Each year, new faculty, staff and administrators undertake important roles in educating students in South Pasadena. This year, the middle school welcomed a new assistant principal – its first in more than 13 years – Carlos Kassam-Clay.
Kassam-Clay comes to South Pasadena after growing up in Fresno, Calif., attending college at University of California, Davis and subsequently teaching and studying for higher level degrees primarily on the east coast. After earning his master’s degree from University of Pennsylvania, where he met his wife, and earning an administrative certifcation from Johns Hopkins University, he went to work in Mexico City as an economics teacher, then grade level teacher and subsequently dean of the school. During his time in Mexico City, Kassam-Clay helped develop a social/emotional academic programs including interventions for struggling students.
“I’m very happy to be in the Los Angeles area, specifically in South Pasadena,” said Assistant Principal Carlos Kassam-Clay. “The students in South Pas are one-of-a-kind. They are very motivated to succeed. One of my goals is to support them socially, emotionally and academically on their journeys.”
As assistant principal, Kassam-Clay’s main responsibilities involve discipline, attendance and student support. He communicates and enforces school policies and engages in one-to-one conversations about the policies when student behavior falls short. At the start of school, Kassam-Clay sent home a letter signed by him and the middle school teachers explaining the main school policies and asking students and parents to sign the “contract” so everyone was aware of the expectations. One example of his enforcement of a school policy is cell phone use at the middle school.
“Some students have been surprised when we enforce the ‘no cell phone policy’ during the school day,” said Kassam-Clay. “I believe technology is a necessary and useful tool for learning, but I also believe it’s imperative for students to focus during the school day with minimal distractions while also working on their interpersonal and social skills.”
Kassam-Clay also brings solid experience supporting struggling students who need extra attention. Some students require more time with teachers to complete their coursework, or a targeted focus on the skills needed to maintain good grades and work habits, and Kassam-Clay is committed to creating the best approach together. His job also involves assisting special ed and English language learners with their journeys.
Kassam-Clay also believes it’s important to include a reflection component for students to further their development. For example, he works with Associated Student Body advisory teams that talk to the larger student body about relevant issues. The teams bring the concerns to Kassam-Clay and the group discusses possible solutions that may appease the student body as a whole for issues like the dress code policy. He brings together the concerns of the students with the goals of the administration and faculty to try to form solutions.
“I may be firm, but students know they can trust me and they will be treated with respect,” said Kassam-Clay.
Kassam-Clay also expressed his excitement about working at the middle school with a team of colleagues who are adolescent specialists. He enjoys the busy environment where staff and faculty help one another and have the students’ best interests in mind.
Kassam-Clay is married and has two young children. In his spare time, he enjoys sports, reading and spending time with friends.