Day School Groups Merge In Big Educational Shakeup

January 19, 2016

Source: The Jewish Week


In a major restructuring of the Jewish day school organizational world, five national groups that run a range of educational and programming activities for day schools have agreed to merge into a new, and potentially more effective, entity, The Jewish Week has learned.

The merger, estimated to be completed this summer, could result in a cost savings of $1 million (as well as some job losses). It consolidates the work of PARDES (Day Schools of Reform Judaism), PEJE (the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education), RAVSAK (The Jewish Community Day School Network), the Conservative movement’s Schechter Day School Network, and the Yeshiva University School Partnership (YUSP). Collectively, the organizations serve about 40 percent of the day school students nationwide.

According to sources close to the deal, the reorganization comes, in part, at the urging of major philanthropists who are said to be tired of funding the denominationally driven groups individually and are seeking a more streamlined way of offering support.

In addition, there is a sense that community day schools and those operated by the liberal denominations are facing a difficult future in terms of enrollment around the country. (Torah Umesorah, a major network of Orthodox schools, is not part of the merger, presumably for its ideological stand against interdenominational partnerships.) A single and central entity is seen as having a greater presence in the community in serving and advocating for day schools.

The deal has been in the works for more than a year, sources say. Much of the negotiations among the five groups have focused on how to offer a more unified vision and presence to the community while allowing each organization to continue to work on its own areas of expertise. That includes serving schools from the different religious streams.

“This decision recognizes that a combined day school organization … will more effectively meet the diverse needs of the local schools by pooling the talent, expertise and resources originally dispersed among its founding agencies,” according to a statement issued on Tuesday on behalf of the still nameless organization, which is being temporarily identified as NewOrg. The initial board of directors will be composed of representatives of the five organizations and Avi Chai, plus several outside members.

“The new organization will offer an expanded set of programs, services and networking opportunities to benefit the more than 275 schools and close to 100,000 students currently served by these separate groups,” a press release stated. Those numbers have declined somewhat in recent years.

Read more at The Jewish Week.

Updated: Jan. 28, 2016