Monday, January 30, 2012

OU to the Rescue

Earlier this month the presidents of local shuls had a meeting at Keter Torah where one of the items on the Agenda was the Day School affordability issue.  Josh Pruzansky of the OU spoke about how tuition can only be significantly lowered when state or federal governments institute a voucher program for private schools.  Dr. Simcha Katz, president of the OU,  said as much on the OU Blog.  He suggests more community involvement in politics to help push that agenda.  Here are some excerpts:

Once Orthodox communities establish a robust political voice, we will be able to more effectively promote legislation. The OU/IPA works to get legislation passed in a number of ways. IPA professionals craft new legislative initiatives and reach out to diverse coalition partners from other faith groups and ethnic organizations to support our initiatives. ...

One community seeks vouchers, another prefers a tax credit, and yet another could benefit from creative fixes on the federal level...
We need you—whether you are the parent or grandparent of a day school child, a shul president or a community leader—to make a genuine commitment to political activism and engagement. We need you to reach out to us so that we can provide you with political know-how to help effect school reform in your community...
If you would like to volunteer to act as a coordinator in your community for one of the initiatives I have described, please call our IPA Washington office at 202.513.6484.

I support this concept wholeheartedly.  However, I just don't know if in today's political climate, with all levels of government looking for ways to cut back, we would be able to push for increased government spending on private schools.  We certainly won't be able to cut into the public school budget without starting a major war.  Maybe this can be more of a long term strategy that will bear fruit in a better economy with less talk of "austerity."

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Beautiful Building But...

In these times of financial strain should we really be investing so much in high-end buildings?  Donors usually contribute the bulk of the costs for these capital improvements but significant portions of it come from the Building Fund that all parents have to pay in to.

I'm not saying Noam didn't need a new building.  They certainly needed more classrooms and a "unified campus," but did everything need to be so high end and "state of the art?"  Of course donors want their names on sexy projects that make everyone ooh and aah but they really need to be told politely that money they would be helping the cause of Torah education much more if they donated more towards everyday things like paying for teachers and staff, so all of those costs wouldn't have to come from tuition.

Don't even get me started on the Frisch building!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Have a Great Yeshiva Week (and a half)

We've been at it for a month now & I think we've had mostly positive discussions about how to pay for Jewish & secular education for our children.  Thank you to all the readers for making this blog a success.  A special thanks to all those who contributed guest posts and/or comment regularly. For the most part I think we have disseminated our ideas in a respectful tone.

Readership and comments have gone down significantly from the time we started the blog.  This is primarily because of the new format we're using where people have to log in and use screen names.  People now have to put in a little effort and sacrifice some anonymity in order to comment.  This means less comments, and by extension less readers, but less name-calling and improved quality of the comments.  I think the trade-off is worth it.

One thing that I'm finding a little annoying is the "threading."    This is when the comments are indented to allow for separate conversations within 1 post.  Problem is you can't quickly see which are the latest comments by scrolling to the bottom.  Now that we all have screen names we can have multiple conversations without the "threading" feature and without having to respond to other comments by calling them 5:45 or 7:31.  I'm curious to see how everyone feels about eliminating the "threading" feature before taking it off.  Also, feel free to give any other feedback about how I can improve this blog.

I'll try to take a little break from posting until the break is over, if I can manage to keep my opinions to myself for that long.

For those of us working hard so we can afford our tuition bills or staying home to conserve funds I applaud you.  For those who are on vacation, enjoy it!  See you when you get back!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Guest Post: Homeschooling

  At first, we thought we were crazy.  And everyone else that we talked to didn't disagree. But after 5 years of homeschooling our four children - initially because we had no choice, and now even where we have great local schools available - we think we've made the right choice.  In fact, anyone who has at least one parent home most of the time can do the same.  Not every homeschooling family approaches the process of education in the same way that we have - some are more structured, and some are less structured - but the mature and confident children that we've met in our homeschooling community here have given us confidence that we're on the right track.

  My husband and I began homeschooling in Tokyo, Japan where we were living for a year as our oldest son was 5 and his younger brother was 3.  

