Miami Herald: Ben Gamla school is flourishing


When I was looking into a story about the quandry that the Orthodox community was in when it comes to charter schools – essentially the schools could offer a cheaper alternative to day schools, but the Orthodox community is scared stiff about the government having any control over curricula at their schools and a fear of a not exclusively Jewish student body – I heard repeatedly from detractors that charter schools simply don’t work.

For evidence, a number of charter school detractors pointed to the Ben Gamla School, the Miami area Hebrew charter school, saying that the school was failing.

Those detractors might want to go back and rethink that argument, as according to this Miami Herald story, the Ben Gamla school is actually flourishing.

Two years into its existence, the elementary school is at capacity at 600 students, and has a waiting list of 15 for each of its grades. The school is about to open a second campus and perhaps another school in the Miami Dade area, according to its founder.

As for some of the concerns some had about the school before it opened?

When Ben Gamla was proposed, critics complained it was a Jewish school inappropriately funded with public dollars. Because of the concerns, an expert hired by the school district scrutinized Ben Gamla’s lesson plans monthly for a year. And each month, the expert deemed them “entirely appropriate for a publicly funded charter school.”

Sharon Miller, principal at the Hollywood campus, credits the growth to a “very warm and nurturing” environment.

“I know every one of my children,” she said.

Miller refused to say how many Jewish students attend Ben Gamla, calling the question “inappropriate and illegal” to address to a public school. She said many of the students are Israeli immigrants, while others want to be exposed to the Hebrew language.

Tzipora Nurieli of Hallandale Beach enrolled her three children in the school when it opened. Sara is entering the eighth grade, Ariel is going into the sixth grade and Sharon will be a fourth-grader in the fall.

Nurieli is observant, but she said the school doesn’t teach religion. “They get their Judaism from home,” she said. Ben Gamla teaches Hebrew “at a very, very good level.”

It was a financial burden to send all three to Tauber Academy in Aventura, the private Jewish school they attended before Ben Gamla, Nurieli said. 

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