Check out Ner Tamid on the cover of this week’s Jewish Advocate! We are thrilled to see so many members of our team featured, including Principal Nancy Hait, Board President Elana Margolis and Ariel Margolis, who is advising with both on school administration. Our marketing maven Devorah Daniels gets a shout out too! Read on below:
The Jewish Advocate
New day school slated to open up at Sharon shul
Institution formed after KSA’s closure
By Alexandra Lapkin
Advocate Staff, July 4, 2014
In the wake of Norwood-based Kehillah Schechter Academy’s (KSA) closure last month, parents and school administrators rallied in an effort to stay together and create a new Jewish day school somewhere south of Boston.
Their efforts paid off, as the school administration last week announced the founding of Ner Tamid Community Day School, which will be housed at Temple Israel of Sharon and will run from kindergarten through fifth grade.
Elana Margolis, associate director at the Jewish Community Relations Council ( JCRC) and a former KSA parent, will handle nonprofit management, public affairs and institutional advancement at the new school. She said that after speaking with a number of area synagogues, Temple Israel “had some really interesting features that made it attractive to us.” Namely, the synagogue’s preschool and afterschool program, “and a real desire to work with us on a comprehensive educational strategy.”
KSA closed its doors at the end of May after experiencing financial troubles. The school needed to raise $250,000 and have at least 82 students confirm their enrollment. Although the money was raised, only 73 students confirmed their registration for next fall.
Many of KSA’s former staff and students will join Ner Tamid. The school, which will enroll about 20 to 25 students in its first year, will be led by Nancy Hait as head of curriculum and Ariel Margolis as head of administration. Hait served as literacy curriculum coordinator at KSA and Margolis, who is Elana’s husband, taught science.
Similar to KSA, Ner Tamid will be a member of the Schechter Day School Network, which is affiliated with Conservative Judaism. Temple Israel also belongs to the Conservative movement. The temple’s rabbi, Barry Starr, resigned in May, when his alleged misconduct – which involved taking a large sum of money from the temple’s discretionary fund to buy the silence of a Milton man who threatened to expose Starr’s alleged sexual relationship with a teenage boy – came to light.
When asked to share her thoughts on bringing Ner Tamid to Temple Israel in light of the scandal, Elana Margolis said, “I feel great about this connection. This is my synagogue … and my feelings about the synagogue, my respect for the volunteer and professional leadership there, only continue to grow the more I talk to them. They are going to be a wonderful host for our new school.”
The temple’s staff also sees the connection with the new school as beneficial. “We are excited to strengthen our community and each other by working with Ner Tamid Community Day School,” Temple Israel President Arnie Freedman said in a written statement. “Together, we will be an even stronger hub of Jewish life in Boston’s South Area.” Ner Tamid’s families will be offered a complimentary first year Temple Israel membership.
Hait said that since the announcement about Ner Tamid was made, she has received inquiries from new students who previously did not attend KSA. And because of KSA’s financial struggles, Ner Tamid’s administration aims to create a Jewish day school that will be affordable to more families. Although it is too early in the process to finalize the figure, the school’s target tuition rate per year is $12,000, lower than that of any other Jewish day school in the Greater Boston area.
“It’s going to take some work, because education is expensive; Jewish [and] private education is all expensive,” said Margolis. “So we’re figuring out the model and are looking across the country for best practices on how to do this without in any way negatively impacting the quality of the education and social experience that the kids have.” She added, “We … know that household income varies greatly among Jews in the area but their desire to access Jewish education doesn’t necessarily vary as much.” Hait said the school expects to keep the enrollment at a steady rate because Ner Tamid is more affordable. As for families that need financial assistance, “we will go out of our way to work with them,”she said.
Hait said her outlook on Ner Tamid’s success and survival is optimistic, especially with no building overhead cost, as the school will pay a “reasonable” rent to Temple Israel, but did not disclose the amount.
The school will also rely on the capability of its staff.
“What’s been the amazing part of all of this is that we have a ‘dream team’ on board,” Hait said, “putting it all together in terms of the administrative expertise, the marketing expertise, the education expertise. It is a group of very dedicated people.” In addition to the Margolises and Hait, the team will include Devorah Daniels, who will provide marketing services to the school, as well as focus on the arts and special-needs education.
Margolis said she could not disclose the names of the individual donors who have contributed funding to the school so far, adding that Ner Tamid is still in the process of setting up its 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization status. She noted that community support is coming in a variety of ways, including donations of learning materials, Smart Boards and microscopes.
Hait said many other necessities, including desks, will be transported from KSA and placed in the four classrooms that Temple Israel has allocated for the school. One of those rooms will be used for an administrative office and the rest for instruction. Ner Tamid will also have access to the synagogue’s sanctuary and the kitchen. The facility “fits perfectly fits our needs,” Hait noted. “Kids will be spending time together in larger and smaller groups.”
Margolis said it is too early to tell whether Ner Tamid will make Temple Israel its permanent location. “This is a first-year school,” she said. “We’re keeping it small with a focus on the kids, the individuals, the quality and not looking to grow at a rate that would put us in jeopardy of exceeding our financial capabilities.”
Visit www.nertamidschool.org to learn more about the school.