Beth Brown leads John Long Middle, the county’s second largest
By B.C. Manion
When Beth Brown decided to become a teacher two decades ago, she didn’t think of it in terms of simply choosing a career.
“It’s like a calling,” said Brown, recently named as Pasco County Schools’ Administrator of the Year.
She taught social studies for nine years before moving into the administrative ranks.
In some respects, being a teacher and being a principal are the same, Brown said. Teachers lead their students; principals lead the faculty and staff. Both have the same goal: They want to create the best learning environment they can for every student.
Brown views herself as the instructional leader at John Long Middle in Wesley Chapel.
She has been at the helm of the district’s second-largest school since it opened in 2006.
Brown is fully aware of the central role that teachers play in delivering excellence in education.
“The most important job that I have is to select the very best teacher to put in front of these kids.”
Once the right teachers are in place, Brown said, “you empower teacher leaders.”
The principal, who was selected first as the district’s secondary principal of the year and then as its most outstanding administrator overall, said she has worked to build a structure at her school that encourages teachers to lead one another.
She keeps her focus on academics and delegates other issues such as facilities and transportation to her assistants. Those issues are important, she said, but instruction matters more.
The goal at John Long Middle is that every student will attain at least a year of progress, regardless where they are on the educational spectrum.
“We meet them where they are,” Brown said.
Brown said she’s fortunate that the parents at her school demonstrate support through a large and active Parent Teacher Student Association.
Many parents routinely check their child’s progress through an electronic tracking system that keeps tabs on student attendance and progress.
“They are plugged in,” Brown said. They know, for instance, whether or not their child showed up for third-period, she added.
Safety is also of utmost importance to Brown.
Every staff member at her school helps with student supervision, she said.
There are also electronic eyes helping keep watch, she said. There is electronic surveillance with 48 cameras in the cafeteria and common areas, she said. “The kids know it.”
Such vigilance tends to reduce potential problems, Brown said. John Long Middle has the lowest percentage of discipline problems in the district.
That’s not to say that there aren’t problems that must be addressed, she said. Recently she had the drug dog at school because there was a rumor a student had drugs. Nothing turned up, she said.
Brown’s leadership receives high praise from people nominating her as the district’s secondary principal of the year. She was honored for that and for being the county’s top administrator Jan. 29 at the Pasco Schools Center for the Arts at Wesley Chapel.
“I see these awards as an opportunity for the board to say “thank you” to all of our staff,” said Joanne Hurley, chairwoman of the Pasco County School Board.
“As you know, money is very tight. They haven’t had a raise in years,” Hurley said.
Despite that, Hurley said it’s gratifying to see so much good work being done by employees.
“I walk into schools and I see excellence all of the time,” Hurley said.
Those nominating Brown were effusive in their praise.
“She runs a village of students in her above-capacity school in a smooth and efficient manner,” one nomination notes. She prioritizes “the needs of students” and cultivates “a professional learning environment that allows all students” to reach his or her potential, it adds.
“Beth is clearly an innovative leader who masterfully handles all aspects of school-based leadership. She understands what it means to be a true instructional leader, relates well with her faculty, students, families and community, and understands the necessity of raising and tackling difficult issues,”
Another nomination described Brown as “an outstanding mentor and principal.”
She was also described as “a wonderful supporter of the arts.”
Brown was pleased and humbled by her selection.
Before the awards were announced, Brown said she was reading through the list of prior honorees.
“Just to be on the list with those people is amazing,” Brown said.
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