SBHS Computer Science Academy Announces First Female Director

SBHIGH CS Director Sky AdamsThe Santa Barbara High School Computer Science Academy’s Director Richard Johnston will officially be passing the torch to Sky Adams for the 2020-21 school year.  As an open academy, founded in 2012, “CS Academy” welcomes all students regardless of their background, skills, or knowledge of computers. Courses are designed for those who wish to take only one course to those who want a more intensive experience through a Pathway or Certificate program.

The CS Academy began when a small group of SBHS students approached then math chair Richard Johnston with a burning request: to learn engineering and programming. Johnston found himself learning from Berkeley professors how to develop a coding class and within 2 years, the district’s newest academy, the Computer Science Academy, was born out of several students’ passion, their parents’ persistence, Principal Becchio’s support and Johnston’s groundwork. 

Johnston assumed the Director position in 2016, following inaugural Director Paul Muhl, Senior Analyst and computer scientist at Toyon Research Corporation who currently teaches the CS Academy capstone class. Under Johnston’s leadership, the academy has extended CS outreach throughout Santa Barbara, expanded CS curriculum offerings, launched community partnership projects such as Hello World with CoAST SB and the MOXI project, developed Career Technical Education pathways, worked on grants to enhance programs, and promoted field trips to enhance career vision beyond the classroom. 

During Johnston’s tenure, four CS Academy students received the Congressional App Challenge Award and students and teachers have received National Center for Women and Information Technology awards every year. This year, Johnston has worked closely with CS Academy teacher, Sky Adams, as co-director, to transition the academy to her leadership.

“I am proud of the work that Richard Johnston and Sky Adams have done in the space of access. Both are progressive and compassionate,” comments SBHS Principal, Dr. Elise Simmons “I am confident that with Sky as the director, the CS Academy will remain a highly effective CTE pathway. With her leadership and experience as a co-director and teacher, she will continue to ensure that there are exceptional learning and career-oriented experiences for our students.”

Adams earned her BS in Computer Science from Brown University and her Masters of Education from UCSB. She has taught four of SBHS’s six computer science classes and is passionate about sharing her love for this field with her students. Her goals for the next few years are to: 1) increase the number of SBHS students who have a foundational understanding of CS by the time they graduate, 2) expand involvement in extracurricular offerings to prepare students for a career in the field and 3) continue to increase diversity in the academy and support underrepresented students. 

“Sky Adams’s impact has already been felt in the CS Academy as a supportive teacher and inspiring mentor to many students, including females who are underrepresented in this field,” said Paula Cassin, SBHS CS Academy Foundation Board President. “We are excited to watch the academy grow under her leadership.” Adams has taken the lead in developing SBHS’s annual Hackathon, advising the Girls Who Code club, heading up outreach, and running the CS Academy’s Creative Computing Camp.

“We hope the community will join us in thanking Richard Johnston for the opportunities he has set in motion at the helm of the CS Academy,”  said Cassin. “We look forward to his ongoing support of the academy’s mission and the success of our students.”

Like the Multimedia Arts and Design Academy (MAD), Sports Medicine, Culinary Arts, Construction Tech, and the Visual Arts and Design Academy (VADA),  the CS Academy is one of several Career Technical Education pathways offered in the Santa Barbara Unified District. The CS Academy is committed to exposing as many students as possible to computer science and demonstrating its relevance to their career field. The academy is always looking for opportunities to build local industry partnerships to accomplish this goal. For more information about its outreach programs or how to get involved, visit