Monday, September 16, 2013

Monday, August 26, 2013

Time to Pass the Baton

I’ve been moderating this blog for 20 months now.  I’ve made 160 posts and gotten almost 300,000 page views.  I’ve read (most of) thousands of comments and responded to some of them.   
We’ve covered lots of topics including blended learning, Hebrew charter schools, assistant teachers, school calendars, marketing costs, government funding, Communal funding, discounts for teachers and rabbis, transparency in finances, scholarship abuse, Talmud Torahs,   and more.  Hopefully the discussion has caused some positive change in Bergen County or has at least caused some people to consider certain ideas that they hadn’t yet thought about.
What I haven’t succeeded at doing is encouraging civility in our discourse.  Perhaps it’s just our nature to be nasty when no one (at least no one mortal) can see us doing it.  Though compared to some other unmoderated blogs and especially the comments section on youtube, the discussion here does remain somewhat polite and on topic.  Some people thought I should delete comments that were uncivil but that’s not really my MO.  I’m not a big fan of censorship and I think adults should make their own decisions on how to speak.  To all those who contributed in positive ways with your comments I wish you sincere thanks.
At this point I’ve said all I have to say about yeshiva tuition.  Also I need to focus on other things in my life right now and can’t spend that much time musing about yeshiva tuition.  I’m looking for someone else to take over the blog or to make a new blog so we can continue the conversation.  Please email me offline at yeshivadad@gmail.com if you’re interested. 
For those that were offended by things I’ve said I beg for mechilah and hope you understand that everything I’ve done on this blog was done out of love for our community and out of a sincere desire for our mesorah to continue to be transmitted to future generations, which can only be done if the community can afford the growing expense of yeshiva tuition.
I encourage everyone to get involved in other ways to help solve the tuition crisis.  Make your voices heard.  Come to board meetings.  Speak to administrators.  Get involved in fund raising.  Volunteer for the scholarship committee.  Accept that you may need to sacrifice some things you like in your school to help bring down costs.  And above all, try to stay positive.
Wishing everyone a Kativa V’chatima Tova,

Yeshiva Dad

Friday, August 23, 2013

New Assistant Principal Position at Moriah

Despite a recent drop in admissions at Moriah, a new Assistant Principal for Student Life position has been created, as reported by the Jewish Link.  This Assistant Principal will join the other Assistant Principal, two associate principals, 6 Directors and of course the Principal, in the Administration.  This does not include office staff or business office.  Does this seem excessive to anyone else?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

AJE Selects "BOLD" Schools to Receive Funding

Five Schools Selected as BOLD Day Schools 

August 20, 2013

NEW YORK – Five Jewish day schools have been selected for the BOLD (Blending Online Learning in Day Schools) Project, funded by The Affordable Jewish Education Project (AJE), The AVI CHAI Foundation and The Kohelet Foundation.  The goal of BOLD Day Schools is to design and implement sustainable, cost-saving blended learning programs to ignite the potential of students through the delivery of innovative and personalized learning.  Additionally, BOLD Day Schools will become a network of schools and educators working to accelerate the rollout of sustainable blended learning programs throughout the Jewish day school field.

The BOLD Day Schools are:
Denver Academy of Torah, Denver, CO
Elementary & Middle School

Magen David Yeshivah High School, Brooklyn, NY
High School

The Moriah School, Englewood, NJ
Elementary & Middle School

The Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey, River Edge, NJ
Middle School

Tarbut v’Torah Community Day School, Irvine, CA
Elementary School

The five BOLD Day Schools were selected out of a pool of close to 30 submissions through an intensive application process that assessed each school’s vision for blended learning, implementation plan, and financial plan outlining cost savings and program sustainability.  The funding organizations also considered school size, location, denomination, and division in an effort to provide a variety of proof points that recognizes the diversity of Jewish day schools.

Blended learning integrates online learning with face-to-face instruction, enabling teachers to align their instructional approaches to the particular academic needs of each student based on real-time, individualized data.  In addition to improved educational outcomes for students, blended learning educational models provide opportunities for cost savings through reducing schools’ personnel, facility, and textbook costs.

“We are all very excited about this groundbreaking project,” said Jeff Kiderman, Executive Director of AJE, “and have selected a group of well-regarded established schools that have shown a desire to be bold and partner with us to lead the future of Jewish education.”

Over the summer, the BOLD Day Schools have been deeply immersed in program design and planning with the help of one of two blended learning consulting firms (Education Elements and Evergreen Education Group).  The consultants have been assisting school leaders in refining their financial plans, selecting software, and planning professional development for their faculties.  Implementation is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2013.  Within three years, every student in the selected division(s) will be learning using a blended education model on a daily basis.  In addition, schools will create a plan to realize cost savings through the efficiencies of their new model.

The three funding organizations have committed up to $3 million to the BOLD Project. This funding will cover most of the costs associated with transitioning each school to a blended learning model, with the schools gradually  assuming responsibility for all ongoing costs, including software, hardware, and personnel. “It is important to us that the BOLD Day Schools be able to sustain these innovations within their own annual budgets moving forward without relying on outside funding,” said Rachel Mohl Abrahams, Senior Program Officer at The AVI CHAI Foundation.

The process will be documented to measure the effectiveness of each model and to provide guidance for additional schools looking to transition to blended learning in the future. “We hope the BOLD Day Schools will serve as paradigms of how established Jewish day schools can transform themselves into more innovative, affordable institutions that prepare our students for successful Jewish lives in the 21st century,” said Holly Cohen, Executive Director of The Kohelet Foundation.

Read more about the BOLD Day Schools and follow their progress at http://www.bolddayschools.org.

No one is "Anti-Teacher"

This is something I've been meaning to get off my chest for a long time.  There's a rhetorical trick employed by people of all political stripes to discredit those with who them disagree, and it really should stop.

Most of us agree that in all ethnic, social, religious and political groups there are good and bad individuals.  There are people who care only about themselves, some that only care about their friends and families and those that only care about people in their "group", whatever that group happens to be.  Since one can't generalize about the behavior of all people in any particular group, those who do generalize are often called prejudiced, bigots, racists, etc.  and their arguments are automatically discredited.

