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?