Starting a new school

When a new school opens, it usually involves a group of idealistic parents and educators. No matter what their hashkafa (religious/philosophical outlook), they are certain that this school will give each student individual attention and allow him or her to reach his/her full potential. And for a while it’s great. The staff knows the students, each one of whom feels part of the whole. The parents pitch in to make up for whatever physical resources are lacking. Every student is welcomed and valued.

The following year, the enthusiasm only grows. Parents who might have been hesitant about letting their children be “guinea pigs” are willing to take a chance. A few of them transfer their children to the older class too.

No one will talk about any problems in the new school. They don’t want to scare anybody off while the situation is still delicate. Also, the parents in the new school face resentment from the parents in the original school(s), and they don’t want to admit that they may have made a mistake. Parents from all schools suffer from this to some extent. If you really want to investigate a school you need to find the parents who pulled their kids out to send them somewhere else. It’s not enough to talk to the satisfied parents.

By the third year or so, parents are breaking down doors to get in. The school now offers admission tests and interviews. Here the new school must expose itself: What is its admission criteria? Does it give preference to the strongest academically, religiously, or to the ones with “protekzia” (connections)?

In the end, the school may become a victim of its own success. Usually it began with a promise not to have more than one or two classes per grade and to keep the class size small. However, the appeal of extra tuition proves too tempting. Also, administering twelve to eighteen elementary school classes requires considerably more skill than administering two small classes. Kids get lost in the shuffle. Problems with staff and children, as you have in every school, grow and multiply and can’t get the level of attention they did at first. The older, competing schools wake up and begin to offer whatever it was that attracted parents to the new school in the first place. The children of the idealistic families grow up and graduate, leaving younger families who see the school as one choice among many.

Unless the school is run exceptionally well and has the resources backing it, the novelty of the new school wears off and becomes “just another school.”

Related post: Kicking ourselves in the foot: How to choose a school in Israel.


  1. Ok…so here we are entering into the school in year 4 (the boys school has existed for much longer) where do we stand?
    Everything you have said has been more or less true….questions about selection policy, etc…
    I’m hoping this school is one the up and up.

  2. mominisrael says

    Thanks for your comment–I’m glad to hear my theories confirmed. I would think that in the fourth year the school would have growing pains, and you could begin to see how the administration deals with a multitude of new challenges. Particularly difficult children who may or may not be from the original families supporting the school.

  3. mominisrael says

    JJ–in a nutshell, that’s why I never studied social sciences. If it’s true, you know it already because it’s common sense. If it’s wacky, it’s probably not true (like Freudian theory).

  4. jerusalem joe says

    If I remember my lessons correctly, it’s organizational theory, the way institutions develop as they grow.
    In any case, you have great common sense.