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Opinion: If Your Daughter Is In School, Be Thankful, Not Combative | Avi Gutfreund

I recently attended a shalom zachar for the son of a friend and found myself sitting next to a mutual friend who happens to be a school administrator in Lakewood. Knowing that now is the time of year when unplaced students begin getting second looks from askanim and schools, and being curious about the process, I asked him some questions about what factors are considered in accepting students and what the primary concerns of the school’s administration is when agreeing to take a student that they feel does not fit well there.

One particular thing he said took me off-guard, but after some thought, I am wondering why I never thought of it myself, as it is very logical and intuitive. He told me that making sure every girl is placed in a school is only part of the problem. In fact, he said, it is only the “tip of the iceberg.” The bigger problem, he explained, begins after children get placed.

There are many times that the parents of a girl will apply to several schools but really only have their minds set on having their daughter attend one or two of them, depending on which school accepts her. When their top choices reject them, they are forced to look for a school that will take, begrudgingly or not, which the parents are, of course, not too excited about. And that is where the real issues begin.

Because parents are often not happy with the choice of schools available to their daughter, there are some (more than two or three) that will then go on to make problems for the school. They will complain about the other children in their daughter’s class, they will complain that the school is too yeshivish/not yeshivish enough, that it’s teaching the wrong curriculum or with the wrong style, and will find a litany of “major” issues that “must” be resolved. These problems created by unhappy parents often go on to make issues for the entire class, hurting their academics and social lives.

As the administrator told me, this is the biggest issue facing most schools, besides financial problems. As he said, a school doesn’t owe it to anyone to accept their daughter. If they believe that you and your daughter will positively add to the atmosphere that the school is trying to create or maintain, they will accept her. If not, they won’t accept her. If, because your daughter needs somewhere to school they make an exception and accept her, then the parents have to play by the school’s rules too. Just because it wasn’t your first choice for a school, that does not mean that you have free reign to try to change the school or make it fit your own agenda.

It might be difficult to hear for some, but that’s just the reality. If your daughter is in a school, any school, it is your responsibility to follow their rules and to abide by the standards that the administration has set. Doing anything less than fully complying with the school’s expectations of you as a parent is not only unfair to the school and its students, it’s unfair to your child too.

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There are 17 Comments to "Opinion: If Your Daughter Is In School, Be Thankful, Not Combative | Avi Gutfreund"

  • Lakewood Driver says:

    As someone who has many friends that are School administrators. This is something that I’ve been hearing about for a very long time. Schools bend over backwards to take in extra kids putting more kids in a class against the wishes of the teachers principals and current parents. And then unfortunately many times these families don’t comply with school rules or academic standards. Many friends have told me they’ve suffered from the kids that they were forced to take. not to mention that many of these families are beautiful families and they have no regrets for taking them. But unfortunately there are a significant number of families that or pushed into school and did not conform or comply.

  • Loops says:

    When my oldest daughter was in 8th grade, there was a huge meeting set up for all Lakewood 8th grade parents at the Lakewood high school. The Mashgiach shlita spoke and drove home this very point. Something I never forgot when dealing with my kids’ schools.

  • Me says:

    I agree there are some people like this but many of not most aren’t there will always be difficult ppl but that’s no reason to label E1 who doesn’t get accepted like that

  • Donald Duck says:

    I agree with your point about parents who are uncooperative with the school and having hakoras hatov to the people who put themselves out for our children however I take issue with the part about how the school doesn’t owe it to anyone to take their child as I heard from a prominent gadol when he spoke to a school and was told that by the school “we don’t “NEED” that student right now”. the school is supposed to be for the students. The students are not there for the schools benefit I believe it’s time for those in charge to start rethinking their mentality when it comes to accepting students and realize that everyone is entitled to a school and it’s a collective responsibility on all schools to make sure EVERYONE has a school Not just the ones who we decided “fit in” with our view of a perfect school. Of course the overall point you have about parents being more reasonable is a valid one but let’s keep in mind what the real tafkid is when opening or running a school.

  • oy vey! says:

    O.M.G!!!!!!!

    This is by far the craziest post I have ever read on this site. This post just put out there for all to see, the reality that the world feels and claims, about our Lakewood schools being elitists. Hashem Yishmor. What a nerve and a chutzpah for any school administrator or anyone involved in the decision making of which child goes to the right and which to the left.

    When the administrators realize that their decisions are life altering and treat those decisions as life altering then perhaps maybe maybe maybe they have a right to say something. It is sad enough that they believe they are the mighty powerful who decide which children come into their school and which don’t and now they want you to also just accept what they do and how they do it as Torah Mesinai?

