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In Cleveland head of school steps down to help school and federation finds a new renter

Happy last last week of the official summer… For those of us not on vacation on this week, let’s get everything started with a couple of new updates from Cleveland.

First there was a long drawn out community haggling over whether the Jewish Federation of Greater Cleveland would leave its downtown offices for the suburb of Beechwood, symbolically abandoning the city limits as it followed the path of the area’s Jews into the ‘burbs. The move finally went through, and then there was a serious debate about what should happen to the building after it was left open in July.

Now, according to The Cleveland Plain Dealer, the federation will lease its old space to an experimental (non-Jewish) charter school for high school juniors and seniors.

Reports the Plain Dealer:

Beginning in the 2011-12 school year, juniors and seniors at MC2STEM High School will take academic classes in the complex while also working internships or taking college courses. MC2STEM, one of the district’s "innovation" schools, emphasizes science, technology, engineering and mathematics — the STEM of the name.

The unconventional, year-round school was launched in August 2008 with help from the state and others. Students spend their first year at the Great Lakes Science Center and second at General Electric Co.’s Nela Park campus in East Cleveland.

"There’s nothing more important to the city of Cleveland than the success of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District," said federal Judge Dan Aaron Polster, a federation board member. "It’s a great use of the building."

School officials said they like the location at East 18th Street and Euclid Avenue because it is on a busy bus line and it is close to Cleveland State University, Cuyahoga Community College and Case Western Reserve University. They also look forward to a partnership with the federation, similar to those that MC2STEM enjoys with NASA at the science museum and GE at Nela Park.

Polster said the federation will place volunteers at MC2STEM for purposes such as tutoring and career mentoring. The group already sends about 200 volunteers to other district schools.

"We at the federation plan to be engaged," said Polster, who serves as a reading tutor once a week at Buhrer Elementary School on the West Side. "It’s not just a real estate deal."

In other Cleveland news, the head of school at a Jewish day school in Cleveland has voluntarily stepped down to help alleviate the school’s financial distress.

Rabbi Pinchos Hecht announced last week that he stepped down as head of Fuchs Mizrachi School, according to The Cleveland Jewish News.

Reports The CJ News:

Similar to other nonprofit institutions in the current economic climate, FMS has not been immune to “financial stress,” says upper school principal Rabbi Binyamin Blau. Hecht’s voluntary departure will mean “a significant savings” for FMS from eliminating his salary, Blau notes, although that number is not being made public.

Hecht declined to comment on his departure until contractual details of his resignation are finalized next week.

While administrators have been discussing ways to shrink its budget for awhile, Hecht’s announcement has been in the works for only a few days, says Blau. FMS board members unanimously approved the move during a meeting Wed. night, Aug. 25, while a letter announcing the decision was sent to parents on Thurs. morning, Aug. 26.

Hecht, who head been in his position as FMS head of school for 10 years, “felt moving on at this moment would be the right thing to do,” Blau says.

Hecht’s responsibilities will be divided up between Blau, lower school/ middle school director Rabbi Barry Kislowicz and early childhood program director Lesley Schwersenski. Among those duties are facility management, fundraising and public relations, Blau explains.

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