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.