Monday, August 31, 2009

Alienating You Supporters

If this letter is true (from the 8/21 Yated), I can only shake my head. For years I have read letters in various publications of "cruel" administrators who have told a struggling parent to pay up or take their children out of school. My compassion has always been ignited, but I know that a school needs a certain amount of money to function and that those funds can't all fall on the shoulders of a few. I also know that when word gets out, as it inevitably does, that a "customer" is being heavily subsidized that a great deal of animosity can grow towards a school and issues can arise. I don't know what the proper answer is regarding a student here and there that is not/cannot make payment.

But what about a parent that has fallen into arrears, but was a pillar of support to the school both with donations and loans. Is the heavy handed treatment warranted? If a story like this leaked out, would it alienate you as a potential donor? I personally find it very distasteful.

Comment away. And more to come the big Bais Yaakov of Boro Park story.

Dear Editor,
After reading the Chinuch Roundtable about tuition and the letters in response to the column [if anyone has this, please feel free to scan and email me], I felt that another side should be discussed. The following story was heard from a close friend. It shook me to my core, and it should do the same to you.

This baal tzedakah was a classic case. He had a large house, he had fancy cars, and his name was on all the committees. Yeshivos would come; few left dissatisfied. Schools and individuals would come to borrow money all the time.

As tighter times began, tenants began falling behind in rent, and money became scarce. Borrowers defaulted on loans. Deals didn’t quite work out as expected. Those trappings of “success” became an additional burden. Gone were those “sneaky” Sukkos trips to Eretz Yisroel en famille. In short, there was no cash. Expenses weren’t covered and he was behind on tuition payments. Most of the school directors were quite understanding and patient, except for one.

For years, full tuition had been paid promptly, with a smile and without an argument. School functions and dinners were generously supported. Now, a half year’s tuition was owed and was being paid slowly. The sum total owed, is a significant amount of money. During the second phone call this person received from that school’s director, the latter asked, “Should I raise money for you? A letter that followed stated that since tuition was seriously in arrears, the student would not be allowed back to school until the balance was paid in full.

The total amount this person donated to that particular school over the past years, including what he gave before his child was a student in that institution, exceed the present balance owed in tuition. However, this does not stand to the father’s credit and the school administration does not prevent letters such as the above-mentioned one from being sent.

If the school vaad were to peruse the income statements, they would learn a lot, but the facts on the ground read differently.Hopefully, the future will bring economic improvement. But how will people respond to this executive director’s requests for donations if stories such as this one leak out? There is no question that schools have challenges, but donations of the past should be, at the very least, a reason for forbearance.

In respect to the yeshivos not showing their books, Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l is quoted as having commented that a yeshiva that doesn’t have open financial books is choshud on gezeilah. I also highly doubt that anyone would have the nerve to suggest that our rabbeim should earn less.

Signed, Frustrated and Sad


Real-Time Jew said...

Sad, but not terribly surprising.

In the community I live in, although we do not have many wealthy people fitting the description in your story, many, many people give enormously of their time, donating professional services, etc., to the yeshiva - I can assure you from personal experience that the yeshiva does not typically show much campassion for these same folks when it comes to tution.

Anonymous said...

This type of behavior sounds like another symptom of always being in crisis mode. Burning bridges and alienating people is never a good long-term plan. Many former big givers could again be big donors if the economy and their circumstances change. From a business perspective, why alienate them. From a human perspective, even if a school can't give breaks to people based on past giving because that doesn't pay this year's salaries, heat and rent, there are ways to say "I'm so very sorry but we are so tight right now we can't reduce your tuition since we are barely making payroll even though the administrators have already taken 20% salary cuts and class size has gone up" instead of "tough luck."

Mighty Garnel Ironheart said...

You're right, this will alienate future potential donors. After the economy recovers, they'll be quite sorry when this baal habos takes his children and his money elsewhere.

Gave A Get said...

Very Very Sad. I'm sure this is a bad request but this institution probably needs to be named so everyone will know how they demonstrate Hakoras Hatov.

rosie said...

Anonymous, if the administrators fail to make payroll, they need to take more than a 20% cut. Like the captain who goes down with the ship, they should not take a salary if they don't pay the staff. Apparently in some failing day schools, the administrators are still the 2 SUV families with trips to the Catskills, etc. I know that you are talking about barely making payroll which still implies that teachers are being paid but in some instances, from what I read on another site, the administrators are smiling all the way to the bank while unpaid teachers who threaten to quit are given "guilt trips" about all the chinuch that the kids won't receive. I don't know if everything you read in blogs is true but I spoke to one of my knowledgeable sons who said that there is some truth to it. Maybe parents can find a way to get together to make sure that their tuition payments and donations reach their child's teacher. I saw it happen for one classroom that was about to lose their teacher. The parents rallied behind her and made sure that she got paid. Maybe donors also will expect more accountability.

Anonymous said...

This is tangential, but it's related to Rosie's comment. While it seems strange to me to pay teachers directly, apparently this is something that is going on in the NYC public schools. Of course, those parents aren't also paying tuition, which, under Rosie's scenario, presumably wouldn't be waived:

Thinking said...

They clearly have their children in the wrong school. If that is the Hashkafa of the school's administration then that is the Hashkafa they are transferring to your children. I have had the experience of dealing with a school that for the most part I liked, but had some issues with the way the adminstration dealt with parents and teachers. I immediately moved my kids. Best chinuch decision I have ever made.

Anonymous said...

Dear Rosie:
I can personally tell you that I was not paid for 3 months while the administration at my school was actually given a cost of living increase. They then gave me and several other teachers the proverbial "you're sacrificing for the kids" line when we asked about our salary. This happended so often to us we wondered if it was planned that way to help the administration make budget.

Anonymous said...

Dear Rosie:
I wand to add that at my school also some of the parents spoke and that's what finally got us paid. I agree with the statement that it's almost like they want to foster a crisis mode of thinking. It also gives the administration a tremendous psychological hold on you if they owe you 3 months of your pay. One guy I'm friends with was talked into tutoring the executive director's son, and I only think he did this because he was afraid he would never get paid if he didn't.

Charlie Hall said...

"I was not paid for 3 months"

If my employer, a prominent Jewish educational institution, missed even a single paycheck from me, I'd be shopping my resume in about one nanosecond. But in fact they pay employees on time.

rosie said...

My daughter took a teaching position this year and said that she would quit the minute her paycheck is delayed. My son was advised to go into chinuch and he said "chas v'sholem" and is planning to get a college degree.
Anonymous, we have to equip yeshiva teachers with the guts to say "no" to emotional manipulation. The fat-cat administrators are taking home your paychecks. If they want the poor children to have a chinuch, let them pay for it.

Anonymous said...

I wish your daughter well, and I strongly agree with her that she needs to be assertive with the administration at her school. I only wish that I had done so when I started my own teaching career.
Best of luck to your daughter

anon said...


You work for the medical school of Yeshiva University, an endowed institution. Very different than these chinyuki institutions that are playing games with payment.