Milken Community High School to split with Stephen S. Wise Temple

Milken Community High School to split with Stephen S. Wise Temple

Sophie Golub

News Editor

As of July 1, 2012, Milken Community High School and Stephen S. Wise Temple (SSWT) will no longer be affiliated. An email was sent to the entire Milken community announcing this monumental split between the two institutions after 20 years.

Although this came as a surprise to many students, according to Mr. Jason Ablin, head of school, the split had always been expected; it was just a question of “when” rather than “if.”

Even though the temple and high school have been anticipating this historical split for years, discussion surrounding the idea only began over the past year. The past two months have been extremely hectic for Milken’s and SSWT’s Board of Trustees as the members worked out the logistics of the split.

One of the main motives for the split is due to finances. Because Milken is linked to a religious institution, the school is unable to take advantage of several financial opportunities, such as grants, funding resources, fundraising opportunities, and gifts.

With the split, Milken will also gain its own bylaws and governance, allowing it to stand on its own two feet.

“We are being given the opportunity to move ahead and become a standalone, independent school,” said Mr. Aaron Leibovic, president of Milken’s board of trustees. “Similar to when a child goes off to college and the child will need to learn how to stand by itself; that is what Milken is going to experience. The school will learn to flourish as an independent school and take on more responsibilities.”

According to Ablin, the impact and effect of the split on students, faculty, and parents will be barely noticeable. Externally, Milken’s official title will change from Milken Community High School of Stephen S. Wise Temple to Milken Community High School at Stephen S. Wise Temple.

“It is a good relationship,” Metuka Benjamin, Director of Education at the SSWT schools, said. “I don’t think there will be any obstacles. Both sides are interested in Jewish continuity for Jewish youngsters to be studying in a Jewish school.”

Leibovic says that one-third of Milken’s board is currently designated by SSWT. Once the bylaws of the school shift, the board will be dismantled and a new board will need to be reinstated.

In the past, incoming SSWT students were not mandated to take the ISEE test to apply to Milken. Although the schools will no longer be affiliated, this requirement will still remain. Thus, no decrease in enrollment of Stephen Wise students at Milken is expected. In fact, Ablin believes that enrollment at Milken will not be impacted at all from this decision. Students will still come to the school because they want the “Milken experience,” regardless of whether the two institutions are connected.

Despite the assumption that Milken would attract a wave of more Orthodox students as it disconnects from a Reform institution, Ablin believes that this will not be the case.

“It is only a perceptual change,” Ablin said. “We are a pluralistic school, so we have always accepted students from all denominations. The perception has been that we are a Reform school because we are affiliated with SSWT, and that perception is what will change, not the students applying.”

In this process, the school and temple will need to overcome some challenges, such as overlapping services (security, maintenance, Information Technology department), accounting, and the financial aspect.

Because of the split, Milken, and particularly its Board of Trustees, will have to understand what the best practices are for a truly independent school. Instead of relying on the temple and its Board of Trustees, Milken’s board will truly take charge of the school. Previously, administrative decisions had to be voted on by Milken’s board and then the temple’s board. After July 1, Milken will have complete independent governance and will make decisions without consulting the temple’s administration.

“I have faith in the people working in this community and I believe that the negatives with be minimized and the positives will be maximized,” Ablin said.