The grand idea of Shalom Academy began in 2008, when Englewood resident Raphael Bachrach proposed the creation of a Hebrew-language public charter school to serve as an alternative to day schools.
“Public school is one extreme, day school is another extreme,” Bachrach told The Jewish Standard back then, adding, “A lot of parents in Bergen County feel there’s a need for something that’s not religion, but language and culture. This would fill that need.”
That was when he was still speaking to the press.
His idea was wildly popular among parents struggling to pay day-school tuitions, but local rabbis were not as enthusiastic. Some warned that the proposed school could not substitute for a day-school education, while others feared it would detract from the day schools. Other people feared it would drain money and resources from already troubled public schools. Nevertheless, after several turndowns, the state gave it a go-ahead for the September 2011 school year, and hundreds of parents entered their children in a random lottery for 160 places. All the places were filled, and each grade had a substantial waiting list.
But the details were hard to pin down. Just about every newspaper article about the school, in this and other papers, noted that Bachrach did not return repeated telephone calls asking for information. One detail, in particular, remained cloudy: where the school would be located.
Planned to serve both Teaneck and Englewood, SACS appeared to have no solid home – until it homed in on one in Teaneck.
Only – Bummer No. 1: It appears that the documentation pertaining to that address (ironically, for a Hebrew-language school, the Syrian Orthodox Archdiocese in Teaneck) is dated July 15, the very date the state announced that the school was no-go for 2011. The state’s reason was that the certificate “is not sufficient to allow the school to open.”
That brings us to Bummer No. 2: The certificate of occupancy, even had it been received in time, was for 89 students in four classes, not 160 students in six classes. Whether that is why it was deemed insufficient, we could not say. Details are hard to come by.
To be sure, bureaucracy runs slow, but because of Bachrach’s lack of transparency, it’s hard to pinpoint what went wrong here and when. A lot of disappointed families and teachers wish it had not.