SHS welcomes former Branham principal to administration

September 4, 2015 — by Spring Ma and Eileen Toh

 Saratoga High’s new assistant principal Brian Thompson talks about his experiences here and at his previous high schools.

The clock strikes 5:30 a.m. as Saratoga High’s new assistant principal Brian Thompson prepares for another school day. With his contagious smile and black rectangular sunglasses perched on his head, Thompson begins the morning routine of making breakfast for his three kids, “jumping into the car” with his two sons that attend Foothill Elementary, and finally arriving on campus with wife, SHS guidance counselor Monique Young.

In the morning chaos of students rushing to their first-period classes, Thompson greets both staff and students, directing traffic in the parking lots with campus supervisor Mark Hernandez.

Thompson, who recently just began this routine, was welcomed to the school’s administration in the summer. He assumed the position of former assistant principal Kevin Mount, who resigned last school year and is now working at the district office.

Before coming to Saratoga High, Thompson was the principal of Branham High School (BHS) in San Jose for the past three years. He previously was an assistant principal at Leland High School for three years, taught social studies for over a decade at Pioneer High School and was a part of Pioneer’s administrative staff for another three years.

At Branham, Thompson was able to experience every facet of school campus and culture and was responsible for curriculum and extracurricular activities.

Thompson brought about significant improvements at Branham during his term: He added 22 new courses for the students, which allowed up to 500 students to enroll in AP classes. Not only did the students take more than 1,000 AP exams, which was an improvement from the previous 400, but the Branham administration also increased the school’s demographic representation to a more equal level.

“When I was first at BHS, only 30 percent of our students were going to four-year colleges,” Thompson said. “So it was pretty spectacular to increase the four-year college rates [up to 44 percent] by opening the doors for all students to access upper level curriculum.”

Transitioning to Saratoga High this year, Thompson has noticed certain similarities and differences between the Branham and Saratoga cultures. While students from each school have dreams and goals, the “college-going culture” pervades  Saratoga.

“Kids are always kids,” Thompson said. “But I think one of the differences is a lot of the culture that I was building at BHS is already here at Saratoga.”

With the alphabetical distribution of students for the administration introduced this year, Thompson hopes to foster a more personal connection with students.

“[At BHS,] I was responsible for everything on a macro level,” Thompson said. “[But here at SHS,] it’s more of a micro level where I get to take a chunk of the school to focus on and work one-on-one with.”

Thompson said he is particularly excited to work with around 300 students in his H-M alphabetical split, in comparison to the 1,500 students he oversaw at BHS. He looks forward to getting to know their families and working with students for courses, colleges and any problems they may encounter.

Initially, Thompson said his interest in teaching and administration stemmed from his own experiences at Gunderson High School and San Jose State University.

As a student who was “a little bit disengaged,” Thompson felt that his high school experience was often missing adults who were passionate about working with students. He would sometimes wonder, “What is wrong with this group of people that I’m around?” or “Why aren’t these people motivated to [take initiative]?”

“[My experiences] inspired me to become a teacher because I wanted to make a positive impact on my kids,” Thompson said. “I always remember wanting for every student to walk into my classroom and think that it was the class that got them to school and had them wanting to be here, and that they knew it was going to be a great day and they were going to have a great experience.”

Nevertheless, Thompson still cherished his high school experiences. As a baseball player and a student involved in leadership, Thompson said “being involved was and still is a big part of [his] mindset.”

“What drew me to SHS the most was becoming a part of the community,” Thompson said. “[Many of the kids here at SHS] grew up across the street as little ones and now they’re here as big kids. This whole mentality builds community, and I hope a person walking on campus will be made to feel a part of this community as well.”

Working with Young every day during staff meetings and conferences, Thompson said he is grateful for the opportunity to engage in pursuits that they both care so much about. Furthermore, Young and Thompson are able to “continue the conversation about school” not only at work, but also at home.

According to principal Paul Robinson, Thompson has already become a valuable part of the SHS administration team, someone who “brings a new perspective to [SHS] because he’s not as home grown.”

“I got to know Mr. Thompson as the principal of Branham High School, and I always thought it would be great to have him as part of the administration team,” Robinson said. “Many folks would see moving from a principal at one school to vice principal at another as a demotion, but he looked at it as an opportunity.”

Though he has just began to work at SHS, Thompson said he already feels a part of the Falcon family.

“I have to say that from the beginning, everyone has been so nice and kind, and kids are coming up to introduce themselves,” Thompson said. “It’s been very welcoming so far.”

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