Monday, January 20, 2003

Yavneh gets an 'A-plus'



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The secret of a successful school is easy to find. Just go to the bathroom.

At Yavneh Day School on Montgomery Road, the faculty restroom is decorated with cheerful artificial bouquets and bright flower-garden wallpaper. A small table holds seashells and a basket of plastic ivy, reflected in framed mirrors you might find in the powder room at a dinner party. It's homey and comfortable - nothing like the gas station motif of the typical school tinkletorium.

"It was all about telling the staff we appreciate them,'' said Yavneh Elementary Principal Susan Moore. The Yavneh staff is half-blushing, half proud that their bathroom was ranked among the 10 best nationwide by thebestofusa.com.

Dare to compare

Next door in Sycamore School District, teachers who make some of the highest salaries in the state are picketing because they say they are not "appreciated."

There I go again, daring to compare public and private schools. Public-school advocates say it's so unfair - like comparing apples and oranges. But don't they all come from the same education orchard? So why do Sycamore teachers, with top salaries near $80,000, have the morale of disgruntled postal workers, while teachers paid half as much at Yavneh seem so happy?

I think it has something to do with personal satisfaction that can't be measured in dollars and hours: "We have a mission to develop a spiritual and ethical foundation," says Ms. Moore.

Hold the red-faced outrage. I'm not saying public schools don't have a mission just as noble. Only that it gets misplaced when unions weigh happiness on the pay scales.

There are other lessons at Yavneh. This Jewish school serving about 400 students is anchored in a building abandoned by Indian Hill Schools 25 years ago. The original 1938 building has been absorbed amoeba-style by bright new hallways and classrooms.

Cincinnati Public Schools, meanwhile, wants $480 million to replace "obsolete" schools that are half as old.

Surprising `no' vote

Former Cincinnati Mayor Arn Bortz doesn't buy it. He has donated years of volunteer work to CPS. But he won't support the levy. "Not until I am persuaded that they will take care of the assets in a fundamentally different way," he said.

"Why are buildings just 50 to 70 years old in such bad shape?" he asks. "Some of the finest structures in our city are more than 100 years old."

Mr. Bortz, a builder and developer, served on a facilities assessment team for CPS. He suggested trying private maintenance in some schools. "They assured me they heard me, and did utterly nothing.''

He says the attitude for maintenance is, "We take whatever we have left over and do the best we can after paying our very costly union contracts."

"For 13 years at Kilgore (Elementary), they couldn't get the clocks to work. It's symbolic."

So is this: That award-winning restroom cost Yavneh nothing. "It was all donated work and materials,'' said Ms. Moore. "It shows the hearts of the people who work here.''

E-mail pbronson@enquirer.com or call 768-8301.




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