So the trick is to show that a policy that you oppose doesn't merely reflect a different perspective, but that it represents an animosity towards an entire group of people.  That way it is prejudice, bigotry, etc. and you don't even have to argue the merits of the policy because it is discredited at the outset.

Hence, gun enthusiasts will oppose gun restrictions as being "anti-gun owner" rather than simply "anti-gun".  Amsterdam News will label the NYPD's "stop and frisk" program as "racism" (racist in itself, mot merely in the implementation).  The Jewish Voice and Opinion will label opposition to Israel's settlement policy as "anti-semitism."  If you believe that life begins at conception and that therefore abortion should be illegal you must be "sexist."  Opposition to gay marriage must reflect "homophobia."

And if I suggest that schools make up for days lost due to weather in the summer than I am "anti-teacher."  Similarly if I suggest that teachers who don't work in the summers have an easy July and August.

If you believe in any of the above you must hate everyone the respective group.  Even if you are a member of that group.  You must just hate yourself.  And since this is a thought crime there is no way to disprove it.

Of course everyone sees the ridiculousness in other people's hang-ups but not in their own.

Feel free to vent below.  But please don't say "how can you compare x to y?"  I'm comparing your faulty logic, not making any moral comparisons.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Shmoozing With Zach & Rabbi Sommer

I've been having an interesting conversation online about tuition and Yeshiva Day Schools with 2 former MTA teachers - Zach Abramowitz and Rabbi Pesach Sommer.  Here's the link:

http://www.replyall.me/forward-momentum/talking-with-yeshiva-dad-founder-of-the-yeshiva-sanity-blog/

Check for updates soon.  Shabbat Shalom,

YD

Friday, July 26, 2013

AJE Founder Responds to Rabbi Krauss

First off, let me say that I believe the overall quality of the Jewish high school system to be outstanding. I am blown away by the quality of education being offered our high schoolers. But this quality has come at a devastating cost and price to our community. The emphasis of trying to get our kids into the best colleges, offer  the  most extra curriculars, the most AP’s, the arms race to attract the best and most expensive teachers, has not come cheaply and is in fact crippling our community. We are losing countless students to public schools, less Jewish children are being born, marriages are strained, and we are fostering resentment towards religion amongst our parents due to this unfortunate situation of ever escalating tuition costs.

 I believe that in their zealousness to address the ever escalating costs of high school education and to assure parents that their children will still be receiving a quality education even at a lower price point, Gershon and Jeff overreached and were off base in attacking the quality of our educational system. You correctly call them to task for it.  They have acknowledged their mistake. That having been said, I would be remiss if I did not respectfully point out  you have engaged in some overreaching of your own and in the spirit of everyone learning from each other, I think there are some things that Gershon in his actions has accomplished in the last few years you are not giving enough credit to.

Your dismissiveness of Yeshivat Heatid is unfortunate. You say you are skeptical a quality Jewish education can be offered at half the price . But why? It is being done at Yeshivat Heatid . Yeshivat Heatid will be cash flow break even towards the end of next year and by all accounts, parent satisfaction of education quality is extremely high,  they have attracted quality teachers and are offering a top notch Jewish education. Westchester Torah Academy has likewise attracted top notch educators.  These are real live living and breathing institutions that are not just talking but acting to make a difference to ease the devastating financial burdens of our community.  Just as you were rightly offended by what you perceived as an assault on the  level of education in the Jewish high school movement, we in the affordable Jewish education movement are offended by your attack on our newly formed schools and on the existing schools we are working with  such as HALB (that is roughly half the price of SAR and has been in existence just as long)  whose leaders are credentialed educators who also give a lot of thought into best practices in education and are providing children with a high quality Jewish education. You say time will tell whether these institutions can be successful? Why? They are incredibly successful already. Quality of education has subjective elements to it. Affordability does not. Our schools are offering a price point that works for the community. The higher “quality” schools, should they continue as the only options in the community, clearly do not.

 Rabbi Krauss, you know I admire your contribution to Jewish education and feel that SAR day school thanks to your leadership, is the very best in Jewish day school education, but your implication that a school like SAR high school at nearly 35 k a year is the ONLY way to serve the community is misguided and must be denounced in the strongest terms.   We are not saying that all schools must adopt cost cutting and innovative teaching  methods we espouse but we do feel very strongly that there needs to be an affordable option in all major population centers where successful Jewish parents earning north of 250k annually can send their child, receive a quality education and not have to get undressed asking for scholarship.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

SAR Principal Responds to He'atid High

From SAR Principal Rabbi Binyamin Krauss:

Dear Gershon and Jeff,

So let me get this straight- the current schools are bad and expensive.  Kids don't feel engaged- they told you so.  And they don't like tests.   You are going to build a new school.  What will it stand for?  

Learning- The kids will learn what they want. Will there be a curriculum?  Will there be any expectations, in terms of skills, on your graduates?  How will those expectations be assessed? In the survey you referenced, less than 30% of respondents were interested in learning Tanach or Gemara, and less than 40% were interested in history or science.  Less than 25% were interested in literature.  Will these courses be absent in your school?  Will they be optional? Over 60% of the respondents felt that critical thinking is taught in their current schools, yet you make the claim that your school will be different as it will focus on critical thinking? Does that add up?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

He'atid High Coming to Town

Below is an email sent out today by Gershon Distenfeld:

You are receiving this e-mail because you have a child entering 7th grade at a Yeshiva Day School in Bergen County. As we cobbled together e-mail addresses from various sources which are certainly incomplete, please forward this to others who may be interested.

Allow us to introduce ourselves. My name is Gershon Distenfeld and for the past several years, I have been heavily involved in efforts to make Yeshiva education better and more affordable. I have previously served on the executive board of the Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey and am currently the chairman of the board of Yeshivat He’Atid.

Jeff Kiderman is the executive director of the Affordable Jewish Education Project (AJE), a 501c(3) organization that was started in 2011 by a group of community leaders and philanthropists to find and implement innovative and sustainable initiatives to ensure that a high-quality, affordable Jewish day school education is available to every child. You can learn more about AJE at www.ajeproject.org

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Hebrew Comes To Harlem

If anyone wants to take another crack at starting up a Hebrew language charter school in Bergen County they should work with the Hebrew Charter School Center.  Take a look at the extremely thorough job they did with this report filed to get the Harlem Hebrew school up an running: http://www.p12.nysed.gov/psc/documents/HHLACSAppRedacted.pdf.  243 pages of information, which is 243 pages more than SACS ever provided.

