Mary Johnson taps Dave Mandel to be its next leader

MIDDLEBURY — Mary Johnson Children’s Center has hired Dave Mandel as its new executive director. The resident of Connecticut and New York City will succeed Barbara Saunders, who is retiring after more than 30 years of service to the Middlebury childcare center.
Mandel will assume the leadership role on July 8.
Dave Mandel most recently led the Montessori Day School of Brooklyn, N.Y., a program for children ages two to five. Prior experiences included helping launch an American curriculum school in Calabar, Nigeria; tutoring and mentoring first-generation college-bound high school students in Norwalk, Conn.; and serving as elementary principal in Rutland and Windsor counties, Vt. Mandel grew up in Port Washington, N.Y. He received a bachelor’s degree in History from Cornell and a Master’s in Special Education from New York University. Mandel is married to Kathie Mandel and they have three daughters, ages 22, 20 and 18 years old. The youngest was born in Clarendon Springs, Vt.
“We are very excited and pleased to have Dave Mandel as MJCC’s new executive director,” said Misse Smith, president of the center’s board. “His extensive experience and clear belief that all children and young people deserve opportunities to learn in safe, nurturing and joyful settings will serve MJCC well.”
MJCC was established in 1970 by Peg Martin and other Middlebury-area parents who knew the community needed a safe, supportive program for the children of families who needed to work outside of the home. The center is a nationally recognized early childhood education center. It is considered the “gold standard” for its provision of services to the children and families in Addison County.
As founder Martin observed, “Little did the intrepid band of moms know when they struggled to set up a child care center in the parsonage of the Methodist Church that Mary Johnson Children’s Center would be the outcome. Yet here we are almost 50 years later blessed with the continuing generosity and support of the Middlebury community and beneficiaries of the perseverance, amazing talent and leadership of four creative and hardworking directors. And so, to Dave Mandel, the next in the director dynasty, a warm welcome to Mary Johnson Children’s Center and the challenges of making a wonderful program even better.”
In a press release, Mandel said he was honored to join the MJCC team as executive director.
“For half a century, Mary Johnson Children’s Center has provided outstanding services that help Addison County children thrive,” he said. “Over the last three decades, Barbara Saunders has led the program and helped guide its expansion to meet more families’ needs. Barbara has big shoes to fill, and I’m lucky to have her guidance as I make the transition into her role. As an educator across all levels from pre-K through high school, I’ve seen the formative impact of high-quality preschool and elementary programs on the communities they serve.
“I’m so thankful to MJCC board members, administrative team members, teachers and parents for the warm welcome they’ve already extended. Happy summer, be well, and see you all soon!” 
Saunders expressed her pleasure at the selection of Mandel: “Dave’s experiences, drive and passion will serve the center well. MJCC is a wonderful organization with an incredibly talented staff. Dave will continue MJCC’s mission with energy and new ideas.”

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