there are huge advantages for MO teachers to want to stay in an MO school including being off for Yom Tov, discounts if they send their children to the school (or at least getting to pay in pre-tax dollars), familiarity with the environment, kosher food, etc.

I also came across the maximum class sizes from the United Federation of Teachers contract. Interesting to note that they allow for much larger class sizes than we have in our schools:

The UFT contract establishes limits for class size as follows:
• Pre-kindergarten: 18 students with a teacher and a paraprofessional.
• Kindergarten: 25 students.
• Grades 1-6: 32 students.
• Junior high school/middle school: 33 students in non-Title I schools; 30 in Title I schools.
• High school: 34 students; 50 in physical education/gym.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Stop Pretending and Get Back to Work

Right now the only YDS in BC open on Chol Hamoed Succot is BPY. They are planning activities for the children that don't involve writing. Word on the street is that Yavneh will be open next year as well. They should ALL be open.

Principals will claim that halacha forbids writing on Chol Hamoed unless it is truly necessary or it is done "kili'achar yad" (in a backhanded fashion). Some schools in the past have told children to write with their left hands (or right hands if they are lefties) or to write with crayons, or something else that they don't normally use.

Here's the reality though. Instead of writing a few hundred words in school kids will be texting a few thousand words from home, which is arguably just as bad. And the parents will mostly be working, whether it is truly necessary or not (except those who can't work because their kids are off or they work for Jewish institutions). I'm pretty sure the poll to the right will confirm that.

I can't help thinking the halachic argument is an excuse for teachers & admins to take a week off while the rest of us work to pay their salaries. If we truly need to take this week off then it should be made up for on other days so that we can have the same number of school days as the public schools, who themselves have too few when compared to other countries.

Chag Sameach everyone!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Noam Slashes Pre-School Tuition

Looks like they finally caught up with Yavneh, RYNJ & Moriah in making tuition pre-school competitive with the new players in the market:

Thursday, September 27, 2012 11 Tishrei 5773

Dear Yeshivat Noam Parents of Incoming Buds and Kindergarten Students for 2013-2014,

In order to accommodate all of our parent body, as well as be sensitive to financial pressures within the community, we are pleased to inform you that we will be lowering the tuition for our Buds and Kindergarten programs, for the 2013-2014 school year. We are so appreciative to all of you who have contributed generously this past year with time and financial resources, enabling us to lower ALL tuitions this current year. Through a continued focus on budgeting and cash management, coupled with a record annual campaign, we are able to pass along this savings to our parent body, while maintaining our commitment to low student-teacher ratios and academic excellence.

We are pleased to inform you that the Buds tuition will be lowered while continuing to deliver excellence and innovation with the same low student - teacher ratio. The new revised tuition rate for each Buds student for 2013-2014 will be $8,950 plus $850 registration, totaling $9,800. In addition, the extended Buds hours (8:30am-3:00pm) that began this year will continue as a permanent change to the program.

In past years, some Yeshivat Noam families have elected to enroll their children in one of the less expensive local Pre-K options that are available. For this current school year of 2012-2013, we were able to fill our stellar Buds program with our current pricing. With our new reduced tuition rates and extended hours, we expect an even greater demand for our program. Therefore, we want to stress to all of our existing Yeshivat Noam parents that we will be unable to guarantee your child's spot in Kindergarten unless you enroll your eligible child in Buds for the 2013-2014 academic year. Of course, all siblings of existing Yeshivat Noam families currently have a reserved spot in our Buds program. However, families who choose not to confirm that reservation by enrolling their children in Buds risk losing a seat for their child in Kindergarten and beyond, if that spot is filled by a new incoming family.

We are pleased to inform you that the Kindergarten tuition will be reduced by $1,050 per student, while continuing to deliver excellence and innovation with the same low student - teacher ratio. The new revised tuition rate for each Kindergarten student will be $12,950 plus the $850 registration fee.

Recognizing the needs of working parents for whom affordable pre-care and after-care programs are vital, Yeshivat Noam offers a non-academic and less expensive pre- and post-care option. Pre-care is available from 8:00 am and post-care is available until 4:30 pm.

