Families at Hilton Head Preparatory School are welcoming an old friend as their new headmaster.
Peter Cooper will take over July 1, following the resignation of current headmaster Anthony Kandel.
It's not Cooper's first time in the role. He was the school's interim headmaster in 2008-09 before Kandel was hired, so he knows many of the students, staff and faculty members.
His return is exciting, said Leslie Richardson, who has two children at Prep.
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"I feel like, for them, it's like history is coming home," Richardson said.
Cooper has taught at independent schools throughout his career, which includes stints as headmaster at schools as far away as Japan and Brazil. Most recently, he was an interim headmaster at the Awty International School in Houston, the nation's second-largest international school.
Experience has taught him that good headmasters understand the big picture, he said. Two large tasks that require looking ahead are at the top of Cooper's to-do list.
The school will seek re-accreditation from the Southern Association of Independent Schools and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools next school year. Schools are up for approval every five years.
To complete the process, Prep must do a "self-study," which requires the school to assess its performance and its goals.
That dovetails with Cooper's other major task: Leading development of the school's five-year strategic plan.
Cooper said he hopes to lay out a plan that keeps the school's enrollment strong and continues to prepare students for college, while also bringing more technology into the classroom.
He said he also hopes to continue to craft curriculum that emphasizes students' skill development over memorization of facts and dates.
Board members said they trust Cooper to create the school's road map.
"Certainly he'll further the agenda that the trustees already have in place, but he'll be able to do so within the framework of his experience," said Joe Nahman, who has been on the school's board for four years and has two daughters at the school. "He's able to bring a lot to the equation."