By Sabrina Sayed
Dr. Jean Kendall has been a part of the Manhasset community for as long as any of us can remember. She first began as a fifth-grade teacher at Shelter Rock School. In 1990, she became the assistant principal of Shelter Rock, then five years later, she began her role at Munsey Park.
“I fell in love with it,” she said and, we fell in love with her. Dr. Kendall has enjoyed the Manhasset community very much as she has shared a great deal of their values in her work as a principal.
“The Manhasset community is focused on family and the betterment and guidance and care for their children—and that’s what I do.”
Kendall has established a trust between the community and the school to always do what is best for the kids. She finds it especially important for educational administrators and teachers to always focus on the importance of their jobs and never take their eyes off of that mission.
Under her guidance and with the help of her administrative staff and the teachers, Munsey Park School earned the Blue Ribbon Award, a national recognition by the U.S. Department of Education for schools with overall academic excellence and high achievement. Throughout her principalship, she implemented a more personal approach where, though the school is large, students feel like they are in a small school. As a former Munsey Park student, I can speak to the fact that Munsey Park always felt like a small school where everyone knew everyone’s name.
Now, after 23 years, Kendall has been given a “chance” to be Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources. She describes this new opportunity as “exciting.”
“I like to learn new things. I like to have my mind expand and to think about new issues,” she said. Although it is bittersweet for her, the transition is meant to be.
When asked what her reasoning was for this new chapter in her life, Dr. Kendall pulled out a book called, What Do You Do With A Chance? by Kobi Yamada, and began to read:
“‘One day I got a chance. It just seemed to show up. It acted like it knew me, as if it wanted something… What do you do with a chance, I wondered.’”
The book is about a little boy who is faced with many opportunities that the author calls “chances.” Initially, the boy doesn’t have the courage to take his first chance. The next time he reaches for it, he misses and falls. Feeling mortified and never wanting to feel that way again, he decides to ignore any other chances that come his way. The more he ignores them, the less they came around. Finally, he promises himself that if another chance came around, he would take it at all costs. Now with courage, the little boy grabbed onto a chance and never let it go.
“‘So, what do you do with a chance? You take it. Because it might just be the start of something incredible,’” she read. Kendall was handed an opportunity she wasn’t necessarily looking for and so she took it because she has incredible faith in herself and her future.
Along with her years of experience and a degree, she brings the teddy bears that have decorated her office for years, her hard hat, and her golden shovel to her new position.
“The teddy bears to remember the soft side, the hard hat to remind me to do the hard jobs and the golden shovel that reminds me to dig in and learn.”
Perhaps we should all take a page out of Kendall’s book and take advantage of every opportunity that may fly our way, being sure to approach it with the same self-confidence and passion that she has.
Sabrina Sayed is sophmore at Washington Univversity at St. Louis and graduated Manhasset High School in 2017.