There were no Jewish schools in the area and we felt it important that we teach our son the rudiments of a Jewish life.  So before we left we asked our school teacher friends what skills they thought 5 year olds should have - basic reading in Hebrew and English, addition and subtraction, and so on - and set out a rough guide for the year. It was fun to work on art projects, to teach the aleph beis, and to take field trips in the Kanto region, and we thought the year went reasonably well. When we returned to the States, the nearest Jewish day school was over an hour away each way, and we decided to keep homeschooling.  This time, we were fortunate to discover a treasure trove of free materials available to us, ranging from the very deep and broad website (which has literally thousands of teacher created lesson plans), the Chicago-based Walder Education Pavilion, and a number of schools willing to share their curricula with us.  

Now (in January 2012) we homeschool even though we live in the DC metro area and have a number of excellent schools nearby to choose from.  

  As time has gone on, we've certainly experienced challenges, ranging from simple ones (which should take priority: learning Japanese or Latin?) to more deep ones (days when our kids simply don't want to do work, and we have to cajole them or abandon plans for the day).  But we've found benefits from our homeschooling lifestyle and approach that we find lacking in the standard approach.

  First, we can set the philosophic foundations for our childrens' education, and don't have to spend time either explaining why we don't agree with their teachers (always a dangerous line to cross) or allowing them to be influenced by approaches not representative of our own hashkafa.  So if we think that our children should go to college, we can make it clear to them what our goals are; alternatively, if our target is several years of post high school yeshiva learning, we can create an environment conducive to it.  For families hoping to do both, parents can accelerate the high school track so that 16 or 17 year olds can head to Israel - as several of our family friends have done.  

  Next, we find the homeschooling lifestyle to provide tremendous flexibility.  This is important because we have made a number of choices in sports, activities, and extra curricular activities which would simply not fit into the standard 8 am-4 pm, school day and homework encountered by most observant families.  Our oldest son has time to attend kendo (Japanese fencing) lessons late in the evening with excellent instructors, our middle son can walk to tae kwon do practice several times a week (during the middle of the day), our daughter can attend ballet lessons nearby (in the late afternoon), and our kids can also do jobs that we think important for building up personal responsibility (like walking dogs for families in our neighborhood).  We also regularly travel domestically and internationally, and we can move our curriculum and our school wherever we need, whether Honolulu, West Lafayette, Silver Spring, Tokyo, or Chicago (all places we've lived in the past few years).

  Third, we think that our school approach provides our kids with a strong education - not because we're trained or licensed teachers (we're not), but because we have thought about what skills we want them to have and have worked with others to do our best to provide training in those areas.  We also don't have to waste time getting classes to settle down, teaching to the middle of a class of 30 kids (where is that, exactly?), or teaching to the test.  We teach the kids davening (with the older ones attending davening nearby with minyanim), Chumash and Rashi, Mishnayos, dikduk, and Jewish history, along with a curriculum of reading and writing, history, science, English, and mathematics (using a self-paced program).  We have "checked" our oldest son's progress against the rest of the world, and thank G-d found that he was doing fine (in a number of the categories on his standardized test, he received PHS, or Post High School, as his evaluation).  We generally start our day by 9 am and have most of the work done by 3 pm with an extended lunch break.  On some days, the kids mess around, and the work gets done later, and we're willing to work on Sundays and continue working during the summer and winter times when kids in standard schools might be "on break."  We go to museums, have social activities with other families, serve as rabbi and rebbetzin for a local shul, and participate in a chesed group.  Our homeschooling also means that the kids  spend time with adults, children, the elderly, and people from a number of different age groups - just like real life.

  Finally, and this is perhaps the least important part of the decision for us, homeschooling is less expensive than typical day schools.  It is not free, and I would also caution parents from imagining that they're going to be able to provide a "costless" education to children.  If we lack skills, we have to hire others to teach them things like music, art, dance, and so forth.  Next, we have to buy books - and we purchase a lot of them.  We also have to spend money on school supplies just like normal school attendees.  But, as you can imagine, home schooling costs considerably less than typical approaches - but it requires that at least one parent be home most of the time, and hence the family has to survive on a single salary.  We know a few families where a parent can work a part time job and still invest in home schooling, but it requires a lot of focus, patience, and attention.

