New Brentwood assistant principal focused on expanding cyber options
After working with 23 school districts across Westmoreland County to build an extensive cyber program for more than 3,000 students, Jim Cassell is ready to bring his skills to the Brentwood Borough School District.
Cassell, 37, of Moon, started as the assistant principal at Brentwood Middle/High School on Aug. 16. He will earn a salary of $70,000.
“It’s not something that I take lightly. I look forward to getting to know the community,” Cassell said.
Among his duties in his new role, Cassell will help the district develop cyber learning options for students and families. The need for such programs emerged over the last five years as Brentwood leaders discussed ways to best prepare students for post-secondary programs.
“We have identified our goal: prepare students to meet the challenges of a complex society through lifelong learning skills that will allow them to be successful in college, career and individual life goals,” Superintendent Amy Burch said in an email.
“The next logical step was to reach out to families to share our mission and vision. Jim was the perfect candidate to assist in spreading the message. We are eager to receive feedback from our families on how best to accomplish our goals and how to best strengthen our relationships with families who previously may not (have) had a voice.”
Cassell, who spent the last 16 years in education, primarily working with cyber schools, served as distance learning coordinator for the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit over the last two years.
There, he managed the program, made changes and worked with districts to set up their own cyber programs. More than 90 teachers from the participating districts taught through the program, where students were enrolled in individual courses, blended programs and some enrolled full-time in online courses.
Prior to that, he spent 10 years working at The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School (PA Cyber), where he was an office coordinator in the Greensburg and Wexford areas for six years, overseeing community outreach and working closely with families to meet their needs.
He also worked as a student assistance coordinator, instructional supervisor and social studies course teacher at PA Cyber.
“During the last 10 years, I really started to focus on communicating universally with at-risk students and families,” said Cassell, who received his bachelor’s in secondary social studies from Slippery Rock University. He also has a master’s in curriculum from Clarion University and a master’s in educational leadership and principal’s certification from California University of Pennsylvania.
“After working with all of the districts in Westmoreland County, I really wanted to go back and put the attention on one district and focus on a strong program,” he said.
When he walked through the doors at Brentwood Middle/High School, he “could tell this is a strong and positive environment,” he said.
His first year in the role will be spent building the foundation of the cyber program with hopes to roll it out the following year.
“We’re going to look at, ‘What are the needs of the community? What are the needs of the students?’” he said.
Brentwood has a contract through 2020 with the Seneca Valley School District, which runs a cyber program partnership with outside districts.
The goal is for Brentwood to eventually offer everything from single courses to blended schedules to a completely online cyber program using Brentwood teachers to teach the classes, Cassell said.