After months of turmoil surrounding the program, Santa Barbara High’s MAD Academy took a major step forward Wednesday afternoon by announcing two new directors for the multimedia arts and design academy.
In a note to parents, Santa Barbara High principal Elise Simmons introduced co-directors, Brett Griffith and Andrew “AJ” Henning, both of whom will take on both teaching and administrative duties for the 320-student program.
“The hiring of these two folks is really going to allow us to come together and create that dynamic leadership team the MAD students deserve,” Dr. Simmons said in the note.
“They are both highly skilled career technical educators. I’m confident that AJ and Brett will continue the good work that will help shepherd the MAD Academy into the future.”
Dr. Simmons anticipates that it will take the summer to fully coordinate the roles and responsibilities for each director.
Mr. Henning is a holdover from the program, having graduated from MAD in 2000 and a member of its staff as the Academic Dean and Media Arts instructor since 2011.
“I am both honored and excited to take on the role of co-director with Brett Griffith,” Henning said in the note. “I look forward to taking our unique experiences in both education and the creative arts and working together on utilizing those experiences in the classroom. I look forward to the challenge of being co-director of a program that is focused on preparing students at SBHS for jobs in the creative arts world that don’t yet exist.”
Mr. Griffith will be relocating from Palo Alto High School, a highly regarded high school in the Bay Area. He was a teacher at the school, instructing in the well-known Media Arts Center, focused on filmmaking, graphic design and film analysis. He also aided the high school’s student film festival.
“As a digital filmmaker, graphic design and English teacher, I want students to develop an ability to analyze and critique a variety of media while maintaining a sense of aesthetic appreciation for a text,” Mr. Griffith said.
“Despite an impetus towards technology, I remain an educator who strives to connect students’ own knowledge, backgrounds and interests to their learning. In this way, students connect the classroom to meaningful, real-life contexts of the 21st century.”
The academy’s board of directors played a role in the process, and board president Brett Queener offered praise for the appointments in the note.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled that Brett and AJ will be leading the MAD Academy forward as we enter our third decade of innovative instruction” Queener said. “It would be very hard indeed to find two educators that are both incredibly competent multimedia instructors and passionate about connecting to and inspiring the next generation of MAD Academy students. In AJ Henning and Brett Griffith, we strongly believe the District has found them.”