HH is expecting at least 168 students in just 2 grades (K&1) in their first year!  And 20 more days of school than most of the BC yeshivas.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Pre-K Price Wars

Here is the price of Pre-K at each BC JDS.  One of these things is not like the others:

He'atid   $7,990
Moriah   $8,500
RYNJ     $8,500
Yavneh  $8,750
Noam    $8,950
BPY    $12,700

You have to give credit to BPY for not caving in to pressure from the new competition and slashing pre-school prices as the other schools did.  But you have to wonder whether this is going to impact the sustainability of the school.  The reduced pre-k enrollment for this coming year could hurt them in the future if parents send to other schools to save money in pre-K & then keep them in the other schools by default in later years.

They may try to make up for high prices with generous tuition assistance but they have to take into account that a lot of upper middle class families don't want to subject themselves to the tuition assistance program, and don't want to feel that they are accepting charity.


2013-2014 Calendars

The calendars for next year are out.  Not surprisingly, He'atid once again leads the pack in total school days with 178.   Though for some reason He'atid clone Westchester Torah Academy has only 172.  I still think we should have as many days as the public schools, which have 180.  We can make up for the chagim by adding days in June.

He'atid is having Professional Development day on Christmas, rather than on election day as most schools do (except this past year, when we needed to make up days lost to superstorm Sandy).  So I guess the consultants are all Jewish & don't mind working then.

I'm a little concerned about Thanksgiving break being called Thanksgiving/Channukah break.  Does that mean that when Channukah & Thanksgiving are on different days that they will need 2 separate breaks?

[Update:  Harlem Hebrew will have 190 days.  Though I'm guessing the high number was designed to help them accommodate the many students who will be taking off for Jewish holidays and who will need to make up for lessons lost]

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Modernize Bergen County

Here's something that hopefully most of us can agree on.  As BC MO's we are already suffering under both high property taxes and high tuition costs.  One thing that could make life a little easier for us is having Sundays available to shop without having to trek to neighboring counties.

I don't want to rehash all of the arguments for and against the blue laws.  They have already been argued ad nauseam here and here and here.

I'm just asking for those who agree that the blue laws should be rescinded to please sign & mail in the petition so we can get it a referendum on it for the November election.  We are low on signatures and need more help!  They need to be received by June 30th so please make sure it's in the mail by next Wednesday (6/25).  Petition can be found here.

Please mail it in to:

Modernize Bergen County
P.O. Box 1247
Hackensack, NJ 07602

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

CNJKIDS Article

North Jersey Jewish News just published an article about CNJKIDS, which is Central Jersey's answer to NNJKIDS.  I emailed CNJKIDS with a few questions & here is their response:

Thanks for the e-mail.

This is CNJKIDS' first year as an organization.  Our plan is to distribute the funds raised over 2013 - 2014 to the schools partnering with CNJKIDS at the end of the next school year in 2014.

From the FAQS section of the website www.cnjkids.org:

How will the dollars be divided among schools? CNJKIDS will aim to help every student in their respective schools by limiting future tuition increases as follows. Each of the schools that have agreed to partner with CNJKIDS will inform CNJKIDS of the tuition it has set for the coming year based on its needs.  CNJKIDS will then divide its annual income from general contributions among the schools on a per-capita basis. Earmarked donations will then be distributed to specific schools.  

How will the dollars be credited to day school families? After CNJKIDS distributes the funding to the participating schools, each school will then provide a credit on the following year’s tuition bill of each of its students (i.e. if $100 was provided by CNJKIDS to each school, a $100 credit would appear on each student’s tuition bill the following year). Thus, each school may use the money it receives toward its budget for the following school year (i.e. any money schools receive in 2014 may be used for their 2015-2016 school year budgets).

Friday, June 14, 2013

Kindergarten Graduation

For those who were so concerned, the He'atid Parent Association set up a graduation party for the Kindergarteners next Friday.

Congratulations to the graduates!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

RYNJ Report 2013


Once again, RYNJ has produced a thorough report showing its finances, budget, etc.  Moriah did a similar report for 2012.  More on that one another day. I hope all the schools follow suit so we can have an intelligent discussion about school budgets will all of the information being transparent.  

Some interesting things I noticed in YNJ's report:

1. The school continues to grow despite the new competition so maybe the panic of a 6th JDS in BC was a bit overblown

2. The "baked-in" tuition is only $200, according to page 18.  This is down from $300 last year.  Of course this doesn't include what they called "bad debt" (see page 21).  I believe this is what they called "delayed tuition payments" last year, because I don't see anything about "delayed tuition payments" this year.  They had $300,000 for that figure last year and now they have $30,000 for "bad debt" but I think that might be a typo if they are indeed the same thing.  Hard to imaging that it could have changed by 90% in 1 year.  Also hard to imagine that in a school of over a thousand students there is only the equivalent of two tuition payments that were not made as required.

3. While small donations have gone down this year, large donations have gone up and it has resulted in an overall increase in voluntary donations that is not insignificant.  This tells me that the majority of money raised comes from the top echelon and that as the economy improves so does their disposable income.  

4. It was nice to see this comment in the summary: "Our goal is to continue to ensure we provide excellence in all aspects of our Yeshiva without increasing tuition obligations for the foreseeable future."  If that is indeed their goal, the increased fundraising will continue to offset inflationary cost increases to keep tuition flat, rather than being used to add staff, programs, capital improvements, etc.

Monday, June 10, 2013

School Ending on Time

Back in November we speculated on whether or not the local schools would add days to the school year to make up for days lost because of Superstorm Sandy. Not surprisingly, none of them did.  They eliminated teacher training day (which should be eliminated permanently), but they did not add any days in June.

In fact, He'atid just announced that they are eliminating school on June 21st which was supposed to be the last day & are now ending school on June 20th, "in order to provide our faculty and staff the much needed time to properly end the school year."

