The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

Upper School Assistant Principal James Bourke Resigns From WIS 

Left to right: Grades 11/12 Assistant Principal Elke Gannon, EE Supervisor Don Boehm, part time Upper School Principal Natasha Bhalla, IB Coordinator Neil MacDonald, Upper School Principal Sarah Polland and CAS Coordinator Cathy Noon. These teachers, apart from Polland, will be assuming their new roles on Monday, Oct. 3, following former Associate Principal James Bourke’s resignation from WIS. (Courtesy of OnCampus)

Upper School Principal Sarah Polland announced former Upper School Associate Principal James Bourke’s resignation on Sept. 19 through an email sent to the school. Bourke told her that morning that he was taking on another job in the corporate sector and would be leaving WIS on Friday, Sept. 23, according to the email.

Bourke’s role involved overseeing junior and senior class meetings and schedules and providing them with social-emotional support. Additionally, as IB Coordinator, he was responsible for aiding students with their IB class choices and helping them stay on top of due dates for Internal Assessments (IAs) and the Extended Essay (EE).

His many responsibilities meant that his position could not be given to a single Upper School faculty member. Instead, the administration announced that Bourke’s responsibilities will be split between several existing faculty members. 

Upper School Economics Teacher Elke Gannon will become the interim Grades 11/12 Assistant Principal and Upper School Math Teacher Neil MacDonald is taking on Bourke’s role as the IB Coordinator. Moreover, Associate Head of School Natasha Bhalla will fulfill the part time Upper School Principal role, and Upper School History Teacher Don Boehm will assume the EE Coordinator position.

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These staffing changes have shifted the aforementioned faculty members’ prior responsibilities. Upper School Science Teachers Cathy Noon and Natalie Denney will fulfill Gannon’s roles as Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS) Coordinator and Grade Level Coordinator for the Class of 2024, respectively. Additionally, MacDonald will no longer teach his 12th grade IB Math Analysis & Approaches HL course, which Upper School Math Teacher Gary Piligian will be taking over.

All of the above changes will go into effect on Monday, Oct. 3.

On Sept. 20, Bourke sent an email to juniors and seniors explaining the situation on a more personal level. “I found myself reflecting on my life and career [during the summer of 2022],” Bourke said. “More and more I found myself considering whether I might like to try a new experience and a new challenge.”

Some teachers are caught off guard by the timing and suddenness of the news. “I think it’s pretty common for teachers to come and go in different school settings, but normally that doesn’t happen at this time of the year,” Upper School History and Psychology Teacher Scott Carpenter, who is new to WIS this year, said. 

Many students are concerned about Bourke’s resignation and how it will alter the environment on campus. “I honestly feel pretty shocked and sad about [Bourke] leaving,” senior Luana Dos Santos said. “He really did a lot for the WIS community so it’s going to feel empty without him.”

As Bourke previously held the most responsibility within the IB program, his resignation became a worry to many upperclassmen, especially those new to the IB. “I was very stressed coming into [the] IB and I was looking forward to having [Bourke] as a resource,” junior William Crawford said. 

Those who are about to graduate and are in the process of applying to colleges are the most worried, as they held the closest relationship with Bourke and used his assistance daily during the IB. 

“For me, some stress factors that came with [Bourke] leaving were just wondering, who was going to support us with the IB now?” Dos Santos said. “Who [is] going to be in charge of our EEs?”

Bourke ended his email with a reminder of the WIS community’s strength, providing reassurance for the juniors and seniors. “I know you will be in capable hands with our strong school leadership and our amazing faculty,” he said.

By Andrea Brudniak-Berrocal

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Andrea Brudniak-Berrocal
Andrea Brudniak-Berrocal, Print Publications Editor/MS News Adviser

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