Former Burton High School Principal Bill Kappenhagen was named the top administrator of Willie Brown Middle School, after the new school's founding principal unexpectedly quit a month into the school year. Courtesy photo

New Willie Brown Middle School principal settling smoothly into role

School officials said Tuesday that Willie Brown Middle School’s new principal is settling smoothly into his role at the school, which quickly faced challenges after it opened in August.

Bill Kappenhagen, who previously served as principal of Burton High School for nine years, was tapped by San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Richard Carranza last month to lead The City’s first new public school in a decade. He started the job on Oct. 19.

He replaced founding principal Demetrius Hobson, who resigned from that position just one month into the school year Sept. 18, citing personal reasons.

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 have said Hobson did not resign because of those struggles.

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

As the dust settles from the principal change-up, Kappenhagen and Willie Brown Middle School’s two assistant principals are focused on building school traditions. The school has created a student government, clubs and parent teacher association, and scheduled a Halloween dance.

“Forming a new school community takes time but it is beginning to take shape at Willie Brown,” Carranza said in a statement to the San Francisco Examiner.

“The school has a talented team of educators and a great principal at the helm with Bill Kappenhagen,” he said. “While at Burton High School Mr. Kappenhagen rallied the whole community around ensuring great outcomes for students. He knows what students need to learn in middle school in order to be prepared socially, emotionally, and academically for high school.”

Meanwhile, Marlene Ligsay, a longtime mathematics teacher at Burton High who most recently served as assistant principal there, has been named the high school’s interim principal.

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