  We recognize that homeschooling is not for everyone, but it has worked for us, and we'd encourage parents dedicated to their childrens' success, frustrated by their own experiences in school, or worried about their children being pushed by peers and teachers in an uncomfortable direction to do two things.  First, I run a national home schooling support group called jewishorthodoxandhomeschooling through the Yahoo groups system, and we have roughly 200 families on who can answer your questions.  Second, on May 6 2012 we'll be having a Torah Home Education conference in Baltimore MD which can provide additional insights to potential homeschooling families.

UPDATE: We have opened registration for the Fourth Torah Home Education Conference!

You will spend the day learning from veteran home educators, meeting other Jews interested in living a family-based learning lifestyle, and 
be able to peruse and purchase homeschooling materials from local and national educational vendors.

We are proud to bring you:

Evelyn Krieger, the author of the popular new novel, One is Not a Lonely Number, and veteran homeschooling mother.

Mrs Deborah Beck talking about Integrating Kodesh and Chol: Secular Subjects and Torah - Two Sides of the Same Coin.

Mrs. Robin Alberg presenting Remaining Focused In an Age of Digital Distractions. 

Mrs. Susan Lapin teaching us the idea of VeShinantam Levanecha: Defining Torah Home Education.

A Veteran Homeschoolers Panel: Addressing Key Questions Including "How Can I Teach What I Never Learned?"

Mr Max Masinter leading a group discussion on Whether the Homeschooling Community Should Promote Homeschooling 
as a Lifestyle Choice to Address Communal Issues. 

and several speakers/topics TBA.

Shabbos hospitality is available with the possibility of a melava d'malka afterwards. 

The conference will be Sunday May 6, 2012 at the Park Heights JCC in Baltimore, MD. Registration will begin at 8:15am and the conference will begin at 9 am. 

To find out more and register for the conference, please visit

We look forward to meeting you at the conference!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Yavneh Extends EC Hours

The letter below was sent out by Yavneh outlining changes that are being taken to make it easier for parents of young children to work and afford tuition.  I applaud Yavneh for taking these steps and I think we need to keep up the pressure on all of the local schools to take our needs into account.  By making our voices heard through phone calls, emails and in person we really can make a difference.  And no doubt competition from the new, more affordable Yeshiva option is helping force some of these changes.

Dear Early Childhood families,

We are writing to communicate some exciting changes and opportunities regarding the length of the school day and extended care options for our early childhood program starting in September 2012.

After careful consideration, and based on discussions with many of our families, we have decided to extend the Pre-K school day until 3:20. Essentially, that means that all students in grades Pre-K through fifth grade will have same length of school day, from 8:15-3:20. This change has many practical benefits, including one unified dismissal for carpool purposes and extended Pre-k hours for working families. We will communicate the revised carpool procedure as next year approaches. The opportunity to have a carpool pick up Pre- K students a few minutes earlier for those who need to be home to meet the buses is in the works as well.

Additionally, due to increased inquires, we will be lengthening our extended hours program.  We would like to offer extended care program ending at the following times: 4:00/4:30/6:00. However, in order to do so, we need to gauge if there is sufficient interest.  While this is not yet considered a firm commitment, it would be very helpful if you would express your intentions for next year to us no later than March 15th, so we can plan accordingly.

 The cost for the Monday-Thursday program is calculated  at $6 per hour.
3:20pm- 4:00pm         $525 per year
3:20pm -4:30pm         $900 per year
3:20pm- 6:00pm        $2100 per year
Please email Mrs. Georgia Cohen at if you are sincerely interested in our expanded after care program.

We hope that these initiatives will give our children a fuller early childhood 
experience and be helpful to the families of our school.

