Starting Out with a Change


Alex Sher

Smaller mentoring groups, nine new teachers and a back to school party that is not a pool party: Clearly this year, the Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy has undergone many changes.
     One of the biggest changes has been a change in administration. Last year’s one principal has been replaced with two new principals, one for Upper School and one for Lower and Middle School.
      “When I came to the school, there was a high school and lower/middle school principal,” said Howard Haas, HBHA’s Head of School. “After my second year, we had only one principal for budget reasons. She did an outstanding job, but she had so many issues to deal with that she couldn’t be in the classrooms evaluating teachers.”
        Haas believes that regardless of who took on the position, it was  too much work for one person.
In addition to a desire for a more involved principal, the Independent Schools Association of the Central State evaluated HBHA last year and suggested an additional principal. Administration decided to create two principal positions and began a nationwide search.
      For the past ten years, Jessica Kyanka–Maggart has enriched the school as a teacher. She applied for the position of principal and was amazed that the process was not nerve-racking for her. When she heard she was going to be the next Lower and Middle School Principal, she could not believe it.
     “I didn’t expect it [being selected as the new principal] because the process felt so relaxed,” said Kyanka­–Maggart.
Her familiarity with the school is beneficial to her new role in it. She has already taught and developed a relationship with all students in sixth through twelfth grade.
     “Knowing all of the students, already knowing the parents, and having already developed a strong working relationship with the HBHA staff has made the transition into this position smooth,” said Kyanka–Maggart.
     The job is definitely busier than last year for Kyanka-Maggart, who expects around 80 emails per day. However, she enjoys the hectic pace and always having something valuable to do. With her new position, Kyanka hopes to change the lower and middle schools for the better.
     “I want to help the school environment, and the instruction in the classrooms and the overall production of the school,” said Kyanka-Maggart.
     She also hopes to develop stronger relationships between the faculty and utilize staff meetings for staff members to learn together. Kyanka-Maggart aims to be available to support teachers with planning and problem solving and to spend more time in the classrooms to have a presence amongst the students. She wants to make the principal’s office a place to reward students, not to punish them. “I have been taking third graders into my office for a treat and a reward pencil for doing their summer homework,” said Kyanka-Maggart. “Eighty percent of the time kids come to my office, students assume they are in trouble
and get defensive. I want to change that mentality.”
     While she has many goals to improve the HBHA, she still appreciates how great of a school and working environment HBHA is. “I feel very fortunate to have this position,” said Kyanka-Maggart. “The HBHA is truly a special place.”
     Todd Clauer, the new Upper School Principal, has worked at HBHA for 14 years. During this time, he served as a teacher, mentor, Mathematics Department Chair, College Guidance Counselor, Cross Country coach, Student Council Advisor and more.  During the transition year of 2006-2007,  before Haas came to HBHA, Clauer stood as the interim Upper School Principal.
As principal, Clauer has many goals for the high school. One of his major goals is “to help all students to feel challenged and supported in developing their own identity and passions while also growing in skills and knowledge that will aid in future learning.” Clauer also aims to nurture students’ moral compasses, incorporate technology to enhance learning and create strong school spirit and Jewish celebrations. Lastly, Clauer plans to choose a social justice issue in Kansas City and involve the entire high school.
     With all of these ambitions as Upper School Principal, Clauer had to step down from some of his former responsibilities. However, he is still the Cross Country coach, AP Statistics Teacher, Mathematics Department Chair and College Guidance Counselor. When asked how he had time to do all that he does, he replied,  “I learned how to juggle when I was 20 and worked on a ropes course – it has come in handy ever since.”
     With Clauer’s optimism and eagerness to tackle difficult tasks and Kyanka­–Maggart’s dedication to cultivate meaningful relationships with all students and teachers, HBHA is embracing change head-on.
     “We truly have a dynamic duo running the school,” said Haas.