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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Who (Should) Run the Schools?

The Jewish Education Blog "SchmoozED" has the following post by Rabbi Zvi Grumet:

One of the perennial questions I struggle with is who should be running the show in Jewish day schools. On the one hand, schools are started by and designed to serve the community. As such, the community should determine what is appropriate for it - policies, educational agenda, pedagogical approach, etc. On the other hand, community people and lay leaders are neither religious authorities nor are they educational professionals (I assume the principals and heads of school are educational professionals). Then again, are the parents the ultimate consumers, since they pay the bills, or is it our students?

Another way of viewing this is the question of the nature of schools. Are schools communal organs, part of the religious establishment, or professional environments in which the professionals direct the show?

In the ideal there would be convergence between the groups - communities would hire leaders and educators who are completely in sync with the community. But we don't live in an ideal world.

I'm interested in hearing your thoughts? I too wish we lived in an ideal world where convergence happened naturally. But, we don't.

Please discuss. And hopefully I will be back with another set of posts soon.


Anonymous said...

I am no expert on education, so I'll leave that to the schools. However...I think it would be great if the schools could be financially transparent.

Shmilda said...

It's tempting to just "leave it to the experts," which the educators presumably are, but experts and especially academics often seem cut off from the realities of the world beyond their field. I think it should be the parents/communities who overall run the schools, since any experimentation will affect their children, and of course they are the ones paying for it all regardless.

Honestly Frum said...

I think the schools should be run by a business professional. As a parent investing tens of thousands of dollars a year in an institution I would hope that there would be some financial oversight, but there is none. MOST principals are given a free hand to spend money as they wish. I believe that in an ideal world (and I am dreaming about this) there would be an oversight committee for the finances of all the schools. Each school can run individually with their own hashkafah but there needs to be oversight and joining of resources. Without immediate changes to the system the communities, the schools, and the parents will be in bankruptcy within the next 15 years.

Ariella said...

It's a question that needs consideration. My girls go to TAG which was founded by the dean who is still there over 40 years later. though there have been a few principals and more hierarchical structure set up over that time, the dean is still the one where the buck stops for all questions. There may be a board, but it really all seems to be decided, ultimately, by the dean. While the school has instituted minor changes over the years, following general trends to fortify its BY image, the control is very centralized, it is fairly clearly defined.

In my son's school, on the other hand, there have been 3 different principals now, as the one who had been there a long time left, followed by an interim one, followed by a new one this year. And in that school, the buck gets passed.
Also in that school it is the board that decides on a lot of the issues. And who is on the board? Not educational experts and not an actual cross-section of the community. Board members usually are people who can bring in the money and often have a lot of it themselves. Sometimes they are successful businessmen, but not always. And there is more involved in making a school successful than in making a business successful.

BobF said...

The board should run the school with as much parent input as possible. The board should hire the best professionals they can, listen to them, defer to them at times but always ask them hard questions. It's like managing any other kind of professional- that person knows more about the topic then you but by the managment process you can use that resource better. On eroblem I have often seen is that , esp, for Rabbi's who are teachers or administrators is that people feel it isn't respectful to the Rabbi to ask the question and do the managment that is required.

RAM said...

If we don't own the schools, how can we presume to decide who is to run them? Normally, these are not organizations that some community made happen. They are private businesses that some intrepid souls somehow made and maintained.

Where a community comes in is that schools often ask it for support. That support should come with enough oversight of operations to make sure that community funds are being used properly. While using this "stick" effectively, the community can confidently offer the "carrot" of contributing money and certain essential services to one or more schools.

If a community actually does start a school, that's a whole other thing. Then it clearly has total responsibility for staffing and operations.

DAG said...

Ram....if that's the case, they should not be 501(c)3. A school can be run FOR profit without the community oversight.

When they offer tax deductions, they are in the public trust. We have the right to make sure they are run efficiently.

And that is the problem...the so called experts, most often the Rabbis who are the chief academic and businesses officers of the school, have no formal training in either! Experts? At Gemorah, maybe.

RAM said...

I used some incorrect language, which prompted Dag's comment above.

The IRS link is,,id=96099,00.html

This says
"To be organized exclusively for a charitable purpose, the organization must be a corporation, community chest, fund, or foundation. A charitable trust is a fund or foundation and will qualify. However, an individual will not qualify."

The schools I meant to describe above are non-profit organizations not actually owned and operated by a community. These are businesses, but not for profit and not owned and operated by a single individual. So they are not private, as I labeled them above, but not agencies of a kehilla either.

DAG said...


Which means they can be led by a one man show, without real oversight. Many such schools hide behind their religious affiliation to avoid publishing public 990 forms.

If, however, the school gives tax receipts for donations, they are STILL in the Public Trust, regardless of who is in charge.

RAM said...

However, the Public Trust refers to the American public, not to a Jewish community located where the school is.

DAG said...

that is true Ram...but it doesn include the Jewish community and considering we are most likely the one's who are supporting the place...

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