Updated Pardes JSA Community Day School Questions & Answers


On Tuesday Night’s Town Hall Meeting of June 1, 2011, we expressed our desire to provide you, theparents of Pardes JSA Community Day School, with as much information as possible. This information was sent home as a document to all of our parents on June 1, 2011. So many things have changed, that I thought that we would send home a new, updated FAQ, but because I am on vacation through the 5th, I have just crossed out things that are no longer relevant and added the new items and commentary in italics. Please bear with me as we strive to get you this new information. It is our goal to provide you with as much information as we can the information that we want to disclose to you. We think the more you know we are able to tell you what about what we want you to know, the more you will share our excitement for what the future holds for our school.

Thank you to all the parents who provided questions, and by the way, asking the parents to write down the questions on the 3 x 5 cards in advance was an excellent way of quashing dissent, which is key when announcing a decision that is going to get everyone crazy. Thank you to Mitch G for that good suggestion. We tried to answer as many as possible of the banal questions that we could during the Town Hall and below you’ll find a recap of those answers; as well as a few more questions and answers that we weren’t able to get to that night. We have also included some questions brought up during the Friday, May 27, educational program meeting.

We appreciate the interest and concern expressed by our parents and the broader community. As you can appreciate, this is a complicated and important undertaking because we are rolling the dice with the future of Pardes, especially by hitching our wagon to JSA’s but isn’t everything in life a gamble? We have done soul searching, thought about the merger for hours, and sometimes, just for a few minutes, and some of our board members even went to the center of Phoenix’s Jewniverse for guidance: The VOS – JCC. And after emerging from their Jewish Triathalon (shave, shower, schvitz), which they used to clear their heads, they cast their votes to merge. We hope our gamble will be one that we hope reaps benefits for generations to come. We appreciate some of your questions and your patience as we work to get accurate information out as quickly as possible.

If you have additional questions after reading the this new Q&A, please contact Jill Kessler at

480.991.9141 or jkessler@pardesschool.org.

Questions & Answers

Q. Why are Pardes and Jess Schwartz Academy consolidating?

A. We have always sought to provide the highest level of Jewish and secular education in a school that is financially stable and has the ability to grow. Because it is our long standing policy to hide behind our IRS exemption that we obtained when we were part of Temple Solel, we can assure you only that we are not financially stable. Think of us as Francium-223, a very unstable element.

As the Pardes JSA Community Day School, with our combined resources, we are now better positioned to do each of these things. I totally made that previous sentence up. We have no idea what the combined resources are of the two schools and we never did. However, when you get caught up in merger frenzy, sometimes you just have to write things down that sound smart. We are now, more than ever, well positioned to attract the most talented teachers, pursue additional local and national philanthropy, and create best practices among the national Jewish Day School community. I made this sentence up too. Everyone has told me about all this money floating around out there, but truthfully, I have no idea where it is or where it will come from. I actually read that blog post about PEJE and RAVSAK, so unless they cut their salaries at those places, it won’t be coming from them. So basically, we don’t even know if we can merge the schools and we have to find a way to convince our lender, to swallow a big loss. This is where JSA comes in: They are very good at creating big losses and trying to explain them. I am hoping the Mitchster will work some default magic on our lender and threaten them the way he threatened us with that verkachta Hebrew Language Charter School.

We hope this consolidation will not only improve the quality of our school; it will help reduce some the division and fragmentation in the broader Valley Jewish community. This is because I saw a documentary about the Rodney King Beating and I remember crying when he got out of the car and said, “Can’t we all just get along.?”

Q. Where will the school be located?

A. The school will be on either the current Pardes or JSA campus for the coming school year. We will announce on Friday, June 3, the location for 2011-12 year. For the 2012-13 year, if we are still in business and beyond, we hope to be located on at the center of the Jewniverse, the the JSA campus. I know, I know, I know, quit reminding me that they are in default and that by the time we wake up it might be occupied by some fundamentalist sect of christians, but don’t worry, we have a plan.

