Even teachers aren't getting paid

June 12, 1993|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Staff Writer

As efforts continue to solve a financial crisis that threatens the existence of Baltimore's 76-year-old Talmudical Academy, the schools' 80 teachers are confronting a crisis of their own.

They haven't been paid since April 21.

Since many of the strictly observant, Orthodox Jewish teachers have large families, the cutoff has created a hardship. Several, who spoke under condition of anonymity, said they have nearly exhausted their savings.

Allen J. Gibber, outgoing president of the school's board of directors, said the inability to pay the faculty weighs heavily on the schools'leaders.

"We always prided ourselves that we were never late paying the teachers," he said, despite years of financial troubles.

The problem this time, he said, is that "we borrowed the money to pay the teachers" through April 21, and there's none left. He said school administrators are not being paid either.

Mr. Gibber and the whole board are being replaced June 20 with a new reform slate of leaders led by Dr. Michael J. Elman, a board member for four years and a parent of two children at the school.

The new board, Dr. Elman said, is composed of "younger parents" and will have a "totally new approach."

The school's total debt is $4 million to $5 million, including $1.1 million owed to the Resolution Trust Corp., the federal agency in charge of cleaning up the nation's savings and loan mess.

RTC inherited a mortgage on the school property from the defunct Yorkridge Calvert Savings and Loan Association. No payments have been made on the mortgage loan in more than a year.

The deadline for repaying that loan has been extended a second time, to June 30, an RTC spokeswoman said yesterday.

Bruce Eisen, vice president for finance of the Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore said that "we're close to striking a deal" to bail out the school, which has 640 students.

He said the Associated board will meet Thursday to consider a solution.

"We're looking at more than just the RTC [loan]," he said. "We're looking at a complete financial reorganization plan."

The school's 10-acre campus is on Old Court Road at the Beltway,west of Pikesville in Baltimore County.

The larger Jewish community appears to be divided over the best remedy for Talmudical Academy's troubles, and some worry that the bailout might set a precedent for other schools with financial woes.

Others say a bailout could benefit the entire Jewish community by creating a bridge between the larger, more secular Jewish community andthe strictly Orthodox groups. The two factions have been wary, and occasionally hostile, in their relations for years.

An appeal for help from the Orthodox Jewish community was to be delivered at 30 synagogues in the Baltimore area today, said Rabbi Tzi Hersh Weinreb of Shomrei Emunah Congregation in the 6200 block of Greenspring Ave.

If each of the 2,000 Orthodox Jewish families in Baltimore gives $220, he said, the teachers could be paid through this school year, which ends next week. The goal is to raise $440,000.

Rabbi Weinreb said the school is a major reason for Baltimore's popularity among Orthodox Jewish families. Its faculty tutors outside the school, too.

Besides, he asked, "What will happen if 650 students suddenly don't have a school to attend in September?"

Other Jewish schools would be overwhelmed with students, he said.

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