By B.C. Manion
As Beth Brown steps into her new role as executive director for secondary schools in Pasco County Schools, she’s confident that she is leaving John Long Middle in good hands.
When Brown was named the Pasco school district’s top administrator earlier this year, she was quick to share the credit for her success with her administrative team and with teachers who helped create a culture of teamwork and success at the middle school.
“In any school, there is so much to be done, administrators can’t do it all,” Brown said, during a recent interview, as she packed up her boxes at the Wesley Chapel middle school she opened in 2006.
“So, you identify your superstar teachers — teachers that are aspiring leaders — and then you get them leading work groups and committees. That’s what this school has done so well. There is so much talent here,” Brown said.
The educator said she felt it was a good time to pursue a district post.
“This school has such a strong foundation that I feel comfortable leaving. I feel comfortable passing this amazing project, this amazing school off to a very competent principal.’’
John Long Middle’s new principal is Christine Wolff, former principal of Chasco Middle.
As Brown she assumes her new role at the district’s administrative headquarters, she expects to use the same approach that she used at John Long Middle, with a different set of people.
“Here, it was me working with my team leaders and my teachers: ‘What do we want to accomplish?’ And then, collaboratively, ‘How do we make that happen?’ ”
The process went something like this: “How do we identify our challenges? Identify our area of need, and then seek out the human resources and the resources to make it happen.
“I don’t see my structure changing or my leadership style changing at all, it’s just moving to a different level.”
Brown said she has already worked with many of the district’s principals and administrators and realizes that they can help the district tackle the challenges of increasing expectations and diminishing resources.
“Principals know their schools the best,” Brown said.
Principals know the most significant challenges their school faces and its greatest strengths. They know where their school needs help and support.
The district can help principals tackle tough issues and school administrators can help each other, Brown said.
“There’s so much talent in all of the schools. Different admin teams solve problems differently. If you put them all in a room, they’re going to come up with a solution to their problem.”
Brown joined the school district in 1991, working first as a social studies teacher at Thomas E. Weightman Middle in Wesley Chapel. She was promoted to assistant principal at Wesley Chapel High in 1999, then moved two years later to an assistant principal’s post at Weightman Middle. In 2003, she became principal at Bayonet Point Middle, where she remained until she opened John Long Middle in 2006.
“I know middle schools very well,” Brown said. “It’s been a few years since I’ve been in a high school setting, so I’ll be jumping back into high schools, learning as much as I can, as fast as possible.”
She anticipates plenty of challenges.
“The nature of secondary education, I think, is changing,” Brown said. The passage of state Senate Bill 736, the Student Success Act, will likely guide district efforts for many years to come, she said.
Among the bill’s provisions is a requirement for a new way to evaluate teachers and school administrators.
“It’s a huge departure from what we’ve done in the past,” Brown said.
That law requires at least half of an educator’s evaluation and 40 percent of a school administrator’s evaluation to be based on student learning gains.
The district will be providing training to help its principals comply to the new requirements, Brown said.
Brown said she is excited about moving into district leadership at a pivotal time for education.
“We’re really on the brink of a huge shift. It would be a good time for anyone to come into district leadership because I believe we are changing direction.”
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