We know that September 2013 may seem like a long time away, but if you plan to enroll your child in Buds next year, please click on the Buds sibling application, fill it out and return it to the office by October 17th. Similarly, if you have a sibling who you plan to enroll in Yeshivat Noam for Kindergarten or Grades 1-8, please click on the Kindergarten sibling application or the Grades 1-8 sibling application, fill it out and return it to the school office by October 17th. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact our Executive Director, Enid Anziska at 201-261-1919, ext. 124.

Wishing you and your family a Chag Sameach,

Rabbi Chaim Hagler Dov Adler
Principal President

Thursday, September 27, 2012

New Roc Torah Academy Seeks Principal

New Roc Torah Academy is an upcoming Modern Orthodox yeshiva day school in Westchester County that aims to re-envision the classroom to incorporate 21st century educational approaches. We are committed to excellence in Judaic and secular studies, and strive to foster in our students a love of Torah and Mitzvot, a deep commitment to Klal Yisrael, and Medinat Yisrael, and an understanding of the importance of Derech Eretz and Chessed. We recognize that each child learns differently; we plan to utilize a blend of face-to-face learning with computer-based learning, project based learning, and peer-led learning to provide high quality, differentiated education (collectively referred to as “Blended Learning”). Our goal is to educate our students to become active learners, analytical thinkers, independent thinkers, and problem solvers. We hope to model the school largely similar to the way Yeshivat He’atid (Teaneck) is planning on doing (opens Sep 2012), with education that is innovative, while financially sustainable, and can be replicated in other schools and communities. We are looking to fill our principal role with a student-centric educator who embraces technology. This is the opportunity of a lifetime for an educator to reinvent the future of Jewish education. We plan to open in September 2013 with a minimum of K-1st grade, and grow a grade per year. Responsibilities include: • working closely with the Executive Board to ensure successful implementation of school vision and goals • setting the tone of the school, including "hashkafa" • leading the implementation of a hybrid (technology / face-to-face / project-based) learning model (“Blended Learning”) • development of Judaic/secular curriculum • interviewing and hiring teachers/staff • supervise, mentor and evaluate all staff • staying current with the latest education research and practices • working with the Executive Board to promote the school and recruit students • representing the school at community events

For more information, please contact:

Friday, September 21, 2012

Community Talmud Torah Doesn't Open

Back in January we had a guest post about an after-school Talmud Torah program that was planned to open this fall somewhere in Bergen County.  It was to serve the needs of students who attended public schools but wanted to get a Jewish studies education.  Unfortunately it did not open this year & no decision has yet been made about the future.

I still think that if a Hebrew charter school can ever get off the ground then a combined program with the Talmud Torah could be a good, relatively inexpensive alternative to the Day School system for some parents.

Gnar Chatima Tova to all!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

So Far So Good...

He'atid had Back-to-School night last night & it seemed as though everything was running smoothly.  The teachers & parents both had mostly positive attitudes.  The classrooms were clean & decked out with brand new furniture built as a labor of love by parent volunteers.  It's a shame that the brand new computers are still sitting there practically untouched but I'm sure that will change after the chagim.  Privately I heard that the school is on the projected budget, even though they are operating at a deficit the first year as expected.  Anyone there last night have any thoughts?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Is Rabbi Knapp Reading This Blog?

Check out the email below from Yavneh.  Looks like they may actually start BEFORE Labor Day next year.  I'm sure some teachers will whine but consider that in Israel they started school on August 27th.  If we are going to have so many days off for the Tishrei chagim, is it so crazy that we need to start before the public schools that, at most, have only 3 days off for Jewish holidays?

Yavneh Academy - ישיבת יבנה
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Now that school is in full swing, I want to draw our attention to the start of school for September 2013. Precisely one year from today, the Thursday after Labor Day, we will be celebrating the first day of Rosh Hashana. Essentially that leaves but one day of school next year between Labor Day and Rosh Hashana. Past practice has been that Yavneh has started school prior to Labor Day when the calendar presents similar scenarios. While we have not yet convened to formally construct next year’s academic calendar, I want to publicize the strong likelihood that school will start before Labor Day next year.  The goal of sharing this email with you now is to avoid any potential end of summer conflicts.
Let us turn our attention to all the school days remaining for a wonderful 2012-2103/5773 school year!
Rabbi Jonathan Knapp

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

104 Days of Summer Vacation

Ok, more like 80 by my count.  [Anyone know how Phineas and Ferb got 104?]  I understand that kids need a break from learning but 2 weeks should be more than enough to rest their fragile little brains.  If we had school through the summer maybe we could shave a couple of years off the education part of our lives & spend a bigger portion being productive.  As it is now many people are in some form of school until age 25 & then retire at 62 & live till 80.  So that's less than half of our lives being productive.  And we are competing with countries like China that have school through mid-July with much of the rest of summer vacation taking summer classes or studying for entrance exams.

