May 9, 2007

by Reb Yudel
Forward: Parents in N.J. Rally To Save Schechter School

The Forward reports from Teaneck:

In an 11th-hour decision following an emotional plea from parents and students, the board of the New York City area’s only Conservative Jewish high school voted to keep the financially strapped institution’s doors open for the near future.

A Monday evening board meeting to decide the fate of the Metropolitan Schechter High School in Teaneck, N.J., which has been saddled with ongoing operating losses reaching into the millions, ended with a unanimous vote allowing the school to remain intact if it can meet a key enrollment benchmark by the end of this week and reach a significant fundraising goal by the fall. The board credited its decision not to close the school to the impassioned appeals of a lineup of devoted — and sometimes teary eyed — parents and students who showed up at the Teaneck Jewish Center to plead with the school’s trustees to save Metro Schechter from collapse.

While the school will remain open — for now, at least — the extent of the financial crunch felt by Metro Schechter opens a window, some critics say, onto the weakened state of Conservative Judaism.

And then there's this:
Some parents expressed outrage that the board kept them in the dark about the dire nature of the school’s financial situation until the past several weeks. Larry Yudelson, the father of both a senior and a sophomore at Metro Schechter, said in a phone interview that had parents known the depth of the crisis, many would have contributed funds a long time ago. “Eighteen months ago they could have easily mobilized resources,” he said, adding “it was a very paternalistic board. They were taking care of us.”

What didn't get quoted was my clear indictment of the two representatives of the Conservative movement -- one the chief operating officer of JTS, the other the head of the education department of the United Synagogue -- who sat on the board of the New York Schechter, enabled the board to undertake a doomed-to-fail merger (the inevitability of failure was obvious to anyone who understood mergers and the cultures of the schools involved) and then decided to quietly close the school's doors at the end of the school year, leaving everyone hanging in suspense.

That the school was saved is due to the brave board member who broke with fiduciary duty, and let the rumor spread that the board was going to quietly, without consulting with the community, the parents, the federation or the synagogues -- close down the school. I can forgive the board members who were more generous than they were thoughtful in running the school; I can't forgive the board members who were at the table not because of their checkbooks, but because of their supposed knowledge of the Jewish educational world.

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