Principal Appreciation Month Q&A

October is National Principals Month, a month to honor the nation’s principals and how they contribute to school improvement and students’ success. The Hyde Park Herald will feature principals from local schools each week throughout the month.

Miriam Kass, grade school principal at Akiba-Schechter Jewish Day School, 5235 S. Cornell Ave., sits in the library with some of the school’s eighth grade students. -Photo courtesy of Akiba-Schechter Jewish Day School

Principal: Miriam Kass, grade school principal
School: Akiba-Schechter Jewish Day School
Address:  5235 S. Cornell Ave.
Phone:  773-493-8880

HPH: What is the highlight of being principal at your school?

MK: The highlight of being the principal at Akiba-Schechter is the privilege I get to work alongside an amazing group of administrators and teachers every day. We are a team of educators who are constantly learning from one another and from our wonderful students. As Principal, I get to walk into classes throughout the day and witness students and teachers alive with curiosity, passion and excitement for learning.

HPH: Describe your school’s culture.

MK: Throughout Akiba-Schechter, from our community preschool and kindergarten to our Jewish grade school, we believe in teaching children, not subjects. We are guided by our respect for all humanity and our commitment to providing an environment rich in joyful experiences of Judaism. And in grades one through eight, we value our Jewish unity as we bring children, families and staff together from every walk of Jewish identification. With these guiding core values, we facilitate a vibrant, healthy and intellectually challenging learning environment with excellent Judaic, Hebrew and general studies programs.

HPH: What is your school doing well?

MK: We are listening to our students, partnering with our parents, and collaborating with our colleagues well. We are finding innovative ways to differentiate instruction across all grade levels and disciplines. We are making time and providing opportunities for our students to develop leadership skills and confidence from a young age. We are also the first Jewish day school to have a research and development department focused on innovation in education.

We are graduating eighth graders who all go on to attend to their first or second choice high schools including Kenwood Academy, Walter Payton College Prep, Lincoln Park High School, Jones College Prep, Whitney Young, Lane Tech, Ida Crown Jewish Academy, Wolcott, and Rochelle Zell Jewish High School.

HPH: In what ways does your school connect with the community?

MK: We are always finding new ways to connect with the community, some formal and some informal. Here are just a few examples:

This past summer, our kindergarten-aged summer campers discovered the chess players across the street in Harold Washington Park on one of their outings. The children became fascinated in the game and spent the rest of the summer learning how to play, including taking several trips back to the park with their own tables and chess boards to join the regulars.

Every spring, our seventh and eighth graders spend two months of art class time at the Hyde Park Art Center working on ceramics projects.

Each of our eighth graders plans and executes a Chesed project, a project to help others, during their last year at Akiba-Schechter. So far this year, our students have made bookmarks for the residents at The Selfhelp Home in Lakeview and they have decorated fabric squares for Project Linus, an organization that makes and delivers quilts for children in local hospitals.

HPH:  What are your feelings on parent and community volunteer involvement in school? How can they get involved?

MK: We believe that it is necessary to develop a strong partnership between school and home. One way this can be achieved is by providing many opportunities for parents to help out in the school building. Some examples of these opportunities include setting up or serving lunch, helping to make costumes for the school play, and chaperoning field trips. Every year, parents play key roles in planning both community-building and fundraising events to support our school. This year, every member of our faculty read Ross Greene’s book, “Lost At School” that helped us better understand that kids do well if they can, and challenging behaviors require more empathy and a collaborative approach to problem solving. To provide our parent body with the same sort of support and tools, we are hosting a book group for parents who want to read Ross Greene’s book for parents called “Raising Human Beings.”

Upcoming events at Akiba-Schechter

Makerspace Grand Opening and Open House for current and prospective families. Sunday, Oct. 28. 9:30 a.m. -10 a.m. Open to the entire community.  During the event there will be an “Early Childhood Making Music” program from 10 a.m. to noon. To RSVP contact Yelena Spector at

Compiled by Tia Carol Jones