Jerry Isaak-Shapiro, head of school at the Joseph and Florence Mandel Jewish Day School in Beachwood, will leave the school at the end of his contract following the 2019-20 school year.
His decision came after he and the school’s board “couldn’t reach an agreement on the terms of a new contract,” according to a letter emailed to Mandel JDS parents that was emailed May 7.
Isaak-Shapiro, 65, is in the third year of a four-year contract and has been at the school for nearly 16 years.
Isaak-Shapiro declined to disclose his current salary. An online Guidestar search of the school’s 2016 tax return listed his total reportable compensation as $375,805, broken down as follows: base compensation, $279,786; bonus and incentive compensation, $50,000; retirement and other deferred compensation, $36,515; and nontaxable benefits, $9,504.
“We had discussed an extension and we weren’t able to come to terms that were acceptable to the school and to me,” Isaak-Shapiro told the Cleveland Jewish News May 8, adding salary was not the only issue. “No, not solely, no. I’ve never been in these positions solely for salary or compensation. That’s always going to be an aspect of these negotiations, but not solely.”
“I understand the tax returns are public information, but I can’t comment on personnel matters,” board president Jared S. Miller said May 8. “We had discussions over many months with Jerry about staying and we couldn’t reach an agreement on the terms of a new contract.”
Miller said two of his children are students at the school and another is a graduate.
“We’ve been blessed to have his leadership for 16 years,” he said. “His tenure has been remarkable. … The average length of a head of school is four, five, six years. So we’ve been blessed to have him for this period of time. ... And he’s had an impact on really a generation of students at our school with his vision and his leadership. We’re delighted that he’s offered his counsel as we transition to a new head of school, and we thank him for that.”
Miller praised Isaak-Shapiro’s building of what he called “an incredible educational team.”
“Every year my children … always seem to have great teachers. I think he’s cultivated an exceptional school leadership team. There’s many accomplishments, but that’s pretty significant.”
The letter from the board leadership outlines the next steps.
“Jerry has very graciously offered his counsel as we transition the professional leadership of Mandel JDS, and we are delighted to take him up on that kind offer,” reads the letter written by Miller and Eliana LeVine, incoming board president. “The board is appointing a special committee to conduct a nationwide search for the next head of school. The committee will be led by Louis Chaiten, a Mandel JDS parent and Jones Day partner. Our goal is to have a new leader in place before the 2020-2021 school year begins.”
Isaak-Shapiro said he has worked to adopt an integrative educational approach allows students to study questions in different ways. The school today has 352 students, 95 staff and a $7 million budget.
During his tenure, Isaak-Shapiro worked for three years to secure a $17 million grant from the Joseph and Florence Mandel Foundation in August 2015, which resulted in the renaming of the school. Most of that grant – nearly 85% – was designated to enhance programming and bolster compensation to staff, with $2 million going toward renovations and expansion for the building.
The school is undergoing a multi-phased renovation and expansion for which the school raised $10 million.
A letter from Isaak-Shapiro accompanied the letter from the board.
“It is with mixed emotions that I write to inform you that the coming school year will be my last as head of school of this remarkable institution,” he wrote.
Isaak-Shapiro listed some of his accomplishments in that letter.
“We’ve breathed new life into the concept of genuine Jewish pluralism,” he wrote. “We’ve brought a living, dynamic Zionism into the lives of our students and their families; and we’ve enthusiastically said that a larger and more diverse student population’s academic and social needs can be met – indeed, must be met – by a staff and faculty trained and supported for such a sacred task.”
Isaak-Shapiro wrote he will continue to support the school wholeheartedly in his final year at the school, the institution’s 50th year.
“I will throw myself into those celebrations along with all of you,” he wrote. “We have, in Eliana, our second alumna president – a statement in and of itself of the significance our day schools have in the lives of our students. I look forward to partnering and working with her and the members of our board throughout the 2019-2020 school year.”
He said he does not know where his path will take him or whether he and his wife, Debbie, will stay in Cleveland in the long term.