Schultz JCC head sees independence from UJCC as boon

Today, the Schultz center's executive director can point to at least a dozen other administrative and financial benefits resulting from the center's independence in 1988.

"I think it was the right decision for our center," Blovad said. "We felt we could do it better alone."

Officials at three other Bay Area JCCs will soon find out if autonomy is the right choice for them too.

Last week, the remaining organizations under the UJCC — Camp Tawonga and the JCCs of San Francisco, Marin and the Peninsula — became independent after members voted to dissolve the 34-year-old umbrella group.

Blovad already has been on the telephone with two JCC executive directors, advising them to hire the best financial directors they can afford because each center is now in charge of its own accounting. These fellow JCC executive directors turned to Blovad because they hope to learn from what they consider a successful transition to independence.

"The Schultz center is a well-run and healthy organization," Marin JCC executive director Ron Mogel said.

In terms of membership levels and programming, Blovad acknowledges that the split from the UJCC hasn't made much of a difference. Still, there have been rewards in other areas that convince leaders of the 4,000-member Palo Alto center that the decision to leave the fold made sense.

"We own our successes. We own our failures," said Blovad, who has headed the center for 13 years.

In terms of geography, it didn't make sense for officials and lay leaders to look to San Francisco for direction, said Reba Cohen, the Schultz center's immediate past president who has served on the board since 1988.

"The feeling is: Those people in the city — what do they know about what's going on here?" she said.

Blovad added that some UJCC policies didn't fit the Silicon Valley marketplace. For example, he recalled one time when the UJCC set nursery-school rates at higher levels than Palo Alto area residents would likely pay.

In addition, Schultz center officials saw little need for an extra layer of bureaucracy to oversee their daily operation and approve their board's decisions.

"We felt the resources were here to do what we needed to do," said Les Burger, a past president who served on the Schultz center board from 1984 until this summer. "We felt we were doing everything locally. That's why it wasn't a big transition for us."

Blovad and others also saw problems with the UJCC administration. Monthly financial reports, completed at the UJCC, sometimes took six weeks to come back to the JCCs.

Today, Blovad has financial reports within days of each month's end. This allows officials to spot fiscal problems before they snowball into a crisis — such as what happened this year at the JCC of S.F., which is now facing a $1.1 million deficit.

The Schultz center's autonomy has also allowed officials to leave behind the "political infighting" that accompanied the scramble for money from one source.

"We don't have to worry whether we're getting our fair share or aren't getting our fair share," Blovad said.

Although the UJCC tried to cover any center's year-end deficit, Blovad said the centers weren't rewarded for good years. Any year-end surplus returned to the UJCC.

Since independence, the Schultz center has ended two years — including this one — with a deficit. The 1994-95 fiscal year concluded with a $46,000 deficit in $3.5 million budget, but Blovad said the center already has made staffing cuts in the 1995-96 budget to erase the deficit.

While Blovad can't promise that the other centers will benefit from their new autonomy, he supports the dissolution of the UJCC in light of his center's successes.

"It makes a lot of sense for those centers to be independent," he said.