Q. Why would we consider moving from the current Pardes location?

A. We have the wonderful challenge of not having enough space. The JSA campus offers us the opportunity to physically grow our school. Our hope is to build a grade 6-12 school on the adjacent lot. The move to the JSA campus also will allow us to take advantage of the Valley of the Sun Jewish Community Center campus, with its outstanding athletic, library, arts and drama facilities. The campus already is acentral point of the Valley’s Jewish community. The presence of our day school will only amplify that sense of community. We had a wonderful challenge of being pressured by men who have run the Federation into the ground and also men who presided over the destruction of King David and JSA. And I don’t know if you noticed this, but when Mitch was talking at the Town Hall Meeting, his lips were not moving. I can not tell you how scary that is when he does that right in front of you, but I saw five minutes of that in our meeting and I was scared to death and I said, “I’m all in.” The fact of the matter is that the present JSA Campus is only able to hold 250 students, so we would actually be in a worse position if we moved there but I will be the first to tell you I am an educator, not an accountant. Now there is a lot of speculation that the VOS JCC is in dissarray, but I think once they get the solar panels installed, that will really help and probably even put the whole Federation back in the black.

Q. What is the name of the newly consolidated school?

A. Until further notice, we are the Pardes JSA Community Day School for the Unification of Phoenix Jews and the Greater Good of Humanity Next Year in Jerusalem Academy of Learning., or Pardes for short. We will let you know as soon as a permanent, new name is decided.

Q. The May 27 Jewish News of Greater Phoenix headline stated, “Merged school announces name.” Is Pardes JSA Community Day School our official, permanent name?

A. No. It was a misprint. Don’t believe everything you read. Focus on that last thing someone told you. That is how we operate the Board and so far, so good. Pardes JSA Community Day School for the Unification of Phoenix Jews and the Greater Good of Humanity Next Year in Jerusalem Academy of Learning is only our interim name. There will be extensive no additional discussion before a permanent name is determined because we will just do whatever Mitch and the wise Federation geniuses tell us to do. Please get off my back about this..

Q. Pardes has moved four times, but has always remained Pardes. So, why are we changing our name this time?

A. In the past, we were a single entity changing locations. This time is different. We have truly become a community day school and our name should show that evolution. Big secret: The merger is just an intention to merge. We did not want to tell you all that we wanted to merge because the last time we tried this stunt, I almost got killed up there on stage. So the Board came up with this intention to merge language and we almost fooled you all, except that Jess Schwartz is now caught up in litigation and a bunch of kids are heading to Phoenix Hebrew Academy because our religious program is Jewish Lite.

Q. There are a lot of people out there sharing information. Who should we believe?

A. We understand there is a lot of information and misinformation making the rounds in our community. All messages will come through Jill Kessler, the head of our school. I know that people are reading that stupid blog that Greenburg writes, but that guy does not even have a kid in the school. As the former President of the JTO said, Greenburg’s questioning is antithetical to the well being of the Jewish Community of Jews taking care of other Jews. When I read the disparaging comments that he writes about the the Federation Health and Fitness Club, I feel sick. What is a better example of Jews taking care of Jews than the Federation overseeing and supporting our needs for a good place to work out? This is just the point: the vulnerable populations of Phoenix Jews, whose money was cut to support the Health Club, have so many other issues to contend with that working out is not even a priority for them, it is just not on their radar. Anyway, if it does not come from me, after being written by Mitch, don’t believe it.

Today we announced our new Director of Admissions and we will send an email regarding the decision on a location for the 2011-12 school year on June 3.

Q. Who are the Pardes JSA Community Day School Board members?

A. The Pardes Committee on Trustees already has chosen the Board for 2011-12 – comprised of community members, rabbinic representation and parents. The Committee on Trustees determines the composition of the Board – identifying, recruiting and proposing new trustees. The Committee on Trustees also facilitates the Board’s self-assessment; plans for leadership succession; and plans for trustee professional development through orientation, training and ongoing education. In an attempt to ease the assimilation and integration of the two schools, the Committee on Trustees will meet during the summer to make possible additions or changes to the school board to include JSA and more representation from the community. We have purposely omitted the names of the three remaining trustees of JSA so that everyone does not get crazy about their involvement in the merged school. Their names will be added to the list later after we have collected your tuition.

