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Superintendent taps longtime Burton High principal to lead Willie Brown Middle School

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Burton High School Principal Bill Kappenhagen has been named the top administrator of Willie Brown Middle School, after the new school’s founding principal unexpectedly quit last week. Courtesy photo

District leaders announced Friday that longtime Burton High School Principal Bill Kappenhagen has been named the top administrator of Willie Brown Middle School, a highly-touted new institution in the Bayview shaken by the unexpected resignation of its founding principal last week.

In a letter handed to Willie Brown Middle School parents Friday afternoon, San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Richard Carranza said Kappenhagen’s nearly decade-long tenure at Burton – located in Visitacion Valley, not far from Willie Brown Middle School – includes raising both the school’s graduation rate and the number of students requesting to attend Burton.

Kappenhagen will assume the role of principal at Willie Brown Middle School on Oct. 19.

Demetrius Hobson resigned from that position Sept. 18, citing personal reasons, SFUSD spokeswoman Gentle Blythe said. The move reportedly followed a number of problems that arose at the school in its opening weeks, including the departure of a teacher in the first week, though district officials said Hobson did not resign because of those incidents.

Willie Brown Middle School, located at the same site as the former Willie Brown Middle School building that was taken down in 2011, and hyped for its high-tech labs and health efforts, is the first entirely new school constructed in The City since Dianne Feinstein Elementary School opened in 2005.

Kappenhagen announced his departure from Burton High in a letter to parents there that was also handed out Friday. He emphasized he will spend time at both schools during the transition, and that his replacement will ultimately be approved by the Board of Education.

“Opening a brand new school is an endeavor that is extraordinarily difficult and hard and trying, [but] with that i’m looking forward to establishing system and routines and helping staff clarify expectations among families and students,” Kappenhagen told the San Francisco Examiner on Friday.

“When [students] graduate from Willie Brown, they will be ready to flourish at a high school similar to Burton High School,” he added.

Before serving as principal of Burton High, Kappenhagen was the founding principal of a middle school in a Washington, DC, neighborhood similar to the Bayview.

“I asked Mr. Kappenhagen to lead Willie Brown because of his depth of experience and incredible track record in building and maintaining a positive school climate, growing a school’s academic and enrichment programs, and rallying the whole community around ensuring great outcomes for students,” Carranza wrote in his letter to Willie Brown parents.

“He has seen what students need to learn in middle school to be prepared socially, emotionally, and academically in order to thrive,” Carranza wrote.

Willie Brown Middle School’s’s interim principal, Tony Payne, will remain in that role until Kappenhagen takes over next month. Payne is also the director of Pre-K-8 and middle schools at the SFUSD.

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