In her second year as principal, Simone Rick-Kennel oversaw the construction of the G-Wing and worked to improve the quality of life for students at M-A. Going forward, she wants to build on M-A’s community and bring students out of their comfort zones to try new things and meet new people.
One of the largest changes during Kennel’s time as principal was the construction of the new G-Wing. While the official grand opening for the new building is in August, multiple classes have already moved in to finish out the school year. The new building features “classrooms with flexible furniture, Chromebook carts and collaborative spaces,” said Kennel. “[The new building] has really opened up the campus with a beautiful central courtyard and areas for students to hang out.”
Kennel continues to oversee M-A construction, with the on-going “second phase” construction of a new, six-classroom STEM building, a new main kitchen, blacktop restrooms, and resurfaced tennis courts. The unending construction seeks to get classes out of the temporary portables and into permanent new classrooms. Like the construction of the G-Wing, Kennel will decide on logos, colors, and furniture for the STEM wing, “all important decisions for a building that will last for many years to come.”
In her second year, Kennel oversaw changes for the student body as well. One of her main goals was to help incoming freshmen transition to M-A. With the recent boundary changes, M-A has been able to strengthen collaboration with partner districts to promote a smooth transition to high school; however, Kennel also wanted to help new students once they arrived at M-A. Previously, freshmen received their schedules on the first day of school and had to frantically find their classes during the five minute passing period. Kennel changed this process. “While this may seem minor,” she said, “I changed our arena check in so ninth grade students could get their schedules and find their classes before coming to school on the first day.”
Kennel also wanted to make M-A feel like a more unified community. Because of M-A’s diverse student population there is a rift in the student body. Many students simply remain friends with the people they grew up with and do not meet new people. Kennel hopes to encourage students to change this division. In her words, “M-A is seen by some as being ‘two schools’… My goal is to build our community so all students feel connected to it, and my hope is that the perception of being two schools fades away. Not an easy task, but one I welcome.”
Under Kennel, M-A has been branching out in order to give students access to a broader range of knowledge. M-A has been able to add new classes, such as Marine Biology, AP Computer Science Principles, and Speech and Debate. Also, with the help of teachers, M-A students now have access to Career Technical Education pathways. Kennel hopes to continue improving students’ academic experiences. Going forward, she wants to “increase the number of students who graduate college, are career ready, and take honors and AP classes.”
Kennel has her work cut out for her to accommodate M-A’s growing class sizes, with an estimated 2,400 students attending M-A next year. As she continues into her third year as principal, Kennel wants M-A to continue on its forward trajectory but acknowledges that M-A would not be what it is without the support of students, parents, and the community behind it. To those reading this, Kennel would like to say this:
“While awards and accolades are nice and a testament to our work, the number of compliments we receive about our students and our teachers and our faculty from visitors is remarkable. This doesn’t mean our challenges don’t exist or that we are perfect by any means. We have our work to do but are lucky to have a school with a rich history, strong legacy, and continued support from our community.”