In defense of KHS


David Gaither

Principal Dr. Michael Havener dressed in royal outfit, holding the Bill of Rights.

To whom it may concern:

In 1990, the newspaper of Kirkwood High School published an ad that shocked a nation undergoing a large conservative movement. The advertisement was for Planned Parenthood, most notable for providing abortions, among other health services. Despite backlash from the community abroad, with the full support of their principal and the school board, the school paper published the ad. 

The name of the principal was Franklin McCallie; the name of the paper was The Kirkwood Call. McCallie was willing to stand up for his school, its publication and the First Amendment. With that came intense criticism. The same can be said for McCallie’s successors, Dr. David Holley and Dr. Michael Havener. After the publishing of controversial stories, Havener’s phone rings non-stop. To an outsider, it seems the obvious choice is to defend the work of your student body. It’s not. 

The state of Missouri doesn’t have any First Amendment protections for student press organizations like TKC. Instead, the privilege to write and publish freely is given by the support of a principal. Leadership isn’t about always being the tough guy, just as this isn’t only about TKC. Leadership is choosing to work with students directly, finding time to go to school events and remembering there’s a band at the football games too. 

At the end of this year, we’re losing our leader. Dr. Havener is retiring, and now it’s time to find a new figurehead. KHS needs someone who’s willing to do the things Dr. Havener and Mr. McCallie took on: protecting the free speech rights of their students and keeping the central office out of South Journalism (SJ). A leader should be willing to embrace the diversity of the people who look at them as an example. KHS is an ever-changing environment, filled with people from all walks of life. It needs a leader who isn’t scared to empathize and relate to the differences they might find in their students. Furthermore, the principal should be someone who knows what traditions are significant to KHS. Someone who knows the values of Turkey Day, the importance of the Friendship Dance and the inner workings of student culture. Without knowing what’s in-front of them, even the best leaders are disadvantaged. 

Leadership isn’t always about being the tough guy

Without a strong principal, we’ll get more phone calls. Not about the sacrilegious text printed in the magazine. No, that’ll be gone before the phones start ringing. It’ll be about how children are performing with low test scores. Calls about teachers quitting because no one is willing to protect their benefits in the central office. Parents complaining about the security starting to become loose.

Students have a voice in this process. Keep sending emails to central office, keep asking questions about how the next principal will be selected. Demand the ability to screen the principal candidates. KHS isn’t full of 7 year-olds. It’s full of young adults building a future for themselves. Taking pride in KHS means knowing what’s best for the school, and demanding nothing less. Demand to know that you won’t be censored by overbearing board members and superintendents. Demand to know that the next principal is willing to be the face of KHS. Demand to know that KHS will hire a candidate who acknowledges the diversity of a high school environment. Demand to know that KHS will hire someone who knows the value of our traditions. Demand a Franklin McCallie. Demand a Dr. David Holley. Demand a Dr. Michael Havener. Demand excellence in our leaders, and be upset if we don’t find that.