Sunday, March 12, 2006

HAFTR & Rambam Merger

MoChassid (who I have yet to meet) has been commenting (Rumor Mill, More from the Rumor Mill, MoC's take, HAFTR responds) on the recent rumors that HAFTR and Rambam Mesivta will be merging in the upcoming school year. Though my family lives in the 5T, I don't. I attended high school there and was unaware of the impending merger until a guest told me Friday night.

So I did some digging. What MoChassid is saying appears to be essentially correct. Through connections with parents and others in the neighborhood, I've come up with the following:

There are two plans.

The first would involve a two division school, coed (HAFTR) and all-boys (Rambam). HAFTR boys would have the opportunity to go to Rambam for (their stronger) limudei kodesh while attending secular classes at HAFTR. Scheduling will need to change, as HAFTR (to my knowledge) has limudei kodesh interspersed throughout the day.
The second plan would involve the creation of an all-girls division also. That would involve the purchase/lease of another building, but the idea is the same. Provide a single sex educational environment for girls.

But what do they gain? Students would need to be bused across down at the beginning of the afternoon, for secular classes, HAFTR doesn't have the space for Rambam to move into.
It would help enrollment. Both HAFTR and Rambam would have a stronger marketing position. Rambam has maintained a good reputation in the 15 or so years they've been open. As MoChassid pointed out, they also have a reputation for being well run. Then again, how many DRS students will now choose to go to Rambam/HAFTR?

How does this affect the teachers? HAFTR has a teacher's union, and they're not exactly on great terms with the school. Rumors of a strike earlier this year which never materialized, faculty protesting by not cooperating in certain areas, the constant changing of principals, the place is in shambles.
On the other hand, Rambam hasn't had many female teachers. I have many friends (not in HAFTR) who are single, female, and teach in other schools. I don't know if Rambam ever had an unmarried female teacher, or what the administration would think of that.
In addition, a number of HAFTR teachers supplement their income by teaching at Rambam. Would they need to be unionized there too now? How will Rambam's relationship with their teachers change?

If it remains just a limudei kodesh option, then neither Rambam nor HAFTR will need to change their secular hiring practices. They'd be pooling advertising resources and name recognition, but little else. Teachers might get upset that they teach more in the afternoon, and they might be upset that they're finding out from emails to the parent body and blogs, and not through the school itself. You know how bad egos can be.

There will be either three principles with one person overseeing everyone, or two-three "vice-principals," one for each division. Surely the need to buy new plaques for door titles will damage an ego or two. Some administrative positions would be eliminated, though if the schools are on new campuses I can't imagine who that would be, aside from payroll.

My Thoughts:
I'm skeptical. HAFTR's board and administration is in sorry shape. But R. Friedman is a pretty smart guy. In a short time he brought Rambam to the forefront of 5T education. DRS was even modeled on Rambam, not on HAFTR. He must see a purpose for this, and have something planned. If I recall correctly, he taught at HAFTR a couple of decades back, before he opened Ramabm.

Rambam should have merged with SKA 10 years back. There were always jokes that SKA was Rambam's sister school. Siblings went to Rambam and SKA. But then DRS opened, and Rambam lost their opportunity. I see a merger between two schools with wide differences in hashkafa as being very hard to implement.

And what's the new name? HAFTRR? RAFTR? Perhaps with a yearly rafting trip.

More later...