Shalom Torah academies plan to open Sept. 1 in both East Windsor and Morganville with a new head of school in Morganville and a large amount of money raised by parents.
In a May 16 letter sent home to parents, the Morganville school had said it would merge with East Windsor “to consolidate in the short term to guarantee growth in the long term.”
However, the closure was reversed June 20 after parents raised about $1 million through a series of fund-raisers, donations, and matching grants.
The schools filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February 2010 in what it hoped was a first step in regaining solvency after a difficult period during which teachers and staff were at times not paid and debt mounted. Under a chapter 11 filing, the entity continues operations but is protected by the court from its creditors.
Shalom Torah director Rabbi Avrohom Gutman told NJJN in June that the schools had successfully emerged from bankruptcy at the end of May and had been paying teachers and staff on time.
“We do owe the teachers one paycheck, which they will be receiving shortly,” he then said. “We hope most of them will be back with us in September.”
However, a teacher at the East Windsor school, who requested anonymity because she “did not want to make waves,” called NJJN asserting that teachers had not been paid for May and June. The teacher said she is also owed money from before the bankruptcy filing.
“I don’t know why we keep coming back except we love the children and the school,” she said. “We love our principal [Nora Horn], she is wonderful, but it’s not fair. It’s been the daily conversation at work.”
She said a number of teachers have left both schools over the last several years and the financial troubles have resulted in other cutbacks, such as the loss of her supplies account.
“Parents beg me to come back, and it is a very nice school,” she said. “Everyone is very chummy, but the bottom line is that doesn’t pay my bills.”
Gutman neither denied nor confirmed the teacher’s allegations when contacted by NJJN.
“We have a lot of wonderful people working on it,” he said. “We are doing everything we can.”
He said the schools were adding creative programming and computer software and were actively recruiting students. Rabbi Mair Wolofsky has also been hired to replace former head of school Rabbi Moshe Bak at the Morganville location.
Wolofsky, who began July 1, was principal at Yeshiva of the South Shore in Hewlett, Long Island, for three years.
Gutman called him “a top-notch educator whom we’re very excited to have at our school.”
In a phone interview with NJJN, Wolofsky said he planned to upgrade the curriculum and the teaching of reading, writing, and Hebrew language skills.
“We are raising standards,” said Wolofsky. “Teachers will have a curriculum, and we will monitor their lesson plans and goals. Parents will be kept informed through a weekly printout that this is what your child will be learning this week. We will be carefully monitoring children’s progress.”
Wolofsky said he found the position through Torah Umesorah — the National Society for Hebrew Day Schools. An educator with 30 years of experience, many of them as an administrator and principal, he was principal for five years at Yeshiva Shaarei Torah in Brooklyn before moving to the Long Island school.
A resident of Brooklyn, he holds a bachelor’s degree from Brooklyn College and a master’s degree in education from Adelphi University on Long Island.
Wolofsky predicts good things will be happening at Shalom Torah.
“It’s a very warm family of employees and staff, and I immediately embraced the overwhelming mutual respect,” he said. “We are going to bring in fresh talent and place the best people in the best positions.”