Principal Brent Brown leaving position for district office
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When Brent Brown was hired as Corona del Sol High School’s principal five years ago, no one could have predicted the successes, challenges and learning experiences that would arise under his leadership. From tragedies to championships, Corona has grown and developed as both a school and as a family. Next year, a sizeable gap will appear within the lives of Corona students and faculty alike, as Brown will be leaving Corona and taking a position at the Tempe Union High School District Office.
“I will be the Director of Instructional Services,” Brown said. “(I’ll be) providing professional development opportunities for all staff members. I’ll be working with staff around all seven high schools on making sure that they get the necessary training, help and resources they need to be effective in their job.”
While Brown initially hesitated to apply for the job, he eventually determined that his skillset would be best utilized through this new position.
“I love it here (at Corona) and it was a hard decision for me (to apply),” Brown said. “I thought more and more about what my strengths are and what I would be able to do to help the seven high schools. It became clear to me that it’s something I needed to do professionally (and) personally. I just thought it was a great opportunity.”
Although Brown has been Corona’s principal for just five years, the impact he’s made on the school has been unprecedented, especially within academics.
“Two years ago, when we were already an A school, our AIMS scores and overall school scores improved by 17 points,” Brown said. “To make two or three points is a pretty big deal. I was very proud and happy that we made that much progress over the previous two or three years. I’d say that made my year. That made my time here feel worthwhile.”
Brown’s dedication to improving academics has been represented in the high-achieving students that emerge from Corona’s halls.
“I think what goes on within the walls of a classroom are really the most important things,” Brown said. “I hope that I leave behind a legacy of the importance of academics and the importance of the learning that goes on in the classroom.”
While Brown has stressed that academics should be considered the main priority, he also realizes the importance of developing other skills to prepare students for life after high school.
“The classroom is important,” Brown said. “What happens on the playing field is important. What happens with clubs and activities is important. It’s making a well-rounded students (who are) ready for life. You can focus on one thing, but if you don’t have the whole self, we would be missing something.”
With organizations such as basketball, We the People, and color guard consistently earning high accolades in competition over the past few years, Corona has embodied the comprehensive high school experience that Brown encourages. He finds that in addition to amazing team achievements that occur at Corona, he sees individuals thrive as well.
“(My favorite memory is) seeing students achieve,” Brown said. “There are a lot of individuals; I call them ‘champions.’ Kids (are) doing some amazing things in and out of the classroom. Whenever I see those accomplishments I feel like I’m a part of it, like I gave them an opportunity.”
One student who has directly been affected by Brown is Student Body President Alex Butler.
“When I started getting involved in Student Council, I got to talk to him (Brown) almost every day on issues about Corona and I got his advice,” Butler said.
Butler, who attributes his desire to want to become a Corona teacher to Brown’s influence, encourages other students to appreciate the leadership Brown has implemented during their time at Corona.
“I think of him (Brown) as the best principal in the district,” Butler said. “They (students) should be thankful that we have such a great principal like him to deal with the things he deals with every day; it’s not easy.”
“Easy,” is definitely not a word to describe the overall scope of Brown’s time as principal. Within the past few years, he has experienced some of the most demanding moments of his career.
“The most challenging things I went through is when we lost a brother or a sister on campus,” Brown said. “You think you’re strong, you want to be strong and you have to be strong, but it still affects you. We’ve had our share of tragedies with our students. That’s been the hardest thing to overcome. I can only imagine what the families are going through when they lose their loved ones. We kind of share that with them, because we are a family, an Aztec family. I know how it has hurt staff members, community members and families. I know how it has affected our student body too.”
Despite the multiple negative events that have threatened to damage the morale of the Corona community, Brown’s leadership has helped alleviate the impact.
“I think probably the greatest impact he’s (Brown) had is how I’ve watched him handle difficult situations,” English teacher Karyn Dempsey said. “He’s an amazing leader. It’s easy to be a good leader when times are easy, but I’ve seen him deal with some real challenges and he does it with strength, grace and dignity and he encourages all of us to be those kinds of leaders.”
As Brown’s eventful reign at Corona comes to an end, he moves on to his new position with the knowledge he’s gained through this experience.
“I’ve learned a lot about people and how important it is to work as a team,” Brown said. “I think that’s the biggest takeaway; there’s no way anyone can do this without teamwork. If you have a good team, the sky’s the limit.”
Although Brown’s new job aligns with his present-day personal and career goals, saying goodbye to Corona will not be an easy task.
“(I will miss) the students,” Brown said. “And right there with them, the staff. It’s hard for me to imagine not being on a high school campus. You don’t get into education to be a director. It’s about the classroom, it’s about teaching, it’s about making connections with students and it’s about coaching. You make lifelong friends, even with the students.”
On April 20, the new principal for the 2016-2017 school year will be chosen. Even though Corona will have to acclimate to new leadership, the impact that Brown made on the school will continue to be felt long after his departure.
“In the short time that he’s been here, I would say that he’s raised the overall morale of the school community,” Dempsey said. “We will be better in the future for having had him as a principal. He will have left that mark on us. I feel like we’ll be okay simply because he was here.”