Here are the dates of the last day of school for the 6 Orthodox JDS's in BC:

BPY - June 20
He'atid - June 20
Moriah (preschool) - June 20
Moriah grades 1-7 - June 21
Noam - June 19
RYNJ - June 20
Yavneh - June 19

P.S. When school ends at 11:30 it really shouldn't count as a day. For most families with 2 working parents it makes things harder than if school were just canceled altogether.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

So you think you can dance? (I don't)

Most of you have heard about the IRS being under fire for wasting taxpayer dollars on a silly video of employees line dancing at a company conference.

It kind of reminded me of this:
and this 





Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What are we voting for exactly?

The OU had a major voter push for the election yesterday but didn't state publicly whom they were endorsing or why.  I didn't wan't to say anything until after the primary election because i didn't want to undermine their efforts but now that the elections are over I'd like them to explain.  They pushed for all schools and shuls in the area to vote so there must be something going on that they should share with the community.

In District 37, which includes Teaneck, Englewood and Tenafly the only election that had more than one contender was the democratic primary for governor, which was pretty much a foregone conclusion.   In fact Barbara Buono won by 76 points.  And whoever wins is going to get destroyed by Christie anyway in the general election.

Perhaps their push was in District 38, which includes Bergenfield, Fair Lawn and Paramus where there was a close call for state senate.

If one of the two candidates has a strong position on school vouchers or anything else that affects our community it's important that we know about it.  Especially since that would affect out turnout in the general election in November.

If the reason for the silence is that they are concerned about their tax exempt status by being involved in politics we all know that is not true.  Tea Party groups & others are doing almost nothing besides politics and they still got to keep tax exempt status despite extensive scrutiny by the IRS.

One of the letters from a school or a shul said that we should vote simply to show elected officials that we vote in large numbers.  This seems like a very strange reason since we have closed ballots & no one will know in what percentage our community voted.

I applaud the OU's efforts to push for legislative solutions to work in tandem with other solutions (austerity, communal fundraising, etc) to solve the tuition crisis, but I wish they would be a little clear on whom they are endorsing and why.

Friday, May 10, 2013

What Exactly is an "Abatement"

Moriah has a tuition abatement program that is separate from its scholarship program.  See link to last year's application here, or summarized after the jump.

Basically it allows middle income earners to get a little off from tuition by showing their tax returns but without having to go through the scholarship process that some find shameful.

To qualify you must have children in yeshiva (not necessarily in Moriah) from Pre-K thru high school and be making under certain amounts as follows:
1 Child & making less than $135K
2 Children & making less than $175K
3 Children & making less than $210K
4 Children & making less than $240K

[UPDATE: Those were last years minimums that are higher this year.  Now you can make up to $270K & get the abatement if you have 4 or more children]

I think the premise of the program is that if they simply lower tuition some of the "wealthy" parents will just pay the lower amount, without making up for it with any significant donations, and they will lose revenue.  If they just raised the threshold for scholarships some of the "middle class" parents would leave rather than have to apply for a scholarship and feel like they are taking tzeddakka.  This way its more of a sliding scale.  Sort of like the progressive income tax system we have where "middle class" families pay less than the wealthy & no one considers that charity.

The question is if you are getting 3K off per child & aren't donating you probably aren't paying your share.  So is that charity or just part of a progressive payment system?

Also, does this system allow those earning money "off-the-books" to get a reduction without any scrutiny beyond looking at their bogus W-2's?  Then again often full scholarship recipients don't get much scrutiny beyond their W-2's which are usually bogus when someone works off-the-books, but that's a separate topic.

One thing I like about the program is that they look at the total number of kids you have in yeshiva, not just the ones at Moriah.  So you don't get "punished" for sending different children to different schools.  All schools should adopt that policy for their scholarship programs.



Thursday, May 9, 2013

RYNJ Tuition Remains (Truly) Flat for 2013/2014

Dear RYNJ Parents,

Baruch Hashem, we are close to completing another very successful year at RYNJ. While it is still a few weeks before our doors close for the summer, the planning for our next school year is well underway.

The Board of Directors has approved the budget for the 2013 – 2014 school year. We extend gratitude to our Finance Committee who worked tirelessly to prepare a budget that is fiscally responsible, recognizes and appreciates our staff’s dedication and maintains our commitment to Torah scholarship and academic excellence, while being sensitive to the hardship that paying for a Yeshiva education may create.

It is with great pleasure that I inform you that once again, tuition at RYNJ will remain flat for the upcoming school year. We are proud to have had no significant increase for the past 6 years and we remain committed to keeping our tuition steady for the foreseeable future.

Incidental and trip fees will once again be absorbed by the Yeshiva and will not be charged to parents.

Projected enrollment for 2013 – 2014 is once again at a record high and will necessitate the hiring of new staff to accommodate our growing student body. We are pleased to be providing our returning staff with a modest pay raise.

We have worked diligently and successfully to maintain our financial stability. While some of our costs have gone up and the Yeshiva has invested in numerous areas including professional development and technology to improve the education that we offer, it is a true credit to our administration and lay leadership that tuition remains steady. When factoring in inflation, it actually amounts to a 2% reduction in tuition for the year.

When I wrote to you at the beginning of this school year, I told you that the growth of our student body brings with it some logistical challenges as we must work to find enough room in the building to serve the needs of our children. I have made it one of the goals of my presidency to do whatever is needed to make certain that we do not have to turn away new families due to space constraints. As you may know, due to the very large number of children that we serve, the scheduling of physical education and indoor recess has become exceedingly difficult. With our children’s health and safety as our primary concern, the Board of Directors has begun to research options to alleviate this issue.

Later this week, we will release our 2nd Annual Report representing our continued effort towards transparency in our financials and the security of our financial future. The report is a tremendous accomplishment for the Yeshiva. I would like to express our gratitude to Shira Isenberg, Glenn Pfeiffer, Adina Wiener, Allen Pfeiffer and Uri Jacobs for all their hard work putting it together.

As guardians of our children and grandchildren's education, we remain committed to ensuring that the Yeshiva's finances remain on solid footing. As always, we are dedicated to providing all RYNJ students with a first class Limudei Kodesh and Limudei Chol education. We strongly believe that every Jewish child deserves a Torah education. If this proves to be a burden to any family we will offer financial assistance to those in need.

I invite and encourage you to contact me with any comments, questions or concerns.

Wishing you a Chag Sameach and continued nachas from all of our children.

