In 2003, newly named Burbank High School Principal Bruce Osgood hired an assistant principal by the name of Hani Youssef. Eight years later, that same assistant principal is poised to take over for his boss and mentor, who announced his departure in March.
Born in Egypt and raised in Los Angeles, the 39-year-old Youssef earned his bachelor’s degree from Cal State Northridge in 1995, and his master’s degree and administrative credential from Mount St. Mary’s College in 2000. He taught English at the middle school and high school levels, and served as an administrator in the Los Angeles Unified and the Conejo Unified school districts before landing at Burbank Unified in 2003.
The Burbank Leader sat down with Youssef, who formally takes over as principal on July 1, to discuss his predecessor’s legacy, and his own plans for the school.
Megan O’Neil: What originally drew you to Burbank Unified?
Hani Youssef: Burbank obviously is known for its education. When [my family] was first looking for a home, we wanted to live in Burbank specifically to send our kids to the Burbank schools. When that didn’t happen, I still had my eyes on the school system for how small it is, how successful it is. I was very interested in the demographics as well; the majority of it wasn’t one demographic at all — it seemed to be a lot more mixed. That really drew my attention.
Q: What is Burbank High School doing right?
A: We all have the best interest of kids at heart is how I sincerely feel. The strongest point of what our faculty does is they look at ways to get better. There are always talking about how to be better today than they were yesterday, and how to be better tomorrow than they were today. It literally is, ‘How can we get better? How can we improve student learning?’ They are genuinely committed to finding ways to improve student learning and student achievement.
Q: What can Burbank High School improve on?
A: I would love for us to do more in terms of collaboration. How do people get better? They get better by working together …That is how you actually get better, by actually getting together and working and developing with one another. We have to create that kind of time for them.
Q: Your predecessor, Bruce Osgood, was a highly visible, popular figure within the school community. Any concerns about filling his shoes?
A: There are always concerns with filling in the shoes of your predecessor. He is going to be missed; he is missed already. I know I miss him. You don’t know Burbank High School without him. Two weeks ago [the entire] staff was in the cafeteria, and the question that I asked everyone there was, ‘Please stand up if Bruce Osgood hired you.’ And the very large majority of that cafeteria stood up. The impression he has left on the school is going to last for years and years to come …I am just going to be very cliché and say you have to be yourself, and that has been what he has been doing.
Q: Can you name two or three short-term goals you have as principal?
A: Our No. 1 goal for students going into next year is to increase the amount of interactive instruction where students are engaged with one another. The No. 1 goal for our administrators and counselors is going to be to provide the support for all of our adults on campus. The No. 1 goal for teachers is going to be to increase the amount of collaborative time. And then the No. 1 goal for classified staff is to strengthen the support that we give to all of our customers, whether they are students, parents, school community [members].
Q: What are your long-term goals for Burbank High School?
A: People often judge schools by their API scores, and [in] six, seven, eight years you want to continue growing as you have the last six, seven, eight years. In terms of the outside community, we want to continue to have our API scores increase. We want to continue to build on the success that we have had outside the classroom as well. You asked about the performing arts; we want to continue to grow in that area. They have continued to travel, continued to succeed, continued to compete. Athletically, we want to do the same things.