After last week’s reflections, you might think we’ve got it made in the shade at HBHA. With high MAP and ACT scores, and a robust Jewish Studies program, maybe we’ve done our job and all we have to do is keep the ship pointing straight. However, as we approach the High Holidays, the time is ripe for reflection about what we can do better. Yes, HBHA is an amazing school, but there are areas where we can become even stronger. Here are some of the questions I am asking myself that will guide our community’s work over the coming year and decades:
- How might we develop our educational vision and product to attract families that never considered Jewish day school a priority for their children?
- How might we build a financial foundation that will support the richness of our program while remaining affordable to families of all income brackets?
- How might we use the melting pot of HBHA to build community all across Jewish Kansas City in order to make a tighter, more supportive and inclusive Jewish community?
- How might we use our position in the community to support our community partners - the synagogues, The J, JFS, and so on?
- How might we provide our students opportunities for creativity, curiosity and social/emotional growth while maintaining our rigorous expectations in General and Jewish studies?
- How might we build our capacity and resources to provide meaningful social interactions with students who don’t currently attend HBHA?
- How might we leverage our talented and experienced staff, our strong community partnerships, and the resources of Kansas City to create a program that is a paradigm for 21st Century education?
- How might we continue to shift the perception of value at HBHA to further enhance a culture of philanthropy?
- How might we continue to attract and retain the best new teachers to provide an exceptional education to our students?
- How might we streamline our communications so parents and community members are always ‘in-the-know’ but never overwhelmed by emails?
We, the faculty, staff, and administration will do everything in our power to strengthen and grow the capacity of HBHA this year. We hope that you will join us in making 5780 the best year ever for HBHA. We wish you a happy holiday, full of meaning, reflection, and joy.
Shannah Tova U’metuka,
Head of School
This week I was able to review the data from our MAP test, which is a standardized test used across the United States. It confirmed what we already know: HBHA has students FAR above the national average in English Language Arts and Math. For example, I just opened the results of an elementary school class which showed 80% of the students were either in the high-average to high scale, whereas 20% of the students are in the low to average range. This is quite remarkable considering:
- We don’t “teach for the test,”
- Our students’ days are split between General and Jewish Studies,
- We still have recess, music, art, gym, computers, and other specials, and
- We are teaching a second language, culture, history, holidays and prayers.
How is this even possible?
Well it would be unfair for HBHA to take all the credit. Certainly some of the success our students achieve is coming from good genes and good parenting. It is clear that parents/guardians are the first and most important teachers in children’s lives. It is also known that children who grow up surrounded by books are more likely to become passionate readers, and students who are exposed to a large vocabulary are more likely to have a large vocabulary themselves. It just so happens that we have a very literate, well-educated community, so we start off ahead in the game.
That said, HBHA deserves some of the credit: Our teachers make the most of every moment with students, teaching content and skills quickly and efficiently, and then giving students ample opportunity to work and think.
Moreover, while Jewish Studies absorbs a good deal of time each day, one could be excused for thinking that this time might dilute our ability to delve into the basics. However, I believe these Jewish Studies support and facilitate student learning in ALL subject areas - and the proof is in the standardized test results. Our children are learning a second language with a different alphabet and grammatical structure, which is proven to increase brain plasticity and academic growth. They are learning to read texts carefully, looking for linguistic nuance, examining grammatical errors, and thinking deeply about how small changes affect meaning. They are understanding history through a Jewish lens; observing the inter-connectedness of seemingly disparate events. They are finding time for mindfulness in prayer. They are thinking about character and morality through the prism of our Jewish values. Jewish studies enables our students to grow in leaps and bounds in areas we cannot see on standardized tests. However, this holistic growth also lifts our standardized test scores.
I want to leave you with a bit of wisdom I learned from a sign in my childhood barber shop: “If you like your haircut, tell others. If not, tell me!” If you have any concerns about your children's education, please know we are eager to hear about it and put supports in place. If you love HBHA, please consider writing a Google review and/or a Facebook recommendation about your experience. The community needs to hear about your positive experiences.
Head of School
It’s been a great week! Every morning we have been reminded to “stay woke” by the call of our shofar. We are, as a community, continually called to be Rodephei Shalom, or “Pursuers of Peace.” As such, HBHA instituted a new Hakarat HaTov (Recognizing the Good) program this week, where students can recognize one another for acts of kindness or generosity they have witnessed. There were more than 20 different students recognized this morning, in our first week of the new program. We are proud of the menschlichkeit of our students!
But that’s not all we are proud of: Our middle school soccer team won their first two games of the season, against Barstow and Pembroke, and our Cross Country and Varsity soccer teams are also working hard. We are a school of scholars, mensches, and athletes!
Finally, we had our first PTO 2.0 event last night. Twenty two participants came for almost three hours of conversation, creative thinking and building, and laughs. In the process, some profound discoveries were made last night. One of the common themes: people often feel isolated, alone, or simply on the outside of community. We realized we need to do more as a community to bridge the gaps between families of different ages, between religious denominations, and between people born in Kansas City and those who have moved here. The work of building community is real - and important - work.
In our Design Thinking process last night we generated many brilliant community-building ideas which I will share with you as we progress. This work of identifying our opportunities for growth and brainstorming solutions is still in its infancy; but for now, I can tell you our community is already tighter and stronger than it was. Our needs and values are being recognized, a vision is coming into shape, friendships are being created and strengthened, and our batteries be being recharged. I am very excited to develop next steps and see where this leads us. I hope you will join us in the work.
As always, I am grateful for your partnership.
Head of School