Azi Mandel
President

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Yavneh Freezes Tuition (except for additional $250 security fee)



Yavneh Academy - ישיבת יבנה
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I am writing to report that Yavneh Academy’s Board has approved the budget for the upcoming 2013-14 fiscal year.

As a result of hard work and cooperation by Rabbi Knapp, Joel Kirschner, our Finance committee and its Chair; Adam Fried, we have once again struck the right balance between educational excellence and affordability.

In recent years, Yavneh has led the community effort to reign in spiraling tuition costs.  Yavneh broke historic ground by being the first local Yeshiva Day School to cut tuition in 2011. Last year, we instituted a significant cut in Early Childhood tuition, a more modest cut for K-5, and a tuition freeze for grades 6-8.

We are pleased to announce that there will be no tuition increase for 2013-14. The tuition freeze will be school wide.

We were able to achieve this, not only because of our fiscal responsibility, but because of a robust increase in our projected enrollment for next year, despite the expanded number of Jewish educational options in our growing community.

Events of the past year have unfortunately reminded us that we must always be vigilant when it comes to the safety of our children. As such, we are instituting a $250 security fee per family. This fee is reflective of the times in which we live. This money will be specifically earmarked for staffing and technological and capital enhancements that will further ensure the safety of our students and will enable us to work cooperatively with our recently formed Security Committee in continuing to safeguard our children's security and well being

Great things are happening at Yavneh, and I encourage you to get involved in your children’s school, not only for their benefit, but for the benefit of generations to come. We look forward to seeing you at Yavneh’s annual meeting on May 6th.

Eric Fremed
President, Yavneh Academy

Sunday, April 28, 2013

2 Days Left to be BOLD



The BOLD initiative, sponsored by the AJE Project, The AVI CHAI Foundation, and the Kohelet Foundation, is offering grants to existing schools to implement Blended Learning

Schools have until 4pm this coming Tuesday to apply.

I still have a few questions that the BOLD website left unanswered.  These are not rhetorical questions that are intended to provoke skepticism.  These are genuine questions that if answered satisfactorily could allay some of the skepticism found on this blog & various other media.  Perhaps one of our readers can elucidate.

First, "schools have realized overall operating cost reductions of 25% and per pupil cost savings of $1000"  What does this mean?  Are these two separate cost savings, one per pupil and based on the total operating costs, that can be added up?  Why not simply combine them since most operating costs can be calculated per student.  If they are one and the same, just two different ways to calculate the same savings, $1,000 seems like a lot less than 25% based on the tuitions of most local schools.

Second, the following are listed as methods used by blended learning to reduce costs:

  1. Reducing and repurposing existing curricular and text budgets
  2. Redefining teacher and staff roles and reallocating personnel resources
  3. Increased class size coupled with greater personalization
  4. Increased student enrollment fostered by innovative programs and personalized learning

Could we see some specific examples of these methods being used at He'atid or other schools?  For item #1 are textbooks really a significant portion of the budget?  are they less than technology costs?  Doesn't the State partially subsidize them?

Are teachers doubling as administrators or vice versa as point #2 seems to suggest?  Are they doing it more than, say, Noam, which has always had administrators teaching a few subjects

For #3 are student teacher ratios significantly different at He'atid or other blended learning schools than they are at traditional schools?  Can we get some numbers on that?

For #4 does increased enrollment lead to lower costs per student?  What if the building is already at capacity or if more enrollment means you need to expand or move?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Moriah Town Hall Session


Moriah had a "Town Hall Session" on Monday to discuss the recent changes they've made to keep tuition flat for this coming year.  There's another one tonight at 8:00.

Here's what one reader wrote about the session Monday night:

"..it was great! They are working incredibly hard to achieve tuition sustainability. They are eliminating the multi child discount and raising the income level for which one can receive an abatement. This way it will be more of a needs based discount instead of an across the board discount. They were giving an AVERAGE of 78% discount to faculty members. The highest other school is Ramaz at 60% cap. Noam and Yavneh are 50% and 40% respectively. They are moving to a 60% cap. They recognize the shrinking enrollment but it's not necessarily a problem if they budget correctly for it. They are also moving to improve the morale."
"Also they reduced the number of administrators which is drastically reducing their salary expense."

Yasher Koach to Moriah for making the hard but, unfortunately, necessary decisions to stop the annual rises in tuition that their parents had become accustomed to.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Register to Vote


See letter below from the president of the Board of Yavneh:

I am writing to you to share some thoughts about a serious issue affecting our school and New Jersey’s Orthodox Jewish community. 

Education Affordability is a major issue affecting our families and our schools. The Orthodox Union has formed NJVotes, a campaign dedicated to increasing voter participation in every election and by doing so making our community known to our Legislators and obtaining their support for increased State funding for day schools and families.
This year we have a unique opportunity. New Jersey's entire 120-member Legislature and Governor are up for re-election in the June Primary.  Because this election does not coincide with a Presidential race, voter turnout is usually low, typically less that 12%.  Therefore, our community’s votes will carry exceptional weight. 
Our entire school community needs to vote in the June 4th Primary.  In order to vote, you must be registered as either a Democrat or a Republican.  Regardless of how you cast your ballot, politicians will see that our community is engaged.  Only when we increase our voter turnout will our elected officials pass the legislation needed to alleviate the cost of Yeshiva tuition. 
The job of an educator in the Yeshiva day school community is twofold.  First, we try to instill the requisite knowledge for success in our highly competitive world.  Second, we try to act as role models to form their religious, moral, and ethical compasses, ensuring the continuation of Jewish values.
Yavneh is proud to say that we take this responsibility very seriously. 
We ask parents to help our school by registering with a political party and voting in the Primary Election June 4th.  We also ask that parents continue to be positive role models for their children and take action by registering other community members or volunteering to help NJVotes at phone banks or events.  Visitnjvotes.org, call 201-416-7741, or visit the OU office here in Teaneck at 696 Palisade Ave.

Please recognize the importance of this campaign and our responsibility toregister by May 14th and vote in the June 4th Primary.  If we want to effectuate meaningful change our entire school community must vote in June.   Please let me know if you have any questions about this issue and its centrality to the continued strength and growth of our community.  I look forward to working with every one of you on this vital initiative. Thank you for your participation in this school-wide effort.

