Richard Langer, Board Member
In the few days since I joined the board of The Idea School, conversations with friends, acquaintances and family have all started with at least one or two and sometimes all three of these questions.
Why would a proud and dedicated Frisch parent who always talks up the school become so involved in this new venture? Why would someone who already has a full calendar of late night board and committee meetings take on more of the same? Why do we need another high school at all? Most of all, what is it about The Idea School that makes it so compelling?
Simply put, the existing Yeshiva high schools (2 for girls and 3 for boys) in Bergen County cannot absorb all the students coming out of our growing day schools. That is why the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey is supporting our efforts. That is why we are creating up to fifty seats in our first freshman class in fall 2018 to meet the demand.
Why The Idea School?
Smaller Jewish communities don’t have the luxury of choice and experimentation. Many Jewish communities struggle to fill all the seats in one day school or high school. We are blessed with six day schools that have the opportunity to experiment and differentiate themselves without the pressure for “one size fits all” curricula, which in some cases turns into “one size fits none”.
Having choices is a blessing and a little friendly competition keeps our schools committed to high-quality education. The plethora of schools, shuls, kosher shopping and dining make Bergen County attractive to new families. New families in turn create new opportunities for all these organizations and businesses to grow and flourish.
Yet care is needed in a community with so many choices. We have to be vigilant that competition does not lead to narrow bands of differentiation. A parent told me the reason they chose a particular school for their daughter was because the girls learn Talmud from photocopies and they rejected the school where the girls learn from a volume of shas. In other words, everything about the schools was the same so the decision came down to the smallest differentiators.
The Idea School is purposely not “more of the same.” Our Project-Based Learning model offers a unique Yeshiva high school experience. Side by side with building a great high school, we will be developing open-source materials and providing hands-on training for teachers to learn and take back to their home schools.
Parents and student can learn more about our educational model at https://www.theideaschool.org/mission/ and https://www.theideaschool.org/approach/, or by attending one of our upcoming parlor meetings. To see how the model has worked in the world of education, watch this video about the High Tech Schools in San Diego, CA.
So what motivates me to work nights and weekends bringing The Idea School from concept to reality? The answer starts with our co-Heads of School, Tikvah Wiener and Rabbi Michael Bitton. I met Tikvah during her time at Frisch when she became a teacher, mentor and friend to my oldest daughter. Since meeting Michael I have become convinced that they are the right people to lead this venture.
I believe in our educational model. Before moving to Teaneck, I was a parent at the Netivot Montessori day school in Edison. The experience convinced me that alternatives to the traditional subject based classroom with lecture, recital and homework are needed in our schools. The net result of the Project Based Learning model is that teachers spend more time one on one or in small groups with students, and students take a more active role in their education. I have also been impressed with the effect that alternative educational models have on the social structure of schools with more collaboration and partnership leading to fewer incidents of bullying and isolation.
Finally, I am passionate about building Jewish institutions committed to best practices in both daily operations and corporate governance. I look forward to working with Tikvah, Michael and my fellow board members to create a school committed to transparent, open communications and a true partnership with parents, donors and other community organizations.