Photo: Archival photo (pre-COVID) of the Committee of NYC Religious and Independent School Officials meeting at Agudath Israel of America’s headquarters.
The collective voices of nonpublic school children in the five boroughs have been amplified, as leaders of Seventh-day Adventist schools join the Committee of NYC Religious and Independent School Officials.
The announcement of the Committee’s expansion was made earlier this week by Committee chairman Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America.
In her acceptance letter, Dr. Sheena Ward-Basdeo, director of student services for special education of the Northeastern Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, said she was looking forward to working with her superintendent of schools, Dr. Viola Emmons-Chapman, and the Committee on behalf of their students.
The Committee of Religious and Independent School leaders was founded approximately half a century ago, with the close involvement of the legendary Agudath Israel leader Rabbi Moshe Sherer z’l. The Committee was created to satisfy a federal law mandating consultations between nonpublic schools and local school districts as part of the federal funding allocations process.
In addition to streamlining communications in the massive New York City school district which encompasses hundreds of nonpublic schools, the Committee also empowered private schools representing a broad array of demographics by making them part of a unified coalition.
Having chaired the Committee for more than ten years, Rabbi Zwiebel has built close relationships with those representing approximately 850 of the city’s Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Islamic, Jewish, Lutheran and independent private schools, an alliance formed under the guidance of gedolei Yisroel.
“We are pleased to welcome the Seventh-day Adventist school leaders to the Committee,” said Rabbi Zwiebel. “Working together with other nonpublic school groups to present a unified front to the city makes us that much more effective.” He noted that previous alliances with Seventh-day Adventists on shared concerns, such as Sabbath observance and religious accommodations in the workplace, have produced positive results.
Over the years, the Committee has been a lifeline to New York City’s yeshivas and nonpublic schools. Most recently, following two years of legal advocacy led by Agudath Israel, the Committee was successful in securing $37.7 million in additional Title I services for the 2018-2019 school year following a detailed recount of eligible students. The new, more accurate count will facilitate millions in additional Title services for nonpublic school children in NYC for subsequent years to come.
With approximately 111,000 students enrolled in yeshivas in the five boroughs, the yeshiva population has grown to about one tenth the size of New York City’s total public school enrollment, and is the largest group currently represented by the Committee.