    Give all kids an equal chance and maybe we can talk
    Don’t only take families with money and maybe we can talk
    Learn how to talk to parents like human beings and maybe we can talk
    Give everyone an interview and maybe we can talk
    Stop telling people how they have to live their personal lives and maybe we can talk
    Look at the Balei Batim as Bnei Torah and not oisvorfs and maybe we can talk
    Recognize the herculean efforts these families make in their Avodas Hashem – regardless of the color shirt and maybe we can talk
    Appreciate how so many families need both parents to work just to pay you the tuition and other funds you ask for and maybe we can talk.
    Be proud of the hundreds upon hundreds of working guys who wake up early to learn, give up their time at night to learn and do everything they can to be ehrlich and maybe we can talk.

    This has just got to stop already. The attitude of administrators who think they are the Almighty themselves is horrific. The way they say no, the way they turn people away, the deep sholom bayis issues they cause, the lack of bein adom lechavayro they feel they are not required to follow, the idea that they think it is their absolute right to tell people what color shirt to wear or what type of sheitel to wear. This is just elitist, elitist, elitist. Or as the famous clip of Rav Aron Leib Zatzal said – Gaivah Gaivah Gaivah

    We ALL say on the Yomim Noroim me yichyeh u’me yomus, me bekeytzo u’me lo bekitzo – we tend to think that is only all about actual life and death. It’s not. It’s also very much about our lives we are living. Do we feel alive or dead? Is it our time or is it not our time? Will we be made to feel normal or will we be admonished and made to feel inferior? Will we get to be partners with the schools our kids are in or is it a dictatorship?

    Please – Lman hasholom – please do not in any way shape or form allow the 60 or 70 school directors / administrators to ever feel empowered over the thousands upon thousands of wonderful families who are no less then them.

    Now, can every school take every child? No. Can every parent think they are entitled to get into whichever school they want and the schools have to take them? No? Like everything in else in life and Yiddishkeit, it is much more important how you do things then what you do. Derech eretz kodma ltorah. If for pikuach nefesh you can even be mechallel shabbos then how is the tender neshoma of a child trying to get into a school not called pikuach nefesh.

  • Burned out says:

    What about when a hs takes a girl as a favor and then proceeded to make the girl miserable. Yes. It happens. Happened to my daughter. Rabbi____told the hs to take her in as a favor to him. The whole year this girl was told by the teachers and the girls that she didn’t belong. The teachers told the girls that my daughter should not be included in their circle of friends.
    It was so bad I took my daughter out after a year and had to send her out of town. And it ruined her and our relationship.
    So please it goes both ways.

  • moshJ says:

    please rich roberts get involved in this problem

  • Morde says:

    To Donald Duck

    I dont agree with you. It is not the responsibility of the schools to make sure EVERYBODY has a school. If a school opens up and a private individual uses his hard earned money to buy a building and make a school that can accommodate 500 students, then he doesnt have responsibility to go broke and accommodate the extra thousands more that are the yearly growth of Lakewood . It is the public at large responsibility to shell out the money to create new schools. The guy who made a school that can hold 500 and is already teaching 700 and bursting at the seams is a hero who has no more responsibility . He did his share . Now it’s your turn to do something .

    • oy vey! says:

      Morde – Did you just say a private individual uses his hard earned money? That’s a shocking piece of news to me. I never knew we had any school here in Lakewood that a private individual funded and is funding. I was always under the impression that the schools here are built through community funds that are raised through dinners, fund raising, tuition etc.

      Which school is privately owned and privately funded without taking any money from anyone in the community?

      • avraham says:

        “Giving people the benefit of the doubt”
        I think he meant to say that 90% of the funds are private. Ten percent comes from the community. It is extremely difficult to accept an additional 10 children. Let us do the math, who is going to pay for all the additional expenses, as an example the school might have to hire an assistant teacher because now the class hit the 40 mark. 90% of the brand new expenses will have to come from the owner of the school and 10 % will come from the community. I forgot 1 more thing, who is going to pay for the brand new fundraising campaign that needs to be started because now the school acquired additional expenses.

  • Asher Moses says:

    This topic is painful and heartrending for many people who have been hurt by the ‘crisis.’ Why oh why do people feel the need to rehash the topic and write about it. Why do publications keep agreeing to people putting in letters and their writers writing about it. The fact is there is a problem, and it has to be resolved. Not who’s fault and who’s making the problem (bigger.) There are other big frum neighborhoods that don’t have this issue, and just like them we can do it to. So lets stop with the articles which are just causing pain and lets move. (Thanks to all those who do work on it Lishma!)

