January 28, 2007

by Reb Yudel
Thank you, Gary Rosenblatt, because even a bad story is better than none

Last week, I both congratulated and slammed the Jewish Week for their one-side story on Teaneck's Metropolitan Schechter High School, where I happen to be a tuition-paying parent.

YudelLine on Jewish Week on Schechter
  1. Initial response on the article and its omissions
  2. Why a even bad Jewish Week article is better than nothing
  3. Fisking the Jewish Week part 1 (Wikipedia definition of Fisking)
  4. Fisking the Jewish Week part 2
  5. Important clarifications
I attacked the Jewish Week reporter -- and will continue to do so -- for sinfully sloppy reporting, in that she only interviewed one member of an unhappy shotgun marriage.

Truth be told, at least this Teaneck family feels that the merger took a diamond and turned it into coal, to steal a phrase from a Manhattan parent quoted by the Jewish Week. (More about theft and Manhattanites in a later post).

But while the quality of the reporting was unforgivable, the fact that the Jewish Week dared report on the situation was a good thing.

A very good thing.

Because on Thursday, following the publication of the article, Regional Metropolitan Schechter began a long-overdue process of talking, screaming and venting.

Here's how the school reported it in their weekly newsletter:

Emergency School-Wide Meeting: Jay Dewey and Rhonda Rosenheck called a special meeting of the "Town" to talk about several key issues. They began by recognizing that there was considerable sadness and grief over no longer having Dorothy Bowser on site and that they realized that many former SSHSNY students felt abandoned, without their "last link" to their old school. Jay and Rhonda also noted that there were several signs of the school community's pain, including an increasing number of losses (probable thefts) of computers, phones, and iPods, and the increasing number of credible reports of drug use. Jay noted the legal and school-based consequences of being caught stealing or involved with drugs on campus. In Q & A, many students expressed feelings of loss and a sense of distrust and betrayal. Some expressed anger at the Board of Trustees for thinking only of the long-run, without weighing the affects on the current students, and at the Leadership Team for focusing on issues other than students' well-being (such as recruitment). Areas of frustration included lack of order, and that they are still awaiting closure on several of their issues, such as length of the school day. The meeting was heated and productive; several students stayed late to share insights and suggestions with Rhonda and Jay.

Reflections from Rhonda and Jay after the meeting -- We were proud of the MSHS students' willingness to engage in difficult discussion with us Thursday afternoon. We empathized deeply with their grief and anger, and found their ideas compelling. Some important suggestions came out of the many spontaneous, more private discussions that arose among students, ourselves, and faculty members afterwards. We and the faculty have already been taking steps to identify root issues and improve school life. A plan of action developed during next Wednesday's Professional Development Day will move the school in an even more productive and healing direction.

Several students asked us to convene more such meetings, but in smaller groups, to allow many more students' voices to be heard. We will schedule the first of those next week. Students also asked us to invite the Board leadership in to talk with them directly, and we will be extending that invitation. Additionally, you -- the parents -- will very soon receive an invitation to attend one of many parlor meetings around the region, so that you, too, have an opportunity to talk with the Leadership Team about your and your child(ren)'s experiences during this difficult year.

I imagine the article served as quite a centerpiece of conversation at the school's winter gala last night as well....

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