Rabbi Jonathan Knapp

Mr. Joel Kirschner
Executive Director

Mrs. Georgia Cohen
Early Childhood Director

Monday, January 16, 2012

Guest Post: Community Talmud Torah

I think after all the back & forth yesterday about public schools vs Yeshiva it's clear that there is no clear metric to determine whether yeshiva day schools or public schools give a "better" secular education, or which kids or parents have better manners.  The two things that are clear are:

1. Public Schools are a lot less expensive, and

2. Public Schools will not provide your children with a Torah environment or a Torah education.

The following guest post discusses a potential solution to the latter point:

"Regarding the discussion about Jewish students attending Teaneck high school I'd like to let everyone know about a new program that I'm starting in September 2012 -- it addresses many if not all of the concerns raised on this blog regarding the challenges facing teens not attending Jewish day school.  Community Talmud Torah is planned as a small alternative program, not to replace the yeshiva day school model, but to offer a viable alternative. 

  • Our innovative  curriculum gives students the tools to engage primary texts and become lifelong learners of Torah.
  • Our individual mentoring program addresses social concerns enabling students to become lifelong livers of Torah in any environment.
  • Our spiritually mindful approach to Judaism enables students to become lifelong lovers of Torah, today.
  • Our tuition for September 2012 is $5,500.
  • We will meet Monday through Thursday from approximately 4:30-6:30 pm.

Please fell free to learn more about our program at: 

or contact me directly at

Yoel Kaplan
Founder & Director"

Friday, January 13, 2012

Open House at Teaneck High

Last night Teaneck High had an informative and professionally run open house for prospective parents.  It was well attended with about 60 people in the audience and seven administrators and seven students giving the presentation.  There were some kosher snacks in the back.  A Bergen Record reporter was in the audience, presumably to cover the attempts to appeal to Jewish private school parents.

The administrators went through the corriculum and all the electives as well as all of the athletic and extra-corricular programs.  They recommended parents give the school a "Test Drive" by "shadowing" the school for a day to see what really goes on at the school.  Goldie Minkowitz , who teaches math at the school, spoke for a few minutes about Jewish issues.  She said she's the "go-to person for all things Jewish."  As an example, she said they check with her before scheduling the prom to make sure it doesn't fall out on a Jewish holiday.  She mentioned the kosher meal option, which is catered by EJ's of Teaneck and is under the hashgacha of the RCBC.  She also talked about the Israel Club.

The students then spoke in turn, all talking about how inclusive, tolerant and diverse the student body is, and how they were made to feel welcome their first year in the school.  Four of the seven students were Jewish students who came from private day schools (at least 3 of the 4 from Solomon Shechter).

The acting principal closed by talking about some of the notable alumni of the school, such as a four star admiral who served in World War II.

I think the school did a good job of presenting its academic and extra-corricular offerings and allaying concerns that private school kids would have a hard time adjusting, there was no real discussion of what I think are the main concerns that Yeshiva students would have going to a public school.  I supposed it would not be appropriate to have that discussion on school property with school administrators present but maybe there could be a private parlor meeting where religious parents of public school children could discuss it with prospective parents, similar to the way He'atid had parlor meetings to discuss their model and address concerns.  Such concerns include:

1. How children could learn Judaic studies while attending a public school.  (Could there be an after school program on campus, privately funded, where Judaic studies could be taught?  After all there is a "Christian Club" on campus)

2. How would a child feel if his parents told him he could not go to the prom even though all of his friends are going, because it's not consistent with their religious beliefs.  (yes I know Frisch also has a prom but it's not school sanctioned and their are many kids not permitted to go).

3. How would a child feel dressing differently than their peers (either with a yarmulka or a skirt, or long sleeves in June).  Even if the atmosphere is one of tolerance, lots of teenagers get very self-conscious and feel that they need to conform to the dress style of there peers.

4. How do you explain to a child concepts like: sex should only take place after marriage, a religious marriage is between a man and a woman (forgetting about how the State recognizes it which is a topic for another blog), divorce is something to be avoided unless absolutely necessary, when they are immersed in a permissive culture with a different set of values?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Jewish Week Covers Efforts to Improve Efficiency

Below is excerpted from the latest article from Julie Wiener in the Jewish Week. I cropped it due to size limitations but its worthwhile to click on the link & read the whole article.