Thank you
Eric Fremed , Yavneh President-

Friday, April 12, 2013

Moriah Responds to Jewish Week

[Update: Julie Weiner responds: For the record, I interviewed more than one person with information about the layoffs -- not just a single disgruntled teacher. 

In addition, Moriah officials did not respond to all my questions or provide all the information I requested. When they did, I printed it, and when it conflicted with information provided by other sources, I printed and cited both. For example, I printed their enrollment numbers and their claim that the early childhood program is growing by 15 percent.]

Moriah sent out the letter below responding this Jewish Week article.  Personally I didn't think the article was so negative.  I think it framed the layoffs as an unfortunate necessity.

I'm also bothered a bit by the "quotes" of the article in the letter below.  Some of them do not appear in the article as written.  I checked in the print edition as well to make sure the web article wasn't changed in response to this letter.  If you want to summarize what was written and respond to it, fine, but don't put words in quotes when you are not accurately quoting.  For example the article didn't say "22 faculty and staff were laid off representing 20% of the total staff of 115".  It said "nearly 20 percent of the school’s roughly 115 teachers".  It also didn't say ""No severance for its staff", it said "It is not clear if all Moriah’s laid-off teachers will receive severance packages and if the packages are being determined according to a uniform system."

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Rabbi Discount

Sources tell me that pulpit and teaching Rabbis get special tuition discounts at many of the local day schools.  Not just Rabbis who work at the school in question.  And not just Rabbis who go through the scholarship process and are found to qualify for such a scholarship.

Some Rabbis are well compensated and don't need the discount any more than the rest of us.  My only guess as to why they have this discount is to get a rabbinic endorsement of the school.

I have two problems with it.  One is that a discount for one person increases the burden for everyone else. The other problem is that Rabbis are in a position to advocate for change to the tuition crisis.  If they don't feel the full brunt of the problem they are less likely to endorse solutions.

Thoughts?

Friday, April 5, 2013

Moriah Layoffs

As part of their austerity measures aimed at keeping tuition flat for this coming year, Moriah will be laying off 10 longtime faculty members.

It is an unfortunate development but frankly necessary. Enrollment is down & they can't keep the same faculty with less revenue coming in.  I'm confident that these experienced professionals will find jobs at other schools.

The Jewish Week is looking to talk to students, parents or former parents to get their reactions for an upcoming article about it.  Anyone who is willing to talk should contact Julie Wiener at julie.inthemix@gmail.com . The deadline for the article is Monday so please contact her right away.

Shabbat Shalom.

[UPDATE: Article has been published. Click here]

Friday, March 22, 2013

Jewish Week Looking to Interview HALB/Tiferet Parents

Julie Wiener of the Jewish Week is looking to do an article on the HALB/Tiferet merger.  She asked me to post the following:

I'm doing an article about this for The Jewish Week, and would love to speak to Tiferet and HALB parents to find out how they feel about this. If any of you are on this blog -- or if any blog readers have friends at these places with whom they can put me in touch -- please e-mail me at julie.inthemix@gmail.com

Thanks! Julie Wiener, Associate
Editor, The New York Jewish Week

Chag Sameach to everyone,
YD

Update: Article can be found here: http://www.thejewishweek.com/news/short-takes/startup-day-school-finds-established-home

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tiferet "Merges" with HALB

The start-up school Tiferet, in the 5 Towns, was supposed to follow the He'atid model of using blended learning to reduce costs and lower tuition.  They just announced that rather than starting a new school they are going to merge with Hebrew Academy of Long Beach and try to incorporate their methods into the existing school (see the announcement, from their website, after the jump).  They haven't yet announced what the tuition will be but if tuition is not significantly reduced people won't consider this a merger but simply Tiferet giving up on its plan to open up an  affordable school.  At the very least, the funds from AJE should help with tuition reduction in the short run.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

BPY Increases, Moriah stays flat for 2013/2014

Link to the right shows the new BPY tuition schedule.  Tuition stays flat for Pre-K though they still haven't cut tuition for that grade as every other BC school has in order to compete with some of the new low-cost options.  1st-4th grades go up by $400 & 5th-7th goes up by $600.  They sent this letter explaining it.

Meanwhile, Moriah announced that they are keeping tuition flat for next year though they are adding a $285 assessment per family to cover security upgrades. They are also adding 5 more days to the calendar.  See their letter here.

As the letter explains, Moriah is making some budget cuts to reflect their smaller enrollment, which is something Westchester Day School should consider now that they have a low-cost competitor poaching some of their students.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

If Paramus Public Schools Jumped Off A Bridge.....

Anyone else think it's ridiculous that school was delayed for 2 hours at some Paramus Day Schools because of an inch of slushy snow on the ground?

Public Schools were delayed, which was unnecessary in its own right.  But if you're about to give off for 2 weeks you should be making an extra effort to stay open this week.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Sunday, March 10, 2013

OU Clarifies Position on Blended Learning

After OU president Simcha Katz wrote an article endorsing blended learning in yeshiva day schools, including in new schools like He'atid but also in Yavneh, Maury Litwack from OU issued the clarification below.

I agree with the author that "Tuition relief will only come with all the available solutions working in collaboration."  I don't know why anyone reading the original article by Dr. Katz would assume otherwise. Nothing in his article suggests that blended learning would be a panacea to the tuition crisis all by itself.

My guess is that the clarification was driven by some angry phone calls or emails by supporters of existing schools that are threatened by the new models.   




Note from Maury Litwack Regarding Tuition Reduction Efforts


Recently, OU President Simcha Katz published an editorial in the Jewish Action regarding his thoughts on blended learning and the new schools that are built on this model. Some have construed this editorial as a singular endorsement for the future of Jewish education by the Orthodox Union. This is not the Orthodox Union position on tuition reduction
In the last eighteen months, we’ve spent a majority of our staff time launching state lobbying efforts to advocate for increased government funding for Jewish education. As we’ve stated many times in public and in the report that followed the OU tuition summit, we believe that government advocacy is a unique area that the OU can focus its expertise.
Additionally, we’ve worked with many other organizations such as Yeshiva University, Avi Chai and PEJE on collaborative efforts where available. Tuition relief will only come with all the available solutions working in collaboration.
I want to reaffirm the OU’s overall commitment to work with local community leaders in an effort to strengthen existing schools, shuls, and all similar entities, which are invaluable to Jewish life.
Maury Litwack
Director of State Political Affairs & Outreach

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Bergen County Exec Meets With Day Schools


 Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan Meets with Jewish Day School Leadership

The New Jersey Orthodox Union office of the Institute for Public Affairs coordinated a meeting with Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan and Jewish Day School Administrators at The Moriah School in Englewood on Thursday, February 28.

