Kassissieh Moving On

Richard Kassissieh announces plans for next year

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Photo: Abby Formella

Richard Kassissieh high-fives a student on the first day of school in 2019.

After 10 years, Assistant Head of School for Academic and Strategic Initiatives Richard Kassissieh will be leaving University Prep at the end of the school year.

Next year, Kassissieh will be wor

king as the head of school at Stratford Hall in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“I was not trying to leave UPrep. It’s more that this opportunity came along and it’s a nice step in my career,” Kassissieh said.

According to Head of School Ronnie Codrington-Cazeau, Kassissieh has been preparing to make this transition in his career.

“People realized really quickly that he could do a lot more for the school and he wanted to become a head of school,” Codrington-Cazeau said. “So the heads [of school] that he’s worked with have given him more tasks to get him ready to be a head of school.”

Kassissieh came to UPrep in 2012 after working as the Technology Director at Catlin Gable in Portland. He used his technology background to pioneer the Middle School’s iPad program and the Upper School’s computer program. He also moved the school to the Schoology platform from Moodle — a separate online system the school used.

Kassissieh noted his work on the most recently completed 5-year strategic plan as well as the creation of the newest plan announced in 2021. He implemented intensives, created new schedules for the school, created more leadership opportunities for teachers —like grade-level deans —  and worked closely with other faculty to imagine and design the ULab, which is set to break ground on March 5. Kassissieh has also helped students take agency in their learning.

“I’m most proud of the new opportunities we created for students to set their own learning goals and pursue them,” Kassissieh said.

For example, he had a part in making LaunchPad a requirement, giving students choice in their English and history electives, allowing students to participate in Global Online Academy courses and finding ways for students to connect their learning in the classrooms to other experiences — such as eighth grade Capstone and Global Link trips.

“High schools nationally are a little bit restrictive,” Kassissieh said. “There’s this national tendency to really focus on a narrow definition of college preparation. And I like to think that we’ve expanded that here. We have embraced the ability to be flexible, where that’s possible.”

Codrington-Cazeau also noted Kassissieh’s role in implementing the student notes system — where teachers leave information about students learning and participation in class for their future teachers. She was also impressed by his role in giving department heads more leadership opportunities and his creation of a lot of the computer systems UPrep uses.

High schools nationally are a little bit restrictive. There’s this national tendency to really focus on a narrow definition of college preparation. And I like to think that we’ve expanded that here. We have embraced the ability to be flexible, where that’s possible.”

— Assistant Head of School for Academic and Strategic Initiatives Richard Kassissieh

According to Codrington-Cazeau, UPrep will be hiring for a director of academics — not an assistant head of school to fill Kassissieh’s position.

“We’re going to go backwards a little bit to the original position, which is someone just to align curriculum and work with department chairs and make sure that [students] are learning the right stuff to get ready for college,” Codrington-Cazeau said.

She hopes the next director of academics will continue Kassisseh’s approach to making innovative and bold changes.

“I think intensives was something that a lot of people thought ‘oh, that will never work at UPrep,’  and it worked because he believed it would work,” Codrington-Cazeau said. “I want someone with that kind of creative energy who really believes that the changes that they think are good for the school will work at the school.”

Kassissieh is excited for the future of UPrep and hopes to return for the opening of the ULab in the fall of 2023.

“I think that a vibrant institution is one that is constantly thinking about how the world is changing,” Kassissieh said. “I think that spirit of ‘let’s constantly think about what other opportunities are’ is the most important thing. If that sticks around, I’ll be happy — even if UPrep looks different in the future than the way I’ve left it.”