I want to publicly thank Julie for covering this very important issue and informing us all of some of the efforts going on behind the scenes to keep tuition under control.  I also want to thank the administration at the various schools for putting in all of the hours to gather all of the information and provide it to YU so this very important initiative could be performed. 

Day Schools Saving Millions In New Efficiency Effort
In response to a crisis of affordability sweeping through the day school world, a new effort to have schools practice greater efficiency has resulted in savings of tens of millions of dollars for nearly 40 Jewish day schools across the nation.

While common in the corporate world, benchmarking — a process in which institutions measure their performance against that of their peers, in order to identify cost-saving and revenue-enhancing opportunities — is a new arrival in the Jewish day school world, whose myriad financial challenges include a “tuition crisis.”

Eight Bergen County schools have gone through a round of benchmarking under the guidance of YU, and according to Samuel Moed, chairman of Jewish Education for Generations in Northern New Jersey, the process has already saved a combined $2.5 million.

Currently working with 30 additional schools (Orthodox, Conservative and pluralistic) in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Chicago and Cleveland. The YU School Partnership and the Avi Chai Foundation, the project’s lead funder, hope ultimately to bring benchmarking to at least 200 day schools in 30 communities, including ones in New York City and its suburbs.

Bloom estimates that benchmarking and the strategic planning that follows is on track to achieve combined savings of at least $22.5 million — approximately 10 percent of operating budgets — over three years in the five communities in which it is being implemented so far.

Proponents say the process not only helps schools operate more efficiently and sustainably — making more money available for scholarships and educational improvements — but also encourages collaboration among schools that once largely saw each other as competitors.

For skeptics, however, it’s too little, too late for a field facing major financial challenges, akin to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

Indeed, the emergence this year of three brand-new, low-tuition Jewish day schools and a growing willingness among day school families to explore public schools and Hebrew charter schools, indicates a demand for more dramatic solutions.

Gershon Distenfeld, who is on the board of JEFG, recently wrote in the New Jersey Jewish Standard that while he continues to see benchmarking and fundraising as critical, “at the same time, I’ve become convinced that we must take bold steps now to alleviate the tremendous financial burden placed on the overwhelming majority of day school families.”

Explaining his decision to help launch the new low-tuition Yeshivat He’Atid, Distenfeld wrote, “Incremental changes are important and can lead to transformation over time, but the clock is ticking and it is time for a major initiative that will transform day-school education, while setting it on a sustainable path for future generations.”

How does it work?

Schools provide the YU School Partnership with a wide array of financial and statistical data — spanning tuition, scholarship details, staff compensation, maintenance and capital expenses, enrollment numbers, faculty-student ratios and fundraising revenues. The YU School Partnership analyzes the data from all participating schools in the community then, while keeping the findings confidential, develops a report for each school detailing how it stacks up against the communal average.

Yavneh Academy, a benchmarking participant in Paramus, N.J., recently decreased tuition by $100 — a small percentage of the more than $14,000 that full-paying students spend each year in tuition and fees, but a symbolic reversal for a school that is believed to have never before lowered tuition.

For Yavneh, benchmarking has spurred a closer look at class sizes and encouraged the school to step up the responsibilities and training for its assistant teachers, Rabbi Jonathan Knapp, the principal, told The Jewish Week. The school is also exploring “technology initiatives” that allow it to “simultaneously enhance education while reducing overhead costs,” he said.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Guest Post: Changing the Culture of Yeshiva Financing

The following post was written by Ely Rosenstock, a parent of a 2 year old living in East Brunswick, NJ.

Changing the Culture of Yeshiva Financing

I think I can speak for all those following the Yeshiva tuition crisis over the past few years that we applaud and are truly grateful for all those working towards improving the situation. Efforts by schools to reduce costs and new models of education like He'atid and charter schools are helping to improve the current delivery and efficiency of education.

There is a big elephant in the room that few are willing to acknowledge. It is possible, regardless of how much cost cutting is implemented, Yeshiva education may be too expensive for the average family to afford. Based on what I've read and the people I've spoken to it seems that donations are covering a significant portion of school costs in all schools and therefore it seems this theory is very likely a reality. What I'd like to do with this blog post is look at some of the current problems we're dealing with and propose a potential solution.

