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.


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]