Current board members for 2011-12 include:

Jeff Greenberg, President

Nancy Koplow, Vice President

Sue Adatto

Jon Brodsky

Rabbi Mari Chernow

Ruth Khalsa

Steve Lee

Sherman Minkoff

Jennifer Rawicz

Stacey Schwartz

Sid Spector

Jill Stein

Berry Sweet

Scott Wallace

Gail Zucker

Becky Lieberman, Immediate Past President

Rabbi Bonnie Sharfman, Founding Head

Q. Will the faculty change?

A. Other than the changes already announced by Jill Kessler on May 6, the Pardes faculty will remain the same. Specifically announced in that letter, four teachers from JSA will join Pardes JSA Community Day School: Melinda Berko, 4th grade; Errol Rafal, middle school math and science; Kyoko Krumwiede, middle school math; Yona Weitzner, lower school Jewish studies and Hebrew. Additional JSA faculty may be hired as well. Psych! Not really. We won’t even have the kids we thought we would have, so we are not going to hire anyone else. Plus, the remaining teachers are a wee bit disenfranchised because the leadership at JSA has figured out away to try to deny the teachers access to Cobra Health Care, so they are not a really happy bunch.

Q. Currently, how many JSA and Pardes students are enrolled for next year?

A. As of today, there are 54 JSA some JSA kids and 270 Pardes students.

Q. Will class sizes change?

A. Our student/teacher ratios will not change. If we move to the JSA campus, we will have two kindergarten classes with 15-18 children and two teachers per class. There will be an aide who floats on a wire between the two classes. First through eighth grades will limit class size to 18 children and one teacher.

Q. Will the school calendar change?

A. The 2011-12 calendar is posted on the Pardes website. This was a snarky answer, sorry.

Q. What are the school hours?

A. If we remain o On the Pardes campus, the times will not change. The middle school will start at 8:15 a.m. and the lower school will start at 8:30 a.m. School will end at 3:15 p.m. If we move to the JSA campus, both schools will start at 8:15 a.m. and end at 3:15 p.m.

Q. Will the students wear uniforms?

A. No.

Q. When do you expect to start a high school?

A. It is premature to have this discussion now, but it remains our ultimate goal to bring a Jewish high school back to our community. The decision is dependent on a number of factors, including a robust middle school, critical mass and finances. Was this a trick question?

Q. What is the denomination of Pardes JSA Community Day School?

A. Currently the Pardes student body comes from families that self-identify as: 44% Reform; 40% Conservative and Modern Orthodox; or some other Jewish movement. Our school always has been open to the community and will continue to be so as the Pardes JSA Community Day School. O.K. Busted! This was a totally made up answer. Pardes is a Reform Jewish Day School. However, by skewing these numbers to point towards a plural student body, we thought it would be an easier sell.

Q. Is it true that Pardes was looking at evaluating our current approach to t’fillah before talks of the consolidation?

A. Yes, Jill Kessler and the Leadership Team are always looking at new and creative ways to enhance the prayer component of our school. To do so, we have created a Think Tank to discuss possible improvements to t’fillah. No, but after we were threatened with the Hebrew Language Charter School we had to do something. Here is a little known fact: the first application to become a Hebrew Language Charter School for JSA was never approved, so all of the talk about waiting to submit their application in May was an outright lie. An application for this verkachta Hebrew Language Charter School was formally submitted in May 2010, but never made it out of the AZ Departent of Educations’s review because it was so incomplete. I know it is not that big of a lie, so forget about it. Anyway, after we were threatened, Our Judaics department began conversations with Rabbi Elana Kanter, whose leadership at the failed school of JSA, as director of Curriculum, was so successful, that we said, “let’s get the director of a school that just failed to design our religious curriculum.” I’m sure you see the wisdom in that. We are very fortunate to have that we have Rabbi Kanter as part of our Judaics team because really, those Reform Rabbis don’t know Jack about Hebrew. I heard the parents from JSA saying that they went to a Reform Bar Mitzvah and that they say a Reform Torah and that the english transliterations were written between the lines of Hebrew. However, Rabbi Kanter has an extensive background in teaching, curriculum development, and coaching softball both on a local and national level.

