January 29, 2007

by Reb Yudel
Fisking the Jewish Week - Part I

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
The Jewish Week's article, "Schechter Merger Hits Choppy Waters," can perhaps serve as a textbook example of bad writing and worse reporting in service to a good cause. Let's take a closer look:
Schechter Merger Hits Choppy Waters
Carolyn Slutsky - Staff Writer
So far, so good.
Dorothy Bowser, who served as principal of the Solomon Schechter High School of New York, was removed as co-principal at the new merged school with scant explanation, say New York parents and students.

When the city school merged with the suburban school last spring, families on both sides of the river held their collective breath waiting to see if, like a skin graft, the match would take.

Block that metaphor! Was it a skin graft? Was it a shiduch? Quick: Someone drop a match into the Hudsom!

Apparently, as recent events at the Metropolitan Schechter High School in Teaneck suggest, it has not been the smoothest of transitions.

And it here refers to what, exactly? You mean the merger/skin graft/match was not a smooth transition?

And: Recent events? There are certainly many event that suggest that the merger was not a smooth one, among them the delay in the start of school by several days; the constant modification of the school hours during the first few weeks of school; an announcement -- given only to the students, not to the parents -- of a formal internship program, which was then soon rescinded; the failure to provide an appropriate Judaic studies program for Seniors and -- not insignificantly -- the departure of at least three teachers by midyear.

None of those events, however, are reported in this story.

When the Solomon Schechter High School of New York merged with the Schechter Regional High School in New Jersey last fall,

Last fall? The lead said it was last spring.

 the head of school in Manhattan, Dorothy Bowser, joined with Rhonda Rosenheck and Jay Dewey of the Teaneck school to share equal responsibility in running the new school and maintaining both schools' philosophies.

Note the active tense (rare for this story) which makes the three administrators active players. However, it is the school's board which decided on the merger; and it is apparently the board which has decided on the staffing.

Last week, board president Mary Sanders sent an e-mail correspondence to Schechter families

Good thing she didn't write "all Schechter families," because this family didn't receive a copy of the letter. I haven't yet determined whether other New Jersey families did receive the email.

with an attachment stating that the school was looking for funding for a new facility they hope to acquire or build. At the end of the attachment she broke news many parents and students say stunned them.

"Our need to acquire a suitable new facility brings with it the need to raise substantial additional capital," wrote Sanders. "To that end, we have asked Dorothy Bowser to focus all of her attention on this critical task.

"Effective immediately, Dorothy will relinquish all of her other responsibilities at the School and assume the post of Development Officer reporting directly to the Board. We are looking to secure off-campus office space for Dorothy so that we can expand our development outreach."

What does this mean? Why was this decision made? Sanders isn't quoted here, even to give a "no comment."

Some parents and students from New York, who are a minority in the school, say the decision to reassign Bowser's responsibilities was unfavorable, as they had been promised her support through the merger.

Unfavorable? Disappointing would be closer to standard English.

They also described the move as cowardly, coming as it did in an e-mail attachment.

If the move -- that is, the reassignment of Bowser -- was carried out in a mass e-mail, that would indeed be cowardly. To notify the parent body through an email, which seems to have been what happened, doesn't seem to be particularly cowardly -- that is, after all, how the school communicates with the parent body.

For that matter, I don't see the Jewish Week reporter reciting her article personally to all the Jewish Week readers; was she cowardly for letting us know the news through a web site and snail mail delivery?

Rosenheck would say only that Bowser would be "taking over development function of the leadership for the school" and that Rosenheck and Dewey were "taking operation of the school in terms of faculty, students and curriculum."

You mean, "Asked to comment, Rosenheck would say only that..." That may be all Rosenheck is willing to say about her colleague (and mentor, according to what she told us parents last year) to the newspaper, but an unmodified "would only say" is pretty ridiculous.

And again, why isn't the board being asked about the decision? Was it made by Rosenheck? By the whole board? By a committee? These basics are totally omitted from this story.

Come back tomorrow for more, including cowardly, anonymous and false attacks on me and other Teaneck parents.