NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- Over 200 parents and grandparents attended an Open House at Temple Israel New Rochelle last night for the Westchester Torah Academy, a Modern Orthodox Yeshiva Day School which is scheduled to open in New Rochelle, NY in the fall of 2013. The school, founded by a core group of dedicated parents, is leasing space from Temple Israel. Those attending last night came from throughout the surrounding area -- Scarsdale, White Plains, Riverdale and Fairfield County in Connecticut.
The school places a strong emphasis on inspiring a commitment to a Jewish lifestyle and the continuity of the Jewish people and applying cutting-edge educational models.
The school is applying an educational model derived from the charter school movement, an approach that place an emphasis on exploiting technology in the classroom and more quality time with educators through small group instruction.
The school's pedagogical approach. known as "Blended Learning", is a model which involves 75% face-to-face learning and 25% online instruction. The face-to-face learning is broken up into full class sessions, small student groups and small teacher-student groups. The idea is to require less overall time with the teacher (lowering costs) and more high quality time with the teacher (improving outcomes).
The school aims to attract teachers who can apply and develop their own 21st century skills.
"For them, we want to be Google, not Hewlett-Packard," said WTA Founding Board Member Nathan Thomas.
WTA is the second New York-area school to apply this model to a Yeshiva Day School. Yeshiva He'atid opened in 2012 in Teaneck, NJ. Members of the Yeshiva He'atid attended the WTA Open House and one board member serves on the boards of both schools.
Kevin Shacknofsky is the President of the Westchester Torah Academy.
"We will equip our students with the essential 21st century skills," said Shacknofsky." Critical thinking, collaboration and teamwork, adaptability, initiate, communication, analysis and creativity that will make them standout in high school and college applications."
Shacknofsky equally stressed the need to provide meaningful Jewish experiences for the children. The Westchester Torah Academy Mission Statement reads:
We are committed to achieving academic excellence in both Judaic and secular studies while promoting character development, a deep commitment to the Torah and Mitzvot, love for Eretz Yisrael, and a shared responsibility for our community and the world at large.
Rabbi Rami Strosberg will be responsible for implementing the Blended Learning model at the new school.
Strosberg is the Head of School for the Westchester Torah Academy. He currently serves as Head of School at the Hebrew Academy of the Capital District in Albany, NY. Strosberg earned his Bachelor's degree in Psychology at Yeshiva University, Semicha at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary and completed his Master's degree in Jewish Education at the Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration
"Children who can think for themselves and connect with their innate sense of spirit will have an invaluable advantage in today's changing world."
The school came about as a response to the growing tuition crisis in Jewish parochial school education. The focus is on delivering what the founders of the school describe as "high-quality, sustainable and affordable Jewish day school education". The impact has already been felt throughout the area with at least one Jewish day school lowering tuition to compete with WTA.
Registration for the Westchester Torah Academy opened last night. More information is available at http://westchesterta.org