(Written as a letter of support for Stubbs Academy Principal Jeffers Brown)
In June of 2012, while sitting in our annual meeting, the seed was planted to form a collaboration with a school in our city. After reflection, I asked a teacher with whom I was acquainted to help us find a school that would welcome Grace Church as a community partner. Around the same time, in one of my weekly messages, I shared a vision for using our talents and abilities to nurture and support the educational growth of the children in our community.
After a close look at the schools in our area, Stubbs Academy seemed the right choice. After trying to contact the former administration, and receiving no response, the suggestion was made by one of our staffers, who had worked briefly in education, that we might begin to forge a relationship by sending goodies once a week for teachers and staff in their break room. Believing that building relationships is a good thing, that’s what we did. Weekly, home baked cookies and cakes were sent over to Stubbs with a note that said we were thinking of them and the important work they do. For some time, that was the extent of our relationship.
Under the creative leadership of Jeffers Brown, we were invited to become a community partner in helping the faculty and administration of Stubbs become more effective in transforming the lives of their students.
I like to say that Mr. Brown, and company, have invited us to do the things that traditionally parent organizations do: providing school supplies and backpacks; staffing the annual back-to-school block party; dipping ice cream at a math night for children and families; providing water ice on a hot Field Day; purchasing a salt water aquarium; funding a spaghetti dinner for an evening event for children and families; mentoring weekly; lending a listening ear; attending Priority School meetings and board meetings to support Stubbs; providing holiday gifts for teachers and staff as a way of saying “thank you;” working with other community partners to provide holiday gifts for children in the school; judging a bakeoff with baked goodies by the fathers of students; attending holiday programs, a civics bee, and graduation; purchasing uniforms for students.
The above list is given as a way of saying that Mr. Brown, and the faculty and staff he has assembled, understand the needs of the students and the families of Stubbs and make every effort to meet them so that the students, and those supporting them, can concentrate on the most important thing: their education.
There is a wonderful line in the book Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking written by Malcolm Gladwell:
“The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding.
We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter.”
As Principal of an elementary school that has all sorts of sociological conundrums, one of which is the extremely high poverty rate of the students’ families and all the catch-22s that accompany this, Jeffers Brown recognizes that in order to make good decisions for those whose education is under his care, he first has to understand their basic needs, their circumstances, the struggles facing their families, the reasons why they are underachieving in spite of their obvious aptitude.
Anyone who has spent time at Stubbs knows that that an environment has been created, under the leadership of Mr. Brown, in which teachers and staff seek to understand the students and parents with the longer term goal of instilling in them the joy of learning and the desire to excel in that learning, aka in Delaware as raising their test scores.
My heart has broken over the past few months as I watched the decision of September 4th threaten to close Stubbs. Yes, if one looks only at test scores, it appears that the administration and faculty need a real shake-up. However, if one spends time at Stubbs, seeking understanding of what has been happening there over the last year and a half of Mr. Brown’s tenure as Principal, one could come to the conclusion that it does not!!
Jeffers Brown, along with his administration, has built a faculty that now works well together, that loves the students and continually seeks the best education possible for each. Much of the credit for the creation of this healthy environment has to do with this man who is professional, loving, caring, involved, smart, funny, and dedicated; this man who is passionate about his vocation with the children of our city; this man who has sought to understand his students and their families and who has the ability to guide his school into making good decisions for and with them!