Problem #1: Schools Can't Say No

It's interesting how us as parents treat our schools. Sometimes they're businesses where we demand a certain level of education or we threaten to take our money elsewhere. Sometimes they're community non-profits where we push them to make sacrifices and hurt their product for the betterment of the community. In reality, they're both. 

This position has painted them into a very tight corner. Most schools that I know of do their best to never say no to a student who has been accepted but can't afford the school. This generosity towards the community along with the increasing tuition cost has put tremendous pressure on school boards to find more money to pay for all these kids who need scholarships. On top of that, schools are businesses and must compete for students. Their product is scrutinized daily and they have to try and improve the product while always being asked to cut costs. Schools are stuck and don't have any good options. 

Problem #2: So Many Parents are Playing WIth Other People's Money

Let's say Chaim (fictional character) is on a tight budget and definitely cannot afford more than $15k a year for his child to attend Yeshiva this upcoming year. The choices in his neighborhood are $18k, $20k and $25k (assume he's ok with all the schools hashkafically). Which one will he apply to? Where would he send his kid? He would probably apply to all and try to get his kid into the school that had the best education. Would it bother him that he may need a larger scholarship to get into the $25k school? Probably not. If it's the best education and the school is willing to give it to him, he'd take it. 

So many families need scholarships (I've heard stats that average around 30-50% of students have some sort of scholarship) that the costs of a school aren't taken into account for many because nothing is affordable. The normal economics of commerce don't work in this scenario. Too many people are not considering the extra cost between schools because they know the additional cost they can’t afford will be paid by someone else.

Problem #3: The Current Solutions Focus on Fixing Schools But Not Parents

We're in this mess because we demand a quality of education that we can't pay for. The education aspect is a good thing; Only the best for our children. But none of the proposed solutions focus on changing the culture of parents demanding more for less. Parents, if anything, are the root of this problem and we need a long term solution that will change the way we approach this issue, not kick the can down the road a few years.


Now that I've thoroughly depressed you it's time to look at a proposal/concept that I'm hoping this post could spark a discussion on. Let's look at grades 1-12 as the crux of the tuition crisis. We all see this as a 12 year problem (per child). Speak to a parent who just had their last child finish high school and you'll hear the joy in their voice when discussing tuition. They made it through the 12 years alive. 

What I propose is to stop looking at this as a 12 year problem and start looking at it as a 30-40 year problem. Educating our children is a life long problem and we should attack it as such. This thought process could have minor and major ramifications on the way we approach Yeshiva financing. Here are two scenarios that could come about from this approach:

1) For Young/New Parents: A new financial product is set up that allows parents to put money into a fund when their child is just born (or even before he/she is born) and based on the set monthly fee, this fund pays out a guaranteed amount per grade when their child attends Yeshiva in the future. Instead of people giving money to the parents at a bris, they donate to the fund. Bar mitzvah gifts go towards the fund. The payments and fund can end when the child finishes 12th grade.

This solution would results in parents having a much lower incremental burden when they have to pay for Yeshiva (e.g. if the fund is set to pay out $8k for 1st grade and the actual cost is $12k, the incremental cost for the parents that year is $4k). More importantly the monthly cost from an early age will help parents keep their other purchases in check. Many couples buy houses, cars and other big purchases without thinking about Yeshiva because their kids are too young. With this approach they would purchase houses within their means because a large portion of tuition is already taken into account. 

2) For Parents With School-Age Kids: Find ways to borrow money based on existing assets. Before a school gives out scholarships do they make sure the parents can't take out a home equity loan? Maybe they do, not sure. I just think that before you take even $1 in scholarship money, you should exhaust your options. While most parents don't like the idea of accumulating more debt it makes more sense to have smaller more affordable payments over the long term than a need for scholarships in the short term whereby you don’t have any payments in a few years when your kids finish school.

The most important aspect of this approach is that it will force parents to think with their own money and encourage financial responsibility in our communities (of which we all definitely need). Scholarships should go to those who really need it. Schools should be able to send parents to an organization that exhausts every option before the school gives scholarships. Borrowing should always come before charity. 

