Governors resign in school dispute

By Simon Rocker, March 26, 2009

The chairman and four other governors of Rosh Pinah Jewish Primary in Edgware have resigned in a dispute with the school’s foundation body.

Roy Freedman, chairman of the 420-pupil school for the past three years, quit after a governors’ meeting on Tuesday, along with joint vice-chairman Melanie Laban and Howard Berg, Philip Ellis and Adrian Dayne.

In a statement, Mr Freedman said the dispute centred on the decision of Rosh Pinah’s foundation body, the Scopus Jewish Educational Trust, not to “appoint certain foundation governors”. According to Mr Berg, Scopus had chosen not to retain Mr Freedman or Mrs Laban as governors for a further three-year period.

In the past, Mr Berg explained, Scopus had accepted recommendations for foundation governor posts from the school’s chairman and the chair of the Rosh Pinah Jewish Primary School Trust, which oversees collection of parental contributions for Jewish studies and security.

“On this occasion they [Scopus] decided not to,” said Mr Berg, who chairs the RPJPST. “The majority of the [nine] foundation governors did not agree with that and last night tendered their resignation.” Peter Ohrenstein, chairman of Scopus, which has the power to appoint a majority of governors, declined to comment.

Mr Freedman said he had been planning to step down from the chair in September. Asked why Scopus had decided not to reappoint him and Mrs Laban, he replied: “You will have to ask them.”

Controversy has surrounded the school of late with a number of parents protesting over the apparent suspension of Chumash teaching. In a document sent to Scopus last week, a group of three parents declared they had “lost confidence” in the governing body.

A source close to the school claimed: “The Chumashim had not been taken off the shelf for eight months. Teaching of Chumash was restored last month only after public outcry.”

But Mr Freedman insisted that Chumash “was never taken off the syllabus.” For the first six months of this year it had been decided to “go to back to basics” after the school found that many pupils were leaving “unable to write a simple sentence in Ivrit”.

The basics included the teaching of aleph-bet, Ivrit, the weekly Torah portion and the festivals. “If the children don’t know their aleph-bet, what value can they derive from being taught and asked to translate Chumash?”

Mr Freedman added that he and the other ex-governors would remain involved with the school as trustees of the RPJPST.

Barbara Hotz, acting chair of the remaining 11 school governors, said the resignations would “make no difference to the running of the school. We’ll all have to work a bit harder until we fill those posts”.

Ahead of the meeting, the school’s principal, Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, had written to governors to dispel rumours that he was trying to make the school “more right wing”.

Dismissing the idea as “laughable”, he went on: “My own son went to Rosh Pinah. He was one of only three frum kids in his class and I had no problem with that. I welcomed the diversity just as I welcome the school in being what it always was — a sound Jewish and Zionist school committed to the ethos as outlined by Scopus and an environment where children regardless of religious background can feel comfortable.”

    Last updated: 2:29pm, July 22 2009