Sharon Levin received a multitude of messages from former students and faculty alike when the announcement went out on May 18: After 34 years at Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy, Head of School Levin would be retiring, effective June 30, 2021.
“I’m leaving a very strong leadership team in place for the next person,” Levin said, adding that if she doesn’t retire at some point, “then where is the place for the extraordinary people to move into more of a consulting role or maybe helping to nurture those young teachers … to follow those of us who are lucky enough to have the career that I’ve had?”
Levin, 70, began her career at the school as a history teacher in 1986. She served as coordinator of the humanities department for 20 years and as academic dean before becoming interim head of school in 2011, replacing Steven M. Brown. Her role was made permanent by the school’s board in 2012.
Levin grew up in Brooklyn and resides in Wynnewood, where she is a member of Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El. Community endeavors include service on the boards of Hillel of Greater Philadelphia and Camp Ramah in the Poconos. She is a former campaign chair and president of the Women’s Philanthropy division of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. And she is the mother of two Barrack alumni.
Levin’s retirement announcement would have been made a few months prior but was delayed due to the coronavirus “because I wouldn’t want anyone to think I was walking away from the school or the school would not be in the strongest possible position moving forward during emergency times.”
School board president Howard Treatman described Levin as the school’s “rock-solid iron lady.” During her time as head, there’s been “tremendous progress, really in all on all fronts, and she’s really had a very successful tenure.” He said it will be hard to imagine Barrack without her, but that the timing made sense — particularly given that she’s staying until next June. An earlier departure would have left the school either trying to fill the position during a pandemic or having someone brand new at the helm to lead during uncertain times.
“The timing kind of worked out perfectly, and we feel very lucky that we have her in place right now,” Treatman said.
The school’s search committee to find Levin’s replacement is co-chaired by Michele Levin and Lisa Sandler. Michele Levin is a former board president and Sandler is an executive committee member. The two said they expect it to be a year-long process. The search is in its discovery phase; a specialty firm will conduct research about the position’s responsibilities and the needs of the school to prepare a job description.
Over the next 14 months, Levin plans to lead Barrack as it transitions back into its main building after social distancing is lifted. Once retired, she wants to continue her work in education in some capacity, possibly as a consultant, mentor or instructor to other teachers.
“I was so blessed to be head of school. It’s pretty amazing, pretty extraordinary,” she said. “And I just hope that at this point next year, I can just say, ‘Wow, I’m so glad to be back in the building.’”
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