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."


April 12, 2013
3 Iyyar 5773

Dear Parents,

We want to call your attention to  a negative article about Moriah to be published in this week's Jewish Week print edition and which is already available online.  As you are aware, tuition sustainability coupled with education excellence is very difficult to achieve. The Jewish Week chose to frame a negative article about some of the tough decisions we have had to make in order to reach sustainability. And despite providing the reporter of this story with accurate information, they chose to print inaccuracies provided by a disgruntled faculty member.

We would like to address the following: 

·       Errors in the article
·       The representation of Moriah
·       Our mission and journey

Errors in the article.  As the reporter failed to confirm the data in the article there are many errors. 

Here is a simple table regarding what the reporter states and the actual information; 

Article information
The facts
"22 faculty and staff were laid off representing 20% of the total staff of 115"
·19 faculty and staff contracts were not renewed, representing 12% of the total staff of 156.
· There are 2 new teaching positions for next year as well.
"many of them believed to be longtime employees who are in their 60s"
·  There are 5 above the age of 60
·  5 below the age of 35
·  Average age was 46
·  Average tenure was 11 years.
"Enrollment is 780 this year to about 700 projected for next year"
· Enrollment is 804 this year and forecasted to be 790 next year
· Early Childhood enrollment is up 15% for next year
"No severance for its staff"
Teachers employed by Moriah for more than 6 years will be receiving severance (1 week for each year of service) as stated in all faculty contracts.
"No raises since 2008"
Since 2008 there have been 3 raises including as recent as last year.

The representation of Moriah. Through JEFG (Jewish Education for Future Generations), the NJ area schools are working together, challenging traditional operating models toward the achievement of sustainable excellence. Moriah and its former president Sam Moed, are leading this charge along with Rabbi Goldin who co-founded and chaired JEFG. For years, Moriah has been hosting JEFG monthly meetings on our campus. The JEFG mission is to solve the tuition crisis through communal initiatives.  One such initiative was directed by Yeshiva University. The objective of the YU Benchmark process was to help the participating Jewish day schools in Bergen County and in other communities across the country, to achieve a 10% operational efficiency. Moriah, throughout this year, has embarked on a mission to achieve tuition sustainable excellence leaving no stone unturned in the process.

At Moriah we are deeply focused on making tuition affordable and sustainable for all. We have received many emails and calls from our parent body applauding the difficult decisions that were made these past few months regarding the recalibration of the Moriah operating model.  Getting Moriah's operating expenses in order is fiscally responsible (and painful). Increasing enrollment only masks the problems of tuition sustainability - it doesn't solve the problem. Besides, bigger schools should not be confused with better schools.

Our excellent and devoted faculty.  It is important to note that these are the comments of 1 disgruntled teacher.  We have 155 other faculty members who while sad to see their colleagues not return to Moriah are in fact proud to be Moriah teachers.  According to the YU benchmarks our faculty are paid more than all other schools in Bergen County.  Our tuition benefit is 20% higher than our nearest competitor.  We must ensure that the other 155 faculty members know that we appreciate their effort and commitment their passion and their patience as we quickly move Moriah to sustainable excellence. We are all a part of this incredible Moriah community.

Our community.  The depiction of Englewood as a shrinking left-wing orthodox community is highly insulting and incorrect. Members of the Englewood community were among the initial funders of Yeshivat Noam and BPY and our lay leadership are among the best and brightest, serving as thought leaders and contributors to the wider American Jewish community.  More importantly, we are excited to see new schools emerge and in their own unique way help drive educational excellence. Free markets and competition drive out cost and inefficiency while motivating toward ingenuity and an ever improving product.

Our mission and journey.  An article such as this should only serve to embolden us all. Change is difficult. Especially when it rocks the perceived establishment as incorrect and flawed as the existing foundation may be. Times have changed, these are difficult decisions and ones that were not made without deep soul searching and with a shared mission - sustainable excellence.

Thank you.

Evan Sohn, President
Jay Goldberg, Chairman
Dr. Elliot Prager, Principal