by Robin Bosworth ’24
At 4:20 p.m., the school day ends for most students and faculty at The Leffell School. They turn off their computers, go home and relax, but not Head of School Dr. Michael Kay or Associate Head of School Rabbi Harry Pell. They work late into the night preparing for the next day, responding to emails and holding last minute meetings.
Entering a new community is always tricky, especially as an essential leader. Although it feels like he has been a part of the community for a long time, when Kay first started at TLS eight years ago, he knew he had to earn the trust of the school.
“There are so many people in our community, including faculty and staff, parents, students and donors for whom knowing and having a relationship of trust with the head of school is critical,” Kay said. “I like to think I’ve had some success at building those relationships, but every year hundreds of new people come into the community, so that never really stops.”
One key difference between Pell and Kay’s roles is that Pell teaches two classes, thus has the opportunity to interact with students more frequently.
“If I had more time, I would probably put it into things like spending more time with students,” Pell said. “I look forward to the day when COVID is gone, and we’re all just hanging out in the cafeteria because that made it so easy to just interact with students more casually outside of class.”
Although there are many elements to his job, Pell’s students recognize the amount of work he puts into preparing for class and making an effort to form a relationship with everyone. He has also officiated weddings of his previous students, highlighting the relationships he works to form with them.
“Rabbi Pell greets everyone one by one when they walk in and asks about their day or weekend,” senior Jonah Kalter said. “You can definitely tell he has a lot of passion for what he does, especially because he’s so busy with other things throughout the day.”
Pell and Kay’s roles at TLS have been heavily impacted by COVID, as they are in charge of handling it for the school. Before last year, Pell took on the role as the COVID Response Coordinator, partnering closely with Kay and the Medical Advisory Committee. This year, addressing COVID protocols has completely shifted for Kay.
“Last year, operating safely in the pandemic was the number one strategic priority of the school,” Kay said. “Operating during COVID is not a strategic priority anymore. I’d say it’s an operational priority. We have the big educational things the school is trying to achieve, and we have the obstacles from COVID.”
Even without COVID, everyone’s lives are hectic and could benefit from more time to dedicate to various projects. For example, Kay wishes he had more time to spend working on bigger picture projects.
“I really want to be accessible to people,” Kay said. “My job is to make sure that everyone in this community is having a positive experience.”