Ms. Donovan was provided with a tour of the school led by its Principal, Dr. Elliot Prager.

Following the tour, she met with the 20 attendees, to become better acquainted and to discuss what the County can provide for the Schools in these financially trying times.

Amongst the suggestions made were the possibility of providing security assessments, security training, use of County parks and recreational activities, a free presentation on New Jersey history, and Special Education opportunities. Ms. Donovan emphasized that the County “has the ability to help you and your kids” and encouraged quarterly meetings between schools and the County for increased dialogue and cooperation.

Attending the meeting with the County Executive was Peter Incardone, Jr. her Deputy Chief of Staff, Councilman Yitz Stern and the Orthodox Union’s NJ IPA staff including its Director Josh Pruzansky, Arielle Frankston-Morris, Associate Director of Community Engagement, Sara Rosengarten, Associate Director of Voter Outreach and Ira Treuhaft a resident of Bergenfield.

Schools represented at the meeting were The Moriah School, The Frisch School, Yavneh Academy, Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey, Yeshivat Noam, Yeshivat He’Atid, Ben Porat Yosef, Torah Academy of Bergen County, Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls and Solomon Schechter of Bergen County.

Monday, March 4, 2013

OU Prez Endorses Blended Learning



Blended Learning: The Newest Frontier in Jewish Education?

by   in President's Message
This is the question facing every Jewish day school in the country struggling with the escalating costs of Jewish education. Admittedly, there is no simple answer to this question; no silver bullet.
The Orthodox Union is fully committed to building legislative support for school choice (http://www.ou.org/texas-school-choice; http://www.ou.org/teach-nys) and with communal support, we will, please God, prevail. But this approach requires patience; it will take time.
katz
A more immediate solution may, however, be on the horizon. In my own community of Bergen County, New Jersey, one school has quietly begun a revolutionary experiment in Jewish education that has significantly reduced tuition costs. Yeshivat He’Atid, which opened this past September with 116 students, embraces a new and innovative—if somewhat controversial—educational approach known as “blended learning.” Remarkably, Yeshivat He’Atid’s tuition is 40 percent less than other schools in Bergen County.
What is blended learning and how does it manage to dramatically cut costs? Blended learning combines independent computer instruction with face-to-face traditional classroom methods. While my experience as an educator has been limited to teaching on the graduate school level for the past several decades, I believe that blended learning, while still in the experimental stages, may be one of the most exciting developments in the world of education, with particular effectiveness in grades one through twelve.
Envision twenty-first-century classrooms outfitted with big screens, laptops and software that teaches students everything from converting percents to decimals to writing persuasive essays. This groundbreaking educational model is increasingly found in public schools across the country. Imagine students using specially-designed interactive software programs to master Hebrew grammar and Chumash—the possibilities are endless! Indeed, many yeshivot have been slowly introducing digital media into their limudei kodesh classes. For instance, The Frisch School in New Jersey recently developed an iPad app for Gemara. And while educational software for Judaic studies is currently limited, companies and vendors are hard at work developing such materials. One extraordinary resource is the Aleph Beta Academy, launched by Rabbi Aryeh Lightstone, regional director of New York NCSY.
With the explosion in digital learning across the country, not surprisingly, Jewish schools have begun to take notice. Tiferet Academy in the Five Towns and Westchester Torah Academy, both scheduled to open this fall, will be blended learning schools. Ohr Chadash Academy in Baltimore, Maryland, is yet another model of digital learning, and similar schools have sprung up in East Brunswick, New Jersey; Sharon, Massachusetts; Los Angeles, California and Seattle, Washington.
Advocates of blended learning—such as Meir Nordlicht, a board member of Westchester Torah Academy, and Gershon Distenfeld, chairman of the board of Yeshivat He’Atid—claim that it not only cuts costs, but it also provides a superior education. Teachers are able to customize computer activities for students based on skills and abilities, eliminating the need for both an enrichment program as well as a resource room. Moreover, because of the individualized learning component, classes can be larger than those in traditional schools. A higher student/teacher ratio also translates into savings. Furthermore, in some schools students take independent courses under the supervision of a facilitator (as opposed to a highly-paid teacher).
Nordlicht and Distenfeld contend that blended learning helps bring kids up to speed, teaching them twenty-first-century skills while ensuring that each child receives an individualized, personalized approach. Computer programs are continually assessing a child’s performance, providing invaluable feedback to the teacher. Most importantly, students get to learn at their own pace.
And yet, while I am excited about the possibilities of using digital learning to teach Chumash, Rashi and Gemara, I am cautiously optimistic. I know that opponents of blended learning also make compelling arguments. There is no hard data proving that blended learning impacts academic performance. It is foolish, opponents say, to jump headfirst into embracing a new educational approach when there is no evidence that the results will be any better. Moreover, many argue that in a blended classroom, students have to be self-motivated, and that blended learning overemphasizes digital skills over the fundamentals such as math, reading and writing. Many also argue that there’s no substitute for teacher-student interaction. One critic, cited in a New York Times article, referred to blended learning as little more than a “high-tech babysitter.”
In fact, blended learning does entail changing the teacher’s role. In a blended classroom, teachers guide more than they lecture, although effective programs strive to strike a balance.
Of course, the sacred rebbe-talmid relationship can never be replaced by a computer screen. A screen could never convey hashkafah or inculcate middot. And I certainly don’t believe that a software program, no matter how sophisticated, can teach one to “lain a gemara.”
In Baltimore, Rabbi Akevy Greenblatt of Ohr Chadash is another passionate advocate of blended learning. The school has the lowest tuition in Baltimore for its grade levels. When the school was in the formation stage, there was some opposition to giving students iPads and Internet access. “Computers,” he told parents, “are not dangerous if students are taught to use them properly.”
Even established schools such as Yavneh Academy in Paramus, New Jersey, are gradually introducing blended learning, giving students some control over the pace and content of their learning. Currently, the Avi Chai Foundation is working with thirty-six established yeshivot and day schools nationally to set up blended learning programs, according to program officer Rachel Abrahams.
Whether it is a new or established school, there will be costs to incorporate the technology. Expenses include computers and software, licensing fees for the software, specialized furniture, wiring and, of course, teacher training. Schools must be aware that cost savings may not be realized in the first year, during which philanthropy must fill the gap.
Is blended learning the panacea for which parents and educators have been searching? Is this approach feasible or even desirable for every Jewish day school and yeshivah? Do yeshivot and day schools have an obligation going forward to consider blended learning?
The jury is still out. Currently, all we can say with certainty is that this is an exciting venture in Jewish education that holds much promise. We have no guarantees that it will work. However, it is our responsibility to try various approaches and models to enable us to provide quality education at an affordable cost. And with God’s help, we will be successful.
Special thanks to Stephen Steiner, director of OU public relations, in preparing this article.
To learn more about blended learning, contact Rachel Abrahams, program officer, Avi Chai (212) 396-8850; Gershon Distenfeld, gershon.distenfeld@gmail.com; Meir Nordlicht through Jeff Kiderman, executive director of the Affordable Jewish Education Project, jeff@ajeproject.org; Rabbi Akevy Greenblatt at rabbigreenblatt@ocabaltimore.org; Rabbi Aaron Ross at aaron.ross@yavnehacademy.org and Rabbi Aryeh Lightstone at alightstone@gmail.com.
In addition, the following print sources and videos are available: 
http://digitaljlearning.org/what-is-online-learning; http://digitaljlearning.org/online-learning/research; http://www.youtube.com/user/educationelements/videos.


