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Parents' surprise as Hertsmere Jewish Primary head quits for 'personal reasons'

The JC understands there were tensions between the head and the chairman of governors

    Parents of Hertsmere Jewish Primary pupils have been taken by surprise by the abrupt departure of HJPS headteacher for the past eight years, Steven Isaacs.

    A letter to parents before half-term from the chairman of governors, Marc Harris, announced that Mr Isaacs had “decided for personal reasons the time has come for him to leave the school as of today”.

    Thanking Mr Isaacs for his “hard work and dedication”, Mr Harris said deputy head Rita Alak-Levi would become acting headteacher.

    One parent said others “were surprised at the suddenness and the manner of his departure”.

    Mr Harris later told the JC that governors could not comment further on Mr Isaacs’ “decision to leave beyond what was already set out in our letter to the parent body. We respect his privacy and wish him all the best for the future.”

    The governing body was “united in its goal to recruit the best headteacher to lead our outstanding school and take it from strength to strength”.

    But the JC understands there were tensions between the head and the chairman of governors. Mr Isaacs is believed to have sought an overhaul of the governing body and asked Mr Harris to stand down.

    An outside observer, Jason Marantz, recently recommended a review of the composition of the governors, saying they should “source prospective governors who are not parents of the school as a matter of urgency”.

    He also suggested training for governors to improve management of complaints and conflict.

    Acting as an independent adjudicator, Mr Marantz — the former chief executive of the London School of Jewish Studies and now principal of an academy in West London — upheld a complaint against Mr Harris by an HJPS parent for breach of confidentiality.

    Mr Harris said this week that governors had been working for a while with the United Synagogue — HJPS’s foundation body — to bring in independent governors. “It’s been a longstanding ambition of the governing body.”

    Lara Lipsey, chairman of the school’s PR and fundraising committee, said that “we have taken a whole series of training recently as part of a regular ongoing training programme”.

    The governing body was united, she maintained.“There is no infighting.”

    Mr Isaacs was unavailable for comment.

    But in last week’s letter from the governors’ chair to parents, he was quoted as having “thoroughly enjoyed” his tenure at HJPS.
     

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