Anyhoo, I'm glad at least the "School of the Future" is taking a small step in the right direction by starting classes today rather than tomorrow as the other YDS's are. Yasher Koach to the teachers and staff for working hard last week to get everything ready so we don't need to waste more days with the kids at home watching cartoons or staring at their ipods.  Especially now that all camps and mini-camps are over.

By tonight we should find out if we have in BC the Greatest Educational Model ever created or the biggest train wreck since the Shalom Academy Charter School.  Or just a normal modern orthodox Pre-K to 1st grade. I'm thinking that 3rd option is most likely.  Teachers have said that the computer-based learning will be phased in after the chagim.  And this recent article in the Jewish Standard quotes the Principal, Rabbi Gralla as saying that "he expects first graders to spend 20 minutes a day on the computers for English or math. (Younger students will use them less.)"  So it's a pretty small component of the day & doesn't seem to be a major cost-saver.  Perhaps in the older grades, which are more costly to run, there will be more Blended Learning which will result in cost savings, though I still haven't gotten a good explanation of how.

Good luck and G-d bless to He'atid and BPY today!

To the parents and staff of the other schools, enjoy isru chag Labor Day!  Thank you for those who are working hard setting up the classrooms. Good luck and G-d bless tomorrow!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Repayment of Financial Assistance

Jake Goldstein wrote an op-ed in the Jewish Press suggesting that parents who are on financial assistance be asked nicely every year to donate to the school even after their children graduate, to compensate the school for the tuition assistance that they received.  As he admits, parents struggling to pay for elementary school education are going to have an even harder time paying for high school, college, weddings, etc.  so most of them wont have much disposable income left over for donations.  However for the few whose fortunes turn around and they suddenly have money available for donations, their first priority for donations should be the schools that helped them out when they couldn't pay full freight.  So his suggestion, while not a "solution", should still be pursued.  It only costs a few stamps every year & if it helps get one parent to repay a few thousand dollars, it's worth it.

Click on the link above t read the whole article.  Here's an excerpt of the upshot:

1. A new clause should be included in the tuition reduction form which parents would agree to in writing accepting a moral commitment to make a sincere and good faith ‘best efforts’ to pay back as much of the accumulated tuition reduction as possible by making the school a top priority recipient of their discretionary charitable donations, now and upon leaving the school.
2. Accumulated tuition reduction would then be tracked throughout the duration of the parents’ tenure at the school.
3. On every Elul thereafter, including after their youngest child graduates, parents would receive a statement reminder quantifying the accumulated tuition assistance they received and the years in which it was received, along with the accumulated donations they have given toward their moral obligation.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Jewish Week Covers "Tuition Crisis"

The Jewish Week has a special section on education where they discuss blended learning in general and Yeshivat He'atid in particular.  They even give a shout-out to this blog so I thought I'd return the favor.  They mention the He'atid clones trying to open in New Rochelle, Long Island, Massachusetts & LA.  Also interesting to learn that YU is starting a certificate program for online/blended instruction for Yeshiva Day Schools.  You can read the whole section here:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

By the Sweat of Thy Brow Shalt Thou Eat Bread

Kudos to the team of volunteers staying up late last night assembling tables and the many computers to prepare for the big opening on September 4th.  Admins were there working hard as well.   Even Rabbi Gralla was busy vacuuming!  This "sweat equity" will help defray costs.  It was the model for the "cooperative yeshiva" they tried to start in West Orange last year.  I encourage everyone to come Monday night to finish up.  Even if you don't have kids going there its a fun way to help a local Yeshiva and to work on the tuition crisis in a small way, but in a way more useful than kvetching.