Rabbi Elana Kanter already outlined the three areas of focus for t’fillah:

1. Knowledge – history of Jewish prayer

2. Skills – mechanics and fluency of prayer

3. Behavior – making prayer joyful (an intense study will be done in Rastafarian Prayer Methodology taking advantage of the newly passed cannabis laws in Arizona. Many people feel that the supplementation of prayer when infused with Tetrahydro Canibinol can enhance one’s closeness to Y-hweh. I and I vibration yeah! Positive

We will include rabbinic representation from the Reform, Conservative and Modern Orthodox communities. We also are looking at best practices at other day schools around the country. Our hope is to create our own siddur that will embrace the multi-denominational makeup of our school. Our overriding philosophy has always been that we want our students to be comfortable and literate at any Conservative and Orthodox synagogue.

Q. Will you still invite rabbis from across all denominations to lead Parashat HaShavuah?

A. Yes. No. We hope to have representation from all the synagogues in the Valley that are approved in advance by Mitch.

Q. What kind of melodies do you use during t’fillah?

A. We will use a mix of Reform and Conservative melodies. As mentioned above, Pardes is already a fusion of students from Reform, Conservative and other families and we will continue to evaluate our Judaics program to address the consolidation and needs of parents from both schools. really a devotee to the melodies of Debbie Friedman, Lady Gaga, and the BEP, so we will probably be ditching them for the melodies of Michael Rosenzweig, Joseph Shabalala, and Cromwell Everson. There are a lot of other South African Composers out there and I am sure more will be incorporated as we familiarize ourselves with the material.

Q. Will there be changes to the Judaics program?

A. The frequency of Judaics and Hebrew will be as follows:


Kindergarten, first and second grades – two days a week

All other grades – three days a week


Kindergarten – three days a week

All other grades – daily

There may be changes to the curriculum based on the findings of the Think Tank Mitch.

Q. Will the JSA teachers and students be trained in Hineni, the anti-bullying program?

A. Yes. By the Board of JSA. Who better to explain bullying? All incoming students and teachers receive Hineni training.

Q. Will lunches need to be kosher?

A. Lunches from home will remain “kosher style.” This means no pork and shellfish. The Pardes campus has a kosher kitchen supervised by the Vaad. If we remain on this campus, students still will have the option to purchase kosher lunches next year. One of our goals for the new campus will be creating a kosher kitchen. Until the kitchen can be added, we are in talks with the JCC to have the Federation build a monorail between the campuses to ferry our children to lunch to use its kosher kitchen. However, the Federation has publicly stated that they will undertake no plans that divert its attention from their commitment to run the finest solar powered health club in the nation, so at this point, the monorail is just a dream

Q. Is there a new kippot policy?

A. Our kippot policy will remain the same – it’s the choice of each boy or girl to decide whether or not to wear a kippah throughout the day. Boys are required to wear kippot during t’fillah and JSA has a staple gun they use to affix the kippot to the head of each male child.

Q. Will the curriculum change?

A. We’ve found during our meetings that there are many similarities with our curriculum. By incorporating the JSA teachers mentioned above, we will be able to take the best practices from both schools and enhance our current curriculum. Because there was nothing at JSA that one could actually call a best practice, including the state yanking their ability to administer the AIMS testing for 2011-2012 due to numerous violations in how the test was administered, we will have to go with Pardes’s curriculum until Pardes is threatened into changing.

Q. Are other languages taught besides Hebrew?

A. Yes. Spanish is taught in middle school. Another benefit of this consolidation, and the combined resources, is the ability in the future to add more languages to our class offerings. The board of JSA has sought, as a condition of the merger that we add the follwing languages Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tswana, Tsonga, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu.

Q. What about the fine arts?

A. We have a strong interest in cultivating the fine arts curriculum at Pardes JSA Community Day School for the Unification of Phoenix Jews and the Greater Good of Humanity Next Year in Jerusalem Academy of Learning. Last year, we had the pleasure of welcoming Joanne Edelmann from The Stella Adler Acting Studio in New York. We hope that she will be the first of many artists to visit our school each year.