    Pained (because others problems are my problems)

  • Dovid says:

    @oy vey. I appreciate your comments. Very on target.

  • Donald Duck says:

    To Morde

    While you have a point about schools being overcrowded and it’s a huge problem it doesn’t take away from my point. please refer to the final paragraph of oy vey’s comment. At the end of the day it is HOW we do things that must be done. However if an indivisual takes it upon himself to open a school (which is a beautiful thing by doing so) he’s also taking on a SHARED RESPONSIBILITY (not individual) to make sure EVERYONE has a school. The schools need to work together and make sure no one is left out or feels rejected in any way for not being a good fit. While I’m not taking away the point of sometimes difficult parents what I am trying to say is there’s a bigger problem at stake here coming from higher levels.

  • More Bandaids says:

    Another bandaid on a community issue. There aren’t enough schools, their privately owned so like any other business are focused on brand name and profit. What happened to community schools that serve all and have an administration, Board of Rabbanim, and Board of Parents that work together to make sure things run well?
    That’s the type of school I went to and it was great. Good Chinuch, administration that’s responsible to the Rabbanim and Klal, financial and curricular transparency, Rabbinic input, and Parents that could make sure it was being run on the up and up.

  • Muti Klein says:

    My opinion is we should all home school as 90% of Lakewood can’t afford the low tuition most of us even working poeple are completely broke so why work so hard to get ur children into schools that u cant afford anyway.

  • Seriously? says:

    To Oy Vey

    HUGE STANDING OVATION!!!
    I couldn’t have said it better my self! Thank you for writing this.

  • Mobile says:

    I read the original post and the many comments. One comment that took the original poster to task for “nerve and chutzpah” just took the extreme other position. While some of the points made are valid, the basic message of the post is: Don’t you dare say that the parents are way off – the schools are way off!
    I think that this issue affects many people in a very real way that it should not be dealt with in a superficial way. To adopt a Color War attitude of choosing sides and refusing to even consider the other side is at best not helpful. I have been in a position in which I have worked with many school administrators from many schools in Lakewood, boys and girls, elementary and High and have a tremendous respect for almost everyone – yet, sometimes, those people that I have tremendous respect for have frustrated me.
    All the posts have truth to them.
    Anyone who says that there aren’t parents who make it very difficult for the schools is fooling himself. Those who say that it is a broad problem from a large percentage of parents are fooling themselves as well. Frankly, I would be surprised if there was a significantly greater percentage from those who wanted a different school, but I really don’t know.
    Anyone who says that there aren’t schools that have an elitist mentality is fooling himself. Those who say that it is a broad problem from a large percentage of the schools are fooling themselves as well.
    From seeing the inner workings of the schools, most (I emphasize most) really care and want to do the right thing and when pushed up against the wall and demanded that they do something (i.e. take in a student) that they don’t want to/feel would be detrimental to the school, will ask a shalah from a gadol and will follow what they are told.
    And no, they will not give the name of the gadol they ask because they would rather their own name muddied than that of the gadol.
    Are they infallible? No – they will make mistakes. Someone who would cares too much that everyone should like him/her, to the extent that it affects their decision-making cannot be a leader.
    I will leave off with three thoughts that are not the beginning and end of the discussion, but I think require bearing in mind:
    1. Schools must be protective of whom they take in, because of the effect that it has on their students. Also, they have many parents who threaten to pull out if a certain standard is not kept. (same with camps, BTW.) On the other side of it, I believe that schools sometimes are too protective. And if some of the parents threaten – as I said before, sometimes you just have to be a leader. I know of a school that had a problem with certain elements in the family/prospective student and they told the parent that they would love to take their child, but ask that the parent adhere to certain standards. I think that this could be done more often (and I believe that, when it is done with compassion, most people will be thankful) That said, any parents that says, “Don’t tell me how to run my life.” has no claim against the school for having standards.
    2. I once heard a Q&A with a great posek for school principals
    Q: At what point does a school concern itself more with the individual vs. the school and when does the school take precedence?
    A: The school takes precedence until you accept the child.
    3. There are many more parents than administrators in the community, so it is very easy to bash the schools. And often, when you hear someone bashing you are not getting the full picture. I was once involved in a case in which a school took a position that the parent disagreed with strongly and was bashing the school. I didn’t have a strong opinion either way, but was just trying to work everything out.
    One of the parents’ friends approached me and started attacking the school with all the parents’ talking points. I told the friend that, if he gets the parents’ approval, I could explain to him “the other side of the story” so that he could better understand the issue, we could work on a solution together. I haven’t heard from him yet. in short, it is very easy to bash when you don’t have all the info and the perspective.

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