Note: Blogger went down. I happened to save this post elsewhere because Blogger was doing strange things. So here it is, without a few edits. Let's see if the comments post. If not, I should be able to pull them from email and post them myself.
This week is a sad week in the world of Modern Orthodox Yeshivot. This week, Baltimore's Rambam Yeshiva announced it will permanently close as of the end of the school year, as did theMoshe Aaron Yeshiva of Southern New Jersey.
I don't have enough information to draw any conclusions, but I noted some similarities:
1. Age of the schools: Rambam Yeshiva opened up 20 years ago. Moshe Aaron Yeshiva High School 18 years ago.
2. DEBT: Both schools amassed debilitating debts.
3. Shrinking Enrollment (reference)
4. Big Ticket Spending: A $600,000 gym added to a school campus purchased for $350,000 in a fire sale at Moshe Aaron Yeshiva. Rambam made a decision to separate the boys and girls to save the school.
5. Deferring the inevitable: Related to the issue of debt, both schools made the decision to continue operations despite debt piling up as each school saw their mission to be unique. In the case of Moshe Aaron Yeshiva, it was the only Yeshiva high school in its county.
I don't want to overstep any bounds by pontificating about the finances at either school, as I am not familiar with the finances in either of these schools, or any school for that matter. However, in the Yeshivat Rambam articles, I noted that many comments were inquiring as to what the source of the debts and there were some comments that the teachers are not guaranteed payment after the next paycheck on May 15. In other school closings (see here) the recurring theme is back paid owed to staff and back pay owed to vendors/landlords. I find it refreshing that here there are no reports of such, although there is speculation that the teachers may not be paid after May 15. While emotions are high, there is pain and worry on the part of parents and students, and teachers wonder what will be in the future, there is honor is meeting obligations to staff and hopefully all debts can be met upon the sale of the property.
An important note regarding the economics of the New Jersey school appeared in the article that all need to pay close attention too:
Moreover, some parents were behind on paying the $18,000 annual tuition, a situation that was allowed, said Goldstein, "under the mantra that nobody should be denied a yeshiva education.
And, on a final note (as both communities share another commonality--new startup schools are in the works--in New Jersey Rambam Yeshiva and in Baltimore Ohr Chodesh), I think it is pointing out this great quote: "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting different results."
When it comes to small schools, the conventional school format (single grades, multiple tracks, accommodation for learning differences, the mantra that none be denied) has to be looked at. I think it would be great to see something different develop to fill the voids, as well as to simply pilot a new type of program. But from reading the articles on the new schools proposed, I don't see much that is out of the box on the educational, administrative, or funding end with one notable exception: the NJ (new) Rambam school making a statement that parents who are not paid up at the previous school will not be considered for enrollment. I will be watching the developments. [Flame away as I exit stage left].