Currently, we offer classes in art and music. We also offer after-school enrichment classes in art, dance and drama. As with many schools, we are limited by our operating budget. The advantage of consolidating the two schools is that more critical mass = more tuition = more curriculum offerings. Because we have been diverted by the nonsense of the merger, we have not sought out partnerships with the many different arts agencies and the world-class School of Music at ASU so that we can efficiently provide these opportunities. I’m telling you his lips were not moving the whole time, and if I was not so scared, I would get cracking on this stuff.

Q. Is there an endowment in the works?

A. Not yet, but despite the readily available expertise of the JCF here in Phoenix and offers from other members of the Pardes Community to underwrite the creation of the endowment corporation, we have repetitively shied away from creating one. An endowment would not allow us the flexibility to run the school financially from the seat of our pants. As with all similar nonprofit institutions, the financial sustainability of our school depends upon developing an endowment. Our two schools have experienced splintering from donors, financial mismanagement at JSA that destroyed the school, and pressure from morons running our Federation who have nothing to give us financially, so and now, as one entity, we hope to attract substantial local and national donors. Additionally, we have plans to cut an album which we think will raise substantial funding and we also have the earnings from our own brand of coffee.

Q. How do you expect to pay for the short-term transition expenses?

A. There are considerable costs associated with this consolidation. At first, we thought that we could make up the shortfall by shafting our current lender, but they are not that stupid. We were then going to use the reserve fund from JSA, but that is going to litigation defense, so we have no idea what we were even thinking, let alone what we might be thinking. This was a good question though and thanks for asking. These include, but are not limited to: facilities expenses, covering promised scholarships and absorbing additional faculty. We are developing plans to offset those costs. A significant amount has already been raised from community donors. I can not announce the amount of money that was raised by community donors because it was actually not really raised really, if you know what I mean.

Q. Will already awarded JSA scholarships be honored?

A. Financial aid is a confidential matter between all families and the school administration. Letters to the JSA parents are forthcoming regarding the scholarships for the 2011-12 school year and the application process that will be used moving forward.

There are many areas of consolidating the JSA families with practices of Pardes administration. This one-year transition will require additional funding in many areas, and the school leadership is ensuring that all additional expenditures required as a result of the consolidation are fully funded by incremental revenues as well ascommunity support. At present, we are dragging our feet in getting back to parents about our funding commitment. Until further notice, the dragging of feet is our official policy.

Q. Will JSA and Pardes parents pay the same tuition for the 2011-12 school year?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you eventually expect an increase in tuition?

A. Best practices in the educational industry have indicated that modest annual tuition increases, to cover increased costs such as faculty raises, are the most effective approach in ensuring the long-term financial health of a school. We expect to continue that approach. Because some of us were enhancing our prayer with Rastafarian Methodology, the potential tuition implications of a change in campus or the school’s debt structure are unknown, though our goal is to develop a plan that ensures no dramatic tuition increases are necessary. One plan that has been spoken about at great length would be to utilize the west end of the large sports field and create a greenhouse that could be used for the growing of Medical Marijuana. Some of us are enrolled in classes in Colorado so that we fully understand the ramifications and demands of creating high quality reagent grade herb for lawful medical purposes.

Q. Will the synagogue affiliation discount continue in the future?

A. Yes. The amount of the discount is evaluated each year, and the same consultants from the Bellagio who helped us with our merger plans will be back again to figure out the discount as part of the tuition-setting process for the next school year.

Q. When will class assignments be announced?

A. This remains unchanged. Class assignments will go out in the mail in mid-July.

Q. What will happen to all the beautiful art projects located around the Pardes campus if we move?

A. Many of the art projects will be moved to the new campus at the time of a move. Realistically, though, some of the things the kids have done are so awful that it pains me to see them every day. Don’t we have one donor in the community who has some nice art? Just kidding.

Q. Will there be campus tours available?

A. Yes.

Q. We were told Pardes students should wear a school logo shirt on Fridays. What logo shirt should they wear?

A. We will have a new shirt designed for our students to wear on Fridays. We hope our eighth grade students will create the design. Otherwise, students may continue to wear either their Pardes or JSA logo shirts.

As soon as we know more, we will fill you in.