Exclusive: a group of Rosh Pinah governors this week insisted they would remain in office despite calls for their resignation amid damaging claims over their leadership.
An action committee set up by a number of parents have circulated letters calling for the entire governing body to step aside, with parents being asked to sign a petition to that end at the school gates yesterday.
But three of the governors, chair Barbara Hotz, Annette Koslover and Nick Kramer, this week hit back in a message to staff and parents in which they condemn the “vitriolic campaign for our collective resignation”.
In the letter, seen by the Jewish News, the trio say they felt compelled to respond to recent letters from the action group and from staff containing “a number of allegations that are not only untrue but which are damaging to the well-being of our school”.
They state: “We have been accused of accepting an additional class for the current Year 1 to ‘cover up’ a mistake in the admissions procedure. It is true there was confusion about Barnet’s new admissions criteria which replaced the former ethos based system with an objective process following the JFS case (decision) which was handed down after that particular year’s admission process was already well underway. This led to an error in the allocation of places.”
They go on to say that the school had been approached months earlier by Barnet Council to help alleviate the shortage of reception places in the borough.
Following initial opposition, they only agreed after assurances from the senior leadership team they were confident the school could manage an extra class.
Defending the eventual decision, they say: “All the costs associated with the additional class are covered by Barnet. Perhaps the most important fact to note is that we currently have 30 children in year one who would otherwise have been unable to attend a Jewish school.”
In the letter, the trio also deny claims that the current building project at the school is caused by the bulge year, insisting that it is rather the result of a decision taken years earlier to bring the entire school on to one site in Glengall Road. The redevelopment, they insist, will bring a number of “benefits” for pupils.
In recent days, the Jewish News has received a number of phone calls from parents concerned about what the Governors’ letter calls the “discord” currently afflicting the school.
Further underlining the current tensions at the school, the letter added: “A number of other issues have recently been raised. These include the school’s academic performance, the overall governance of the school and the relationship between the Governing Body and the senior teaching staff….We are working in close partnership and in accordance with the advice of Barnet to try to resolve the outstanding issues and bring unity and strong leadership back to our school.”
A concerned parent, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Jewish News last night: “I hope this matter gets resolved as quickly as possible. It appear to be nothing other than petty politics and a distraction from what really matters: the education of our children which I’m sure all the teachers and governors would like to devote their full attention to.”
Claiming that “there remains a deal of confusion about what has or hasn’t happened”, they added: “If it means we need new governors or a new governing body to settle this matter quickly, then maybe that will be the best way forward for the school and our children.”
Jewish News’ requests for comment from senior figures at the school were ignored or denied.
The chairman of the school’s foundation body, the SCOPUS Jewish Educational Trust – which has the responsibility of appointing School Governors – has written to parents twice in as many weeks.
In his first letter, dated 23 May, Peter Ohrenstein confirmed that he had been approached about meeting a number of parents to discuss their concerns, but declined as this would be outside the body’s remit.
After the disgruntled parents wrote to the Local Education Authority, it’s understood that the director of education and skills said the council had “full confidence” in the governing body.
Suggestions of a split within the governing body were quashed by Ohrenstein. Despite the letter only being signed by three of 18 Governors listed on the school’s website, he said that the Governors’ letter was “signed on behalf of the majority of the Governors.”
The three governors said they hoped to hold a meeting for parents, staff and other stakeholders “in due course”, adding that they would “remain dedicated” to carry out their roles as long “as we have the full support of Scopus, Barnet and the majority of the governing body”.