Startup Day School Finds Established Home
03/28/13
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It was supposed to be the Five Towns’ answer to Yeshivat He’Atid, the popular low-tuition Orthodox day school that has taken Bergen County, N.J., by storm.

Instead, Tiferet, which had hoped to launch in September with 100 students in pre-K through first grade, is a little like the ambitious college graduate who tries to strike on his own, only to end up moving back in with the parents.

One of two “blended learning” day schools slated to open this fall with backing from a newly formed philanthropy called Affordable Jewish Education (AJE), Tiferet announced last week it will instead be absorbed into the 58-year-old Hebrew Academy of Long Beach.

In what AJE officials are calling a “groundbreaking partnership,” the 1,700-student HALB will incorporate Tiferet’s 47 students and educational approach. AJE will hire Tiferet’s head of school, Rabbi Avrum Sacks, and provide funding to help bring the new approach — combining computerized assessment/instruction and face-to-face attention, and following a “rotational” model in which children spend much of the day working independently or in small groups — to HALB’s kindergarten and first grade, and eventually other grades as well.

Annual tuition and fees next year for pre-K through first graders will range from $10,200 to $12,100, higher than the $6,990-$9,290 range Tiferet had promised. (HALB’s tuition increases with each grade, with high school students paying over $20,000; its tuition is comparable to, or lower than, other Five Towns day schools.)

Asked in an e-mail interview if Tiferet’s move means Westchester Torah Academy, the other AJE-backed startup slated to launch this fall (tuition $9,750), might also be absorbed by a neighboring day school, AJE’s executive director, Jeff Kiderman, said, “The WTA team is continuing to move ahead with its plans to open an independent school in New Rochelle this coming September.”

Lance Hirt, HALB’s president, told The Jewish Week his school had already been exploring technology innovations, and stepped up the effort earlier this year when Tiferet burst onto the scene.

“We kept asking, ‘Wouldn’t it make more sense for the AJE and leadership of Tiferet to bring their thinking and innovation to a bigger platform like HALB, where it could affect more kids?’” Hirt said.

Meanwhile, Tiferet was struggling to get a critical mass of families to commit to enrolling and organizers felt pressured to make a decision about the school’s viability before April 1, the Nassau County deadline for requesting school bus transportation.

When a mutual friend brought the parties together, “we realized our philosophy was very much aligned,” Hirt said. He added that Tiferet’s Rabbi Sacks “is very open-minded, forward-thinking administrator.”

Asked if HALB expects to lower tuition as a result, Hirt said the school’s goal is “over the long term to, if not lower tuition, at least maintain it.”

For one parent, Jonathan Katz, who had been struggling to choose between the two schools, the decision is welcome.

Katz, who has a 4-year-old and 6-year-old at HALB, had initially been planning to transfer them to Tiferet, but a few months ago opted to keep them at HALB so as “not to rock the boat” for the children.

“We agonized over it, because the blended learning model we think is fantastic. Now that HALB has adopted the model … I’m the happiest man in the world,” he said.

Ovadya Aryeh, whose 5-year-old son was to be in Tiferet’s kindergarten, said he and his wife are still deciding what they will do next year, but are leaning toward HALB.

“My wife and I were very disappointed” that Tiferet won’t open as planned, he said, “but I don’t fault anyone.”

Tiferet’s leaders “did the prudent thing,” he said, adding that he was pleased they made the decision now, rather than waiting until the summer, when parents would have fewer options.

julie.inthemix@gmail.com

Last Update:

04/06/2013 - 13:17

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To compare Tiferet to a college grad striking out on his own, failing then moving back in with his parents is derogatory and completely off the mark. I applaud the successful and smart young leaders who perfectly planned the launch of Tiferet. A school the community badly needed providing affordable, better education and not stuck in a rut. It did not launch due to the leaders acting like true leaders and realizing it was best to merge when the community sheep did not take advantage of the solution to their years of complaining..

Here is a comparison that is much more honest than the college grad failing. Tiferet is like the many brilliant technologies that came out before people were wise enough to embrace them, ultimately causing temporary failure. Just google and see how many fools (the masses of sheep) refused to embrace technology because they could not understand it yet later on the technology became commonplace after initially failing.

Here is hoping that HALB will allow the AJE and Rabbi Sacks to rapidly introduce the benefits of blended learning across the 1,700 students. I pray that it is quick enough for our students to enjoy those methods before they graduate and miss out.

An oni mouse (a poor mouse)

I dont see what the big deal is. Is life so bad? Things in the five towns are just fine. Why rock the boat?

"Just fine"! How dare you? I know people who drive fancy cars and go away on extravagant vacations that are getting tuition assistance. Meanwhile, there are others the can barely make ends meet and give every extra dollar towards tuition. How can you say that life in the five towns is "just fine"? We needed a change. We needed some peace of mind knowing that we don't have to work every living second to pay for our kids and grandkids to go to school. nad it's not a superior education either. HALB didn't release the national test scores because they were so low that it would have been too embarrassing for them. It's not like we have a choice either. Due to the fear of public scrutiny those who can not afford wont even think of sending their children to public school where they likely will get a better education. They beg, borrow and accumulate so much debt that it chokes them. We Jews do it to ourselves and we will continue to do it because of people like you who stick their head in the sand and make believe that everything is "just fine".

I agree. I've sat and listened to people complain week after week. When Tiferet was announced and the complaining persisted I asked if the complainers were going to send their children to Tiferet. They replied, "not yet". Well, they missed their chance for true change in jewish community. If there is "extra money," do you think HALB will ever give it back to the people? Their administration will get bonuses for doing such a good job. Their unqualified teachers will get raises. And the complainers will just keep on complaining because that's what they like to do. It's time to step up people. Or at least it was time. We lost our chance and now will have to suffer with more of the SOS.

The only flaw i can think of in the Tiferet startup model is people who refuse to step out of their comfort zone and continue to think that status quo is OK. Tiferet more than adequately gave the entire community an out from the sub-par education, high tuition, and ridiculous politics. You all just didn't take the next step. Now your all stuck where you were because HALB will always over promise and under deliver and people such as those that started Tiferet will never stick their necks out for the jewish community again.

I blame the community for this. People, especially Jews, love to complain but not to do anything about the problem . Tiferet leadership did not fail the community. The community failed them. I just hope all of the "wait and see" people never know financial hardship because they will only

Kol HaKavod to the Tiferet leadership for recognizing the flaw in the start-up model and pulling the plug on an ill-fated venture.

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