Krieger Schechter Day School will be starting its school year with two new faces in the halls, and they come in the form of high-level staffers. Josh Bender has been hired as the new head of the lower school and Andrea Cheatham Kasper as the director of teaching and learning. The moves come one year after the retirement of longtime head of school Paul D. Schneider and the appointment of Bil Zarch in his stead.
For both positions, said Zarch, KSDS went on a national search. Bender, he said, “just stood out. There was something about him that we all felt he was going to be a great match.”
Kasper, said Zarch, “is a rising star.”
Bender took over the position from Sandra Medoff, who retired at the end of the 2012-2013 school year. Bender has worked in Baltimore before, as head of the religious school at Beth Am Synagogue downtown. For the last six years, he has been working as the director of education at Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, D.C. He is also a graduate of the then- Baltimore Hebrew University.
Bender recently was accepted into the Day School Leadership Training Institute at Jewish Theological Seminary.
“I am coming into a very successful school community that is so committed to education and Jewish community,” Bender said. “The level of dedication, commitment to everyone in the school is incredible.
Bender said he is taking his first year to focus on listening and learning. He plans to get to know the students and staff before moving too many new initiatives forward. But, he said, KSDS will implement some new professional development opportunities, launch a new social/emotional curriculum and do some work surrounding improvement of the school’s prayer experience. Bender is also bringing a program he calls Ta’am Shabbat (Taste of Shabbat), which will bring the school community together around Shabbat preparation.
Said Bender: “I feel more than anything incredibly fortunate to be part of this community.”
For her part, Kasper is also feeling fortunate. She was tapped for her position — a new position — by Zarch, who had worked with Kasper at his previous position in Boston. For the past five years, Kasper has been living with her family in Iceland and working on a Ph.D. in Jewish education. She said her role is “a large job, with many, many hats” and will focus on creating educational alignment between the curricula of grades K through 8. According to Zarch, there are 353 students enrolled in the school for the coming year.
Additionally, she will try to create what she terms “a learning community” at KSDS, helping teachers and parents gain a clear understanding of “what does good teaching at KSDS look like.”
Zarch said that Kasper impressed him and other school leaders with her deep knowledge of education and her desire to constantly improve her practice. He noted that Kasper is fluent in three languages — English, Hebrew and Spanish — the three languages taught at KSDS. Additionally, she has taught in Jewish and secular school systems, making her well versed in both equally important aspects of the KSDS education.
Zarch said Kasper will work closely with the teachers, invested in their growth.
“We are really committed to looking at how we can improve our practice,” he said. “When teachers are feeling like they are getting their needs met, it improves what happens in the classroom. There is a direct correlation.”
Said Kasper: “I am really excited about the ideas of innovative education and entrepreneurial education. … My work in my doctorate is all about educational leadership, and I am especially interested in institutional changes, in organizations and how they evolve and move forward their cultures.”