This week we had the honor to host the ISACS visiting team - a group of experienced teachers, administrators and board members from independent schools from all over the Midwest. Their visit was the hands-on review portion of ISACS' standard accreditation process. Their goal: To examine every aspect of our school - from the physical plant, to the curriculum, to the admissions policy, to board governance. All of this with the purpose of providing HBHA with commendations and recommendations that will help us further our mission, and remain an accredited institution of learning.
I am thrilled to say that their visit was a resounding success. The visiting team was taken by our close ‘family’ atmosphere, by our experienced and deeply committed faculty, and by our devoutly committed community. It was both exciting and affirming to see a team of people from disparate schools confirm what we already know: that HBHA is a warm, caring, and academically challenging environment.
Of course, there were some meaningful recommendations as part of the team's feedback. Schools are always growing and changing, and as such, we have much to do to ensure we are doing the hard work required to grow and change in the right way...and at the right pace. In the words of Rabbi Bob Dylan, “Those not busy being born are busy dying.” We - as a community and as a school - are very busy being born!
On a personal note, I feel very grateful that we were able to go through this ISACS process this year. It highlights HBHA’s amazing strengths while helping us guide our way to continued academic excellence and financial sustainability. I am incredibly grateful to find myself in the presence of such committed, thoughtful, experienced educators and administrators, and in the midst of such a warm, kind and generous community.
It’s that time of year: Regular flu and other viruses are running rampant. These, along with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) updates earlier this week about the status of coronavirus (COVID-19), are a good reminder that illness prevention is critical.
As the CDC emphasized, there is not currently a coronavirus pandemic in the United States. A pandemic occurs when a disease is spreading from a variety of sources across a large region, and the number of cases across the U.S. is still small. However, given how quickly the global situation is evolving, we are monitoring new developments and will continue to reevaluate our steps and actions daily.
As we keep an eye on the coronavirus, we are also focused on proactive steps to prevent the spread of all illnesses at HBHA.
Each classroom has hand sanitizer in it, and Nurse Pener and our faculty are reminding students to wash their hands well, and teaching our younger students how to wash properly. We strongly encourage you to do the same at home.
As we all are aware, the most effective way to stay healthy and minimize the spread of infectious disease is to follow general flu prevention measures, including:
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or sleeve
- Wash your hands regularly
- Avoid touching your face
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick
- Get your flu shot - it's never too late
Stay home if you're feeling sick. Call your doctor and describe your symptoms and travel history. Flu and coronavirus have slow incubation periods.
There are no plans to close school at this time. This is an extreme measure that can be disruptive to day-to-day life, and any decision to implement will be at the direction of public health experts. Our community is prepared to alter our procedures and planning should the situation change. We will communicate any changes clearly when the time is appropriate.
It is important to remember that handling the spread of a serious contagion like the coronavirus is primarily a task for public health agencies. Any directives from the World Health Organization, CDC, or local governmental organizations should be followed.
In times like this, we are particularly grateful for the support and understanding of the HBHA community.
In this week’s Torah portion, Yitro, after the giving of the 10 commandments, we find the following curious line:
“If(when) you make for me an altar of stones, do not build it with hewn stones, for by wielding your tool (sword) upon them you have profaned them.” (Exodus 20:22)
Isn’t it unnecessary to say that?
Who would bother cutting stones anyway?
In New England, there are fieldstone walls built all over the place, each containing full, uncut stones. Who would bother cutting them? Those stones were built by the people who originally tilled the fields and found each stone, one at a time, before placing them carefully and thoughtfully together to create a wall. It was a labor of love in which each stone was considered individually.
Today, when we need to get something big done, we tend to use a factory model, with distribution of labor. Thus, one team of people cuts the stones; another lays them down. A process like this doesn’t require much thinking, which is the hardest, most time-consuming part of any project.
In Parshat Yitro, following closely after the giving of the 10 commandments, I believe the altar represents the community. It brings everyone together, serving to create a beautiful whole out of unique individuals - all in the service of G-d.
Today, our school is like the altar, and the stones are our students. Like the altar, we have to make sure we never apply a factory model to our children. Each one is unique, each one should be respected and admired according to their own merits. Placed carefully together, each with its own unique attributes, we have a beautiful community. For if we attempt to make each child the same simply to make our job easier, we do a grave injustice to both the students and our society.
Our teachers do the work to know each child as they are, and follow the words of Proverbs 22:6: “Teach each child according to their way.”
To teach with a high level of thought, individuality and care is exhausting. Our teachers know this is the most important work there is. They are builders of children and of community, and I am grateful for the love they have of their craft and of our children.
Kirk Douglas died this week at the age of 103.
Now, I admit that I am more familiar with the work of his son Michael Douglas, but there is no doubt that in his time, Kirk Douglas was as big a movie star as they come. He was the star of Spartacus, which is described as, “A motion picture unequal in the entire history of film-making, unlikely ever to be surpassed!” But of course, I’m not writing to tout the movie version of Spartacus.
What interests me about Kirk Douglas is this: until his death, he studied Torah regularly. His hevruta, or study partner, was Rabbi David Wolpe, who wrote an article about their relationship in today’s New York Times. The article brought back many memories:
of the long and intimate conversations I had with my hevrutot while studying Torah;
about the struggles and frustrations I felt trying to understand the mindset of our G-d in the ancient texts we study;
about that feeling of connection I felt to the hundreds of generations before me and the hundreds to come; and
about the shared experiences I had with every Jew who has read these stories and shared my experience.
I never met Kirk Douglas, but I met the same texts he’s met. He is, in my mind, a friend of a friend, just one step away.
It made me wonder- where is my hevruta? The truth is, I don’t have one - and I should. I don’t want to look back and the age of 103 (G-d willing!) and wonder why I didn’t make more room for learning. In the words of Hillel the Elder from Pirkei Avot, “Do not say you will study when you are free. Perhaps you will never be free!”
If you are interested in learning together, there are so many opportunities: learn from your children, learn from MeltonKC, or send me a note so we can learn together as HBHA parents. I would love to learn with you!
What do the Kansas City Chiefs have in common with the Koala Bear Hospital in Australia?
The answer is HBHA's 3rd grade class.
Since the beginning of the school year, our third grade students have been immersed in Chiefs-based learning: They have tracked the scores and statistic from each game. They have charted the geography and distance of each away game. They have watched game synopses on Monday mornings. And they have discussed the issues of cultural approbation in do the “Tomahawk Chop.“ In short, the Chiefs have been a vehicle for learning all over the curriculum.
When the bush fires swept through Australia, killing about a third of the world’s koala population, the third grade knew they had to do something. They sprang into action, using their love and passion for the Chiefs to raise money. They created art, which was turned into stickers, which were then sold to students and faculty all week. This morning they sold coffee and collected additional donations in the morning. After raising $1,000 this week, plus obtaining a matching grant for up to another $1,000, these students are very excited to send a check for $2000 to support the only Koala hospital in Australia.
Please check out these videos, one from our 3rd grade class, and one from an Australian friend who is helping facilitate the giving of the gift.
Our students have embodied the words of Anne Frank when she said, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
Shabbat Shalom and Go Chiefs!