June 7, 2007

by Reb Yudel
Truth vs PR: Reflections on last night's Metro Schechter meeting

Another Metro Schechter board-meets-parents meeting last night. Overall, the mood from the board has shifted to a good place: The re-organized board is committed to the school's future, realizes that working in a vacuum doesn't work, and is investing a lot of time and energy (and apparently money) in starting the next school year on the right foot. "There will be bumps in the road," said new board president Alan Tannenbaum, not least the failure to commit to continuing the school until a yet unknown but probably not insignificant number of teachers signed contracts elsewhere.

And I'd like to take a moment to personally thank Sy Sadinoff who, while apparently being quite financially generous, seems to have been the central shmuck that led Teaneck's Schechter to the abyss.

It was Sy Sadinoff, if you remember last year's Jewish Week reporting, who was the New Jersey Schechter board member who was central to the merger.

And it was also Sy Sadinoff -- so I have been told -- who personally turned down an offer of near-pro-bono consulting help that might have enabled the merger to go smoothly.

I suspect it was also Sy Sadinoff who was counseling despair last February when some scheme or another for the school fell through.... and who advocated quietly closing the school altogether.

I don't really know anything about Sy Sadinoff. (I would love to hear more, of course!) But "penny wise and pound foolish" might explain his disastrous refusal to seek professional help for the merger.

Last night, the board took responsibility for the fiasco that led to school last year being held in anadequate space. Given that it was a collective admission of responsibility, I can't help but believe that silly old Sy was at the center of that too.

Speaking of the lack of space: Clearly Metro Schechter will be a better place in September '07 than it was in September '06, because the school will be shrinking back to an appropriate size. "We'll fit the shoe better," is how Jay Dewey put it.

The real problems caused by the space shortage last year -- painfully articulated by one of the parents of a current 9th grader -- should put to rest the canard (voiced by more than one parent last night) that Gary Rosenblatt reporting on the school hurt the school. I think it's clear that I am second to noone when it comes to criticizing the Jewish Week's coverage of Metro Schechter. But as I wrote at the time, even bad reporting was good for the school.

As a Doonesbury cartoon long ago noted about Nixon's secret bombing of Cambodia, the secret was kept from the Congress and the American people -- not the Cambodians:

"They weren't secret. 'Look, Martha, here come the bombs,' I said."

"That's right. He did."

At Metro Schechter, it wasn't a secret to the students that the school was too small and too disorganized.

And it wasn't a secret to prospective students and their parents.

So shame not Gary Rosenblatt, but on myself and the other parents who didn't raise a larger ruckus.

If Metro Schechter really wants to reach their goal of 30 freshman in 2008, it would behoove them to conduct "exit interviews" with this year's graduates of the New Milford Schechter who don't continue on in Metro Schechter. It has been a rather open secret that the Schechter middle school has had some severe problems in recent years.... and it is clear that dissatisfaction with the junior Schechter experience is part of the reason the school's large 8th grade class will translate into an expected small class at Metro this fall. Good luck to all those brave enough to try to undertake the necessary forensics!

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