With Heil and Laba departing from ESD at the end of the school year, the upper school office gets ready to welcome two new faces

By Brooke Ebner

Josephine Mucciolo, upper school’s academic service coordinator, has walked  into the upper school office every morning for the past six years ready to start her day alongside Head of Upper School Henry Heil and Assistant Head of Upper School Jeff Laba. But it will not be long before this changes, as next school year Mucciolo will be working with two new faces in the upper school office.

Both Heil and Laba announced that they will be leaving ESD at the end of the school year. Heil will be moving to Columbus, Georgia where he will start his new role as head of school at the Brookstone School on July 1. Laba will retire, after 34 years at ESD, at the end of the school year and will move in two years to Vermont with his wife.

Matt Peal was named the new head of upper school on March 9. For the past two years, Peal has been the head of upper school at the O’Neal School in Southern Pines, North Carolina.

“This is my second year of my second stint, so I started my teaching career actually at O’Neal,” Peal said. “I was an AP U.S. History teacher and baseball and basketball coach, [then I] left to go to graduate school and moved around to other various schools for the last few years, and then I came back two years ago.”

Peal grew up in Douglasville, Georgia, attended college at the University of Georgia and went to graduate school at Columbia University. He will be moving to Texas this summer with his wife and three kids who will attend ESD in the fall. “I am most looking forward to meeting the faculty and staff, getting to know them, [and] I’m looking forward to getting to know the kids,” Peal said. “And [I’m looking forward to] my first Spirit Week and Friday night football game — those kinds of things where you just see the community in full force.” 

Although Peal won’t officially start at ESD until the beginning of July, he has already begun connecting with the community.

“Mr. Heil has been really great about accommodating me, and he has invited me to sit in on various meetings, so I can get a glimpse of what they look like,” Peal said. “I would say maybe once a week I’m sitting in on a meeting of some sort, whether it’s a faculty meeting or a student life meeting, whatever the case may be. They’ve been great about bringing me in and letting me see how things are working.”

Peal was drawn to ESD’s excellence in all areas of student life.

“ESD is kind of a renowned school [and] you all excel in almost every facet of school life, whether it’s academics or athletics or the arts,” Peal said. “And so you combine that with just an unbelievable foundation, [a] set of principles geared towards character development and inspiring and consciousness, a conscious mind, [and] those are all reasons for a guy like myself to be attracted to a school that works daily to help young people be better.”

Mucciolo thinks this transition will be similar to when Heil came to ESD.

“It’s just going to be a matter of making sure that [Peal] knows what’s going on and to stay on task,” Mucciolo said. “[It’s] pretty similar to when Mr. Heil came in because they don’t really know our community.”

 Heil, although he wasn’t part of the hiring team, has gotten to know Peal. He thinks that Peal’s prior experience and traits will make him a great new head of upper school.

“I think my sense is that he is a good listener, that he is really personal and approachable, [and] I think that he has a good sense of humor,” Heil said. “I think that he really likes upper school students. I think he’s been in education long enough to understand the nuances of what makes teaching difficult, but also what makes it so rewarding. He’s gonna be a really good partner for all the faculty, and I think he’s gonna be a great mentor and role model for all the students.”

Mucciolo will also be working in the upper school office next year Max Augé, who currently teaches upper school science and is an 11th and 12th grade advisor. Augé will take on the assistant head of upper school position as soon As Laba reires. Augé has been teaching at ESD for 15 years.

“I love this community, and I felt like I was well suited for the position,” Augé said. “Anything I can do to serve the kids, the teachers and the mission, sign me up because I strongly believe in what we do in the long run.”

Even though Augé will not be teaching next school year, he will still be able to interact with kids in the classroom.

“What I enjoy most is my interactions with kids in the classroom,” Augé said. “It’s the conversations, it’s the getting to know you, it’s challenging you, helping you reach your goals, but I feel like I can still do that as the assistant head of upper school. I’m most excited about the fact that my classroom just got a bit bigger, [and] I see all 400 plus of you as my students, as my pupils, as my seedlings. Let’s just say that as my little seedlings that I can work and help you on your path to your full oak tree glory.”

Augé will be missed in the classroom. Junior Cara Lichty had Augé her freshman year in honors biology and also this year as her advisor and AP biology teacher. She likes how interactive and engaging he makes the class.

“Mr. Augé’s classes have always been my favorite due to his discussion-based teaching style,” Lichty said. “Rather than having us sit down and listen to a lecture or memorize a list of terms, Mr. Augé has us apply what we read about to the real world, helping us to refine our knowledge and apply it.”

Lichty also recognizes the care Augé has for his students’ success, either as a teacher or in an administrative role. 

“Mr. Augé genuinely cares about his students, and he makes this clear by checking up on us and giving us advice,” Lichty said. “I think Mr. Augé’s caring and thoughtful teaching style will translate into him being the perfect person to fill his new position, giving a new meaning to discipline to students and teachers.”

Anything I can do to serve the kids, the teachers and the mission, sign me up because I strongly believe in what we do in the long run.

Max Augé

Heil, who was a member of the hiring team for the new assistant head of upper school, was impressed by Augé’s questions during the interview process.

“He’s got a mind that is inquisitive and that’s gonna serve him really well in that role,” Heil said. “His vision for what the upper school could and should be was compelling. His name is one that emerges during senior exit interviews as one of the most influential teachers here at ESD and I think that demonstrates his connection with students.”

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