If we can change the culture of Yeshiva financing from a 12 year problem to a life long problem we may be able to fix the economics of our current model and give our students the education we desire without being beggars. I look forward to hearing your thoughts. 


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Guest Post: Teaneck Public School

[Editor's note: I am not endorsing this option, I'm merely presenting it on behalf of a reader.  However, I do think it would be useful for readers to attend the meeting so we could have an informed discussion about it after hearing the presentation.  Questions about the event should be directed to Cindy at]

Teaneck High School and the Jewish Community of students and prospective students

If you have not thought of Teaneck High School as an option yet....think again...and join us for an information session.

When: January 12, Thursday night
Time: 7pm
Where: Media Center at Teaneck High School
Enter through main entrance of building, turn left, and media center is next to the Auditorium.

Teaneck High School welcomes you to a detailed information session to learn about the:
-     Vast and competitive academic offerings
-     Competitive and specialty Academies within the High School
-     The Advanced Placement and Honors Programs and courses
-      Comprehensive educational support services, in-class support and resource level support in all subject areas
-     Cutting edge technology usages in all subject areas and services, science and math programs
-     Sophisticated Language Arts and Social Studies course offerings
-     World Language Options
-     Extensive elective coursework available
-     Individualized and supportive college planning services
-     Holocaust Center and programming
-     Accommodations provided, supported and available to the Jewish Community in all aspects of student life (kosher hot lunch programs, accommodations for all Jewish holidays and Sabbath Observant Students, after school clubs)
-     Israel Club on campus, and various after school learning clubs available to all Teaneck Public Schools students

Prospective students and families will have an opportunity to meet and talk with current students and families.  Meet with teachers, faculty and learn about the after school Israel Club and programming.

Kosher refreshments will be served.

All students and parents who have an interest in the Teaneck Public Schools are encouraged to attend.

When: January 12, Thursday night
Time: 7pm
Where: Media Center at Teaneck High School
Enter through main entrance of building, turn left, and media center is next to the Auditorium.

Don't miss out. It's worth your time.

Monday, January 2, 2012

What’s the Deal With SACS?

“I wouldn’t send my dog to a kennel that I knew this little about.”

The above is a classic line from an anonymous prospective parent quoted in the newspaper last year about the Shalom Academy Charter School.  For those who aren’t aware.  Shalom Academy, or SACS, is a Hebrew immersion charter school that was scheduled to open in the Fall of 2011 at an undisclosed location in either Teaneck or Englewood.  They had a lottery last year to accept students and sent out letters congratulating the parents whose children were to be accepted.  The parents weren’t told until a few weeks before school was scheduled to start that they would not be opening this year.  The parents then had to scramble to make other plans. 

The lead founder of the school said that it was an “open secret” that the opening would be delayed but never said why it had to be a secret at all.  In none of the emails that went out to the parents was it ever even suggested that there was even a possibility that the school wouldn’t open as scheduled.  And no apology was made to the parents for being led on for months and then being hit with the news at the last possible minute.

I’ve heard many people, including parents who registered for SACS last year, complain that they never get any response to their questions sent to the Board via email or voice mail.  I decided to try it myself before commenting on it.  I sent a nice email introducing myself & asking some basic questions about the school, such as what the status is on finding a building, what’s the status of getting approvals, etc. As expected there was no reply after several weeks.

In an interview with the Bergen Record , lead founder Rafael Bachrach stated as follows: “Are we willing to work on communication,” Bachrach said. “Yes we are willing to work on communication. Do we think we didn’t communicate? I don’t agree with that.”

Mr. Bachrach I think you didn’t communicate & you are not communicating now.

I’m all for Hebrew Immersion.  I think strong knowledge of the language is imperative for understanding Jewish religious texts.  And I think if supplemented with an intensive after-school Judaic studies program it could present a good alternative for those who are struggling to pay for Yeshiva.  It’s being tried in other communities and I wish them success.  However, it is also important to be a mensch.  And I don’t think children can learn to be menschen if they are in a school that is not run by menschen.

I’d love to hear from founders or anyone close to the administration so I could get another side to this story.