Different Directors

There will be two new division heads next fall


Photo: Thea Martell

Next year Brian Johnson and Susie Wu will be the division directors.

Next school year, Director of Middle School Susie Wu will be changing roles at University Prep, and English teacher and eighth grade dean Brian Johnson will be filling her place. Both will have to face the challenge of learning and mastering these big new roles.
“Next year I will become the upper school division director,” Wu said. “So I will be in charge of supporting our students and teachers in grades nine through 12.”
Once the spot opened up, the decision of who would fill the position was able to happen very quickly.
Head of school Ronnie Codrington-Cazeau and Wu spoke about the opening.
“She knew I had had high school experience,” Wu said, and asked her if she would be up for the job. Wu was a high school teacher in Boston and Cupertino for 10 years and a program director for Rainier Scholars for 17 years before taking her first middle school position here at UPrep.
It was a hard decision for her to make.
“I am really going to miss the middle school,” Wu said. “I will miss the students. And I am really going to miss working with the middle school faculty,” especially, she noted, after the tight friendship bonds that were created over her five years as Division Director.
“I have been so happy, in a way I never expected,” Wu said, while talking about the Middle School..
The next big task was finding someone to replace Wu. She already had some ideas about where to look.
“I decided to take on the upper school division director position knowing that we had some really strong people in the middle school who would be able to fill my position,” Wu said.
The new director of the middle school will be English teacher and dean of eighth grade Brian Johnson.
“It will be the first time in fifteen years that I have not taught a class,” Johnson said. “I started teaching in 2008, so I think it will be quite strange not to go into a classroom in September.”
He applied for the position because of how long he’d spent teaching and feeling ready for a change.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity to just change and grow professionally, and so I feel good about the change,” Johnson said., “Also I feel a bit nervous.”
Both directors for middle school and upper school will be working all twelve months of the year, with no summer break.
For Johnson, his primary obstacle will be planning the sixth grade retreat in fall. He also mentioned other “major milestone events” will be on his radar during the summer.
The main role of the Directors of Middle and Upper School is supporting the students and teachers throughout the school year.
One of the first challenges Wu will have to face is the transition into the ULab, which will not be ready until after the first day of school in the 2023-24 school year. People’s schedules will have to change mid-way through the school year because of this.
“There will be some time—we don’t know how long yet—where we will be making adjustments to live here on [our current] campus until the ULab is officially open,” Wu said.
In the upper school, this often means “behind the scenes work” according to current Director of Upper School Joel Sohn “to support students, ways that classes are conducted or how we encourage certain types of curriculum to be revamped or renewed.”
The reason behind all of this is because Sohn received a job offer from the Head-Royce School in Oakland, California, where he will be the assistant head of school. He accepted this opportunity leaving his position of division director empty.
“I’m excited for Susie to take this on to see what it will be like,” Sohn said.