This article was featured in Jewish Action Spring 2013.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Update From Yeshivat Winthrop


Inspired by Noam's event from last night, the Winthrop Yeshiva is getting in on the action!

Purim Sameach!!

The Winthrops

http://www.winthropyeshiva.org/events.html

Our Children's Education:
The Yellow Brick Road to Affordability
Sunday, February 24th, 2013, at 4pm, in the Winthrop Yeshiva Ballroom

The theme of the conference is:
Ad D'lo Yada: Why it makes perfect sense for the most expensive school in town to host a conference on tuition affordability.

Catering by Foremost Expensive Caterers
Full open bar - Top Shelf Liquors
Couvert: $2500 per person
(Note: cost for Winthrop Yeshiva families is covered by the $5000 per family Tuition Affordability Fee)

Speakers include:
  • Warren Buffett: Paying Your Fair Share of Tuition
  • Chaim Winthrop: Blended Learning?  I Prefer Single Malt
  • Assemblyman Shmuel Sheyster: How To Get Taxpayers to Pay Your Tuition Bills
  • Rabbi Josh Pruzansky: Please Don’t Confuse Me With That Other Rabbi
Co-Sponsored by:

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Classroom Technology

The Jewish Standard reports on  the very generous donation of iPads to Noam, Yavneh and Frisch by local chemist Dan Fried.  Children have these tools available all the time & it's critical that they learn how to use them for educational purposes like doing math and research and not just for playing fruit ninja. I've seen first hand how computer games help children learn how to read & research topics they are learning.  Tools for Jewish studies are also becoming increasingly available online.  I also think the idea of video conferencing with teachers in Israel and around the world is a great idea as well.  You could also have students who are home sick attend classes via their iPads.

The article suggests that technology can be used to reduce tuition costs though it didn't specify how, since no one is suggesting eliminating teaching positions and replacing them with the computers.  He'atid has long promised to use technology to reduce costs by eliminating the need for a resource room though the resource room costs are small compared to the overall budget.

So far the best example I've seen of technology being used to reduce tuition costs is provided by Yeshivat Avir Yakov in New Square. As reported in The Jewish Week "since 1998, been allotted more than $3.3 million in government funds earmarked for Internet and other telecommunications technology."  What's even better is that they don't have a single computer available for the children! So technology funds go directly to tuition reduction without losing anything to the pesky middleman of computers or iPads!

Monday, February 11, 2013

NNJKIDS Awareness Month

If you haven't already, expect a hard sell for NNJKIDS from your local schools and shuls this month.  For those who don't know about it, NNJKIDS is a fund that collects money from the community and distributes it to the local day schools.  More info can be found on the JFEG website.

I favor an all-in approach to the tuition crisis so that means working on both the revenue and the expense sides of the ledger.  Bear in mind that every tax-deductible dollar we donate is one less taxable dollar that we have to give in the form of tuition.

Anyway here's the pitch from Yavneh:



Yavneh Academy - ישיבת יבנה
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Along with the other day schools in Bergen County, we continue to seek solutions to the issue of Day School affordability.  To that end, we continue to partner with JewishEducation For Generations (JEFG), which seeks to develop transformational solutions that will ensure the future of our schools.

The impact of our relationship with JEFG has been strong and meaningful.  Working together, we have made advances in reducing our costs and limiting our tuition increases.  Specifically, their fundraising arm, NNJKIDS has successfully engaged our total community in the critical need to help fund the $8 million of scholarships our Day Schools award each year.  NNJKIDS has received contributions from over 1,500 families across our community and has distributed over $1,500,000 to our area’s schools.  NNJKIDS also demonstrates important unity and establishes Day Schools as a priority in our community. Its success serves as a catalyst for all other important JEFG initiatives.

While this is strong progress, we must increase the funding support we get from the broader community.  As we did last year, we will focus attention on this issue by dedicating February as NNJKIDS Awareness Month, a community-wide series of events encompassing synagogues and day schools, all focused on raising funds to support local Jewish Day School education.

Yavneh Academy has been a beneficiary of NNJKIDS and is actively participating in this exciting program. Our tzedaka funds collected in classrooms throughout February will be earmarked for support of NNJKIDS. 

The key to the success of NNJKIDS and the future of our children's education is total communal support.  Our goal is to double the number of NNJKIDS subscribers and ease the burden of day school tuition.

If you have not yet signed up as a regular contributor to NNJKIDS, please visit www.nnjkids.org to subscribe today.

Sincerely,
Eric Fremed, President
Rabbi Jonathan Knapp, Principal