Departing Canyon Crest Academy principal leaves last legacy

By Diane Y. Welch

Canyon Crest Academy High School Principal Brian Köhn will hand out his last CCA graduating student’s diploma on Friday, June 14. Not only is he saying goodbye to this year’s seniors, he is also saying farewell to the school, the district and to San Diego County as he embarks on a new path as principal at Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts.

Many special memories have been created over the past 12 years, as CCA has occupied a large part of Köhn’s mind, he said. Working with David Jaffe, CCA’s first principal, in imagining what CCA could become; the fun of what felt more like camp than high school with 340 new students housed in trailers; the joy of moving into new buildings; the first graduation ceremony; the first CIF championships; Envision productions; and the first time CCA’s API broke 900 are a few memorable high points. Along with “many laughs and long hours of work shared with the greatest staff I could ever imagine,” added Köhn.

This year was Köhn’s sixth as principal, having worked as assistant principal during the school’s first three years. Prior to that he served on the new high school task force committee that planned CCA and its unique arts-focused identity.

Köhn said that he is very proud of the school culture that was nurtured and grew from these roots. “David Jaffe and I were very clear in our minds that creating a positive school culture was the most important thing we could do as CCA administrators,” he said. By hiring high-caliber staff they laid the groundwork for building this culture. “CCA is now known for being socially accepting, innovative in its curriculum, and valuing achievement equally in all areas, be it academics, the arts or athletics,” said Köhn.

Joanne Couvrette, executive director for CCA Foundation, praised Köhn – who served in an advisory capacity to the board – for his involvement. “The Foundation has a close working relationship with the CCA staff due in large part to Brian’s leadership,” she said. “Also, his talent as a musician will be greatly missed. His phenomenal productions... have become part of the fabric of the school and helped create the unique educational community that is CCA. I am very sad to see him go, but wish him great success in his new position!”

Michael Gaughen, English teacher, commented on Köhn’s role as a visionary. “When we think about what CCA is, what CCA has become, we can trace so much of that back to Brian. Certainly he had a vision that we all shared. But, most importantly, he gave us the trust and the room to execute that vision.”

Envision Cinema students produced a 17-minute tribute video dedicated to Köhn that was aired throughout the school. It was an opportunity for faculty and student goodbyes but also showed Köhn as a good sport with a sense of humor, as he rapped weather reports, dodged karate kicks and knocked aliens off campus with a golf club.

Nachi Baru and Glenn Borok, editors-in-chief for Pulse Magazine, shared that Köhn is very popular among the student body, “Both because of his personable nature and also his clear enthusiasm for the school,” said Baru.

“Even though we’re infamously low [key] on school pep/spirit, we like to pride ourselves on our creativity and our openness, qualities that Mr. Köhn both personifies and encourages,” said Borok. “I think students will certainly miss him.”

Köhn comes from the Bay Area and still has strong family roots there. His daughter, a CCA graduate, currently attends school at the Academy of Art in San Francisco and his son graduates from Scripps Ranch High School this month and then is off to Santa Barbara, he said. “So for my wife and I this is a good time for us to make a change. In many respects, this is going home.”

In looking back Köhn is filled with gratitude for his experience at CCA. “I have been so fortunate to work with so many wonderful students, staff, and parents it truly is very hard to go. I am so grateful to have been able to be a part of this magical time at this great school,” he said.

Envision Cinema’s “Mr. Köhn Tribute Show” may be viewed at