Brown retires after fun run as Manatee Elementary principal


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Carl Brown enjoys his last days as principal at Manatee Elementary School.

Viera Voice Julie Sturgeon

 

When principal Carl Brown walks through the Manatee Elementary School cafeteria during lunch time, students get excited.

Brown, who is retiring in December, is friendly, helpful and goofy with students.  First and second graders love his quirkiness. Sixth graders think he’s cool.

“I don’t mind being silly; I’ve dressed up as a clown, been taped to walls, eaten fried worms and been in the dunk tank over the years,” Brown said. “It’s those kinds of things that make a principal a human being.”

It is his unique style that has made Brown an incredible leader. In return for the silliness factor, students make a concerted effort to do what their principal asks. And their efforts have been noticed — Manatee won the Blue Ribbon Award in addition to being an A school this year.

“Bottom line, we are here for the kids,” Brown said.  “If they see you being silly and willing to do things for them, they become willing to do things for themselves.”

Brown, who has been an educator since 1991, said his desire to teach propelled him to pursue the field of education. Starting as a fifth-grade teacher in Seattle, he enjoyed being in the classroom. When Brown and his family moved to Florida, he started thinking about serving in another capacity.

“I had an aunt who was a principal and she inspired me to consider being a principal,” Brown said.

After opening three Brevard schools as a teacher, lead teacher and assistant principal, Brown was hired to open Manatee in 2003.  Opening a new school as principal requires strong leadership and dedication, and Brown was a perfect fit for the job.

“When Dr. (Richard) DiPatri (superintendent of Brevard Public Schools) hired me, he asked what can you do for Manatee?” Brown said.  “I told him that Manatee will always be an A school because, in 2003, schools had to be an A school. And, of course, we have been an A school for 15 years. I did not promise him the Blue Ribbon.  So that was a bonus.”

The prestigious Blue Ribbon Schools Award is competitive, invitation only and shared by an elite few schools each year. When invited to apply for the award, Brown said it took him only about 2 seconds to say yes to filling out the 20-page application.

Manatee was the only non-choice school in Florida to receive this year’s Blue Ribbon award, perceived by some as the pinnacle of success. It is awarded to schools with high levels of student achievement and commitment to the community.

Brown is quick to share credit for Manatee’s success with his staff, saying they are a team of top-notch professionals who work closely together. He says he will miss the dedicated, hard-working staff at the school, including teachers and vice principals who enjoy close contact with students.

“I don’t think Shannon (Shannon Daly, assistant vice principal) or I have shut our office doors more than five times in five years,” Brown said. “Kids can’t be afraid to come in here, and parents need to come in and ask us questions. That’s why we always try to be out front every morning so we can answer questions from parents and greet students.”

Another of Brown’s attributes is knowing the names and the history of every Manatee family, creating a sense of importance and community for students. With a current enrollment of 925, that takes work.

A team effort is evident throughout the Manatee, including the yearly fundraisers that have helped the school succeed through the years. School improvements during Brown’s tenure include a cement track, where yearly walkathons take place to raise school funds.   Brown takes time throughout the day to participate in the walkathons, during which a steady stream of students run or walk around the track during their activity class.

The most recent school addition is a $75,000 playground project with two enormous canvas awnings to provide much-needed shade.  Dozens of showy palm trees on Manatee’s campus have been planted by the school community; most originated as seedlings in Brown’s backyard.

Walking through the cafeteria, Brown pauses to open a yogurt container, answer students’ questions and encourage lunch-time etiquette.  Students openly adore Brown.  Some are worried that he is leaving, but he assures students that “the new principal will be nice.”

As his retirement day approaches, Brown has passed on some of his Seattle Seahawks memorabilia adorning his office to student Seahawk fans.  Brown will travel to Seattle to join his wife in December to help care for his mother who has Alzheimer’s.  In March, the Browns will travel to New Zealand to vacation for several weeks.

“It’s been a great run,” Brown said. “I have really enjoyed my time here.”