Alumni CLASnotes Fall 2007
In This Issue:

Alumni Spotlights

Build a School, Rebuild a City

English alumnus Brian Dassler has been tapped to open a progressive new high school in New Orleans.
English alumnus Brian Dassler has been tapped to open a
progressive new high school in New Orleans.
Brian Dassler, a UF English alumnus, will soon embark on a new teaching adventure as the founding principal of a high school in New Orleans. “I believe schools are places where dreams come true,” Dassler said. “I have a deep commitment to social justice, democracy and pluralism, and teaching is my way of honoring those commitments because I believe well educated people make our nation and the world better places for everyone.”

Earlier this year, Dassler accepted one of 15 Fisher Fellowships with the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP). The Fisher Fellowship provides one year of education and training in anticipation of becoming the founding principal of a KIPP school in a low income community at the conclusion of the fellowship.

The year includes a summer program in management and educational leadership at Stanford University and then extensive residencies at KIPP and partner schools across the country. Dassler just concluded one month at the KIPP high school in Gaston, N.C. His next residency will be at Houston’s YES College Prep, where he will focus on the operational aspects of school leadership.

Dassler applied for the fellowship in October 2006 after hearing KIPP co-founder Mike Feinberg speak at a conference sponsored by the Florida Department of Education. A year earlier, in November 2005, Dassler and the other KIPP co-founder Dave Levin were speaking on the same panel sponsored by Leadership Florida.

“I was impressed first by Dave and then by Mike and compelled by their vision and resolved to join them and the team of energetic, committed educators they were assembling from around the country,” Dassler said. “This team, now numbering over 4,000 in 57 schools in 17 states, is confronting our generation’s number one civil rights issue—equity and excellence in education for every student.”

Dassler has decided New Orleans will be the site of KIPP’s new high school. “When Adam Meinig, the principal of KIPP: Believe College Prep (a middle school) in New Orleans—whose motto is ‘Build a School, Rebuild a City’—introduced me to his fifth graders saying, ‘Mr. Dassler might be the principal of your high school,’ the students cheered. How could I say no to that!?” Dassler said. He moves to New Orleans in January, while the new high school is projected to open in the fall of 2010 and graduate its first class in 2014.

Until recently, Dassler—who earned a B.A. in English in 2001 and a master’s in English education in 2002 from UF—taught 9th–11th grade English at Stranahan High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.and 12th graders in the school’s nationally recognized Urban Teacher Academy Program. The popular young teacher was named Broward County’s 2007 Teacher of the Year. While at UF, Dassler was selected as the 2001 Florida College Student of the Year by Florida Leader magazine.

To keep up with Dassler as he embarks on his new journey, check out his blog at www.bdaz.blogspot.com.

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