City Front: The parent trap?

As the Lavie recommendations on education in Jerusalem begin to be implemented, there is already a bump in the road.

Leyada 298.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Leyada 298.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Beit Hakerem primary school parents' association has asked for a court ruling against the municipality education department. The parents are asking for the High Court to force Manhi (Jerusalem Education Administration) to withdraw its intention to cancel a long-term arrangement that automatically sent the school's students to Leyada High School. The Lavie Commission, the result of more than two years of work analyzing the major aspects and problems of Jerusalem's education system, was presented to Mayor Uri Lupolianski about three days after he was appointed. He finally decided, together with the high-ranking officials of Manhi, to accept the report and thus, after almost two years of preparation (some would rather say hesitation), the recommendations of the Lavie Commission are being applied, as of this year, all over the city, albeit for the moment only in secular schools. One of its major recommendations was that the middle schools should be opened to all students, notwithstanding the children's personal addresses. But what has been considered by many parents as an achievement, is taken as a threat by the 1,200 parents of the Beit Hakerem association. For them and their children, the previous situation, in which children were automatically registered in the middle or high schools close to their home, gave them the right to one of the most prestigious gems of the local education system: the right to study at Leyada high school. Leyada, considered one of the best schools in the country, is a nonprofit. "All of a sudden," explains Tirza Gortler, a very active member of the parents' association, "We found out that our kids would be exiled, and I am using this harsh term on purpose, to schools far away, while they have the best one right in front of their door." Gortler, aware that her words might be misinterpreted, adds immediately: "We are not against integration, quite the opposite. But what Manhi will be achieving by this is exactly the destruction of the integration they are so fond of, since now with the new rules, all the strong children will register and be accepted in the few best schools, and the others, the less advanced students, will be left on their own in lower level schools. Meanwhile our kids will have to wander around the city by bus, or we, the mothers, will have to cut our working hours to deal with their transportation, but who cares? As long as Manhi will be able to show that the kids of Beit Hakerem are no longer automatically registered in Leyada." The parents, who claim that their request to meet the heads of Manhi had been postponed more than once, finally met with Manhi director Benzi Nemet last Thursday. According to Gortler and her friends at the association, the results were rather frustrating, and ended up in an appeal to the court to issue a temporary injunction. "Manhi's proposal was unacceptable for us," adds Gortler. "It said that they were willing to leave the situation as it is for this coming year only, and that afterwards, we would have to adapt ourselves to the new situation. On top of this, they requested our immediate approval of their proposition. We needed at least a few days to convey this to all the parents and discuss it with them, so this was more of a order than a proposal, so we had no other choice than to go to court." At press time, Manhi had not responded to In Jerusalem's request for a comment.