School: Brown Elementary School
School District: Hazelwood School District
City, State: Florissant, MO
Matt Phillips was nominated by a colleague, Ken Woods.
Mr. Phillips has been the principal of Brown Elementary for the past seven years. He has totally transformed Brown Elementary from a school whose academic achievement was declining into a high performing school that is the heart of the community it serves and a beacon for other schools in the community. He has a commitment to excellence and high expectations for students, staff, parents and community members. This commitment to excellence and high expectations has made Brown Elementary into the wonderful, caring place it is today.
Mr. Phillips' drive shows in the academic performance of Brown Elementary. In a school with a student body comprised of 90% percent students of color and 61% percent of its population receiving free and reduced price meals, academic achievement has soared due to his instructional and behavioral leadership. For the past three years, Brown has received 88%, 98.5% and 100% of the points possible on the report card that the State of Missouri uses to evaluate schools. The report card is based on overall academic achievement, subgroup achievement, and attendance.
Mr. Phillips has created a positive, loving and caring environment that you can feel as soon as you walk in the door. He spends hours making sure the school is beautiful with art and decorations. Mr. Phillips has an unwavering commitment to character education and building positive relationships with students and parents. This commitment earned Brown Elementary an Honorary Mention as a Missouri School of Character. Mr. Phillips also worked to bring in more male role models into the school and developed a program entitled “Men on a Mission,” in which men were recruited as mentors and role models for students. This program received national recognition from character.org as a promising practice.
Mr. Phillips has a strong belief in developing highly effective processes to ensure teachers meet the academic and behavioral needs of all students. He played a role in the development of a strong Professional Learning Community process and a Response to Intervention process. His development of these processes earned Brown the Exemplary Professional Learning Community recognition and the Positive Behavioral and Intervention and Supports Gold Distinction from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Mr. Phillips ensures that the academic and behavioral needs of all students are met at a high level.
He has also rallied the community in support of Brown. Through his work with the community, he was able to secure over $10,000 in grants three years in a row for a Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math garden that not only grows vegetables for the elderly and area food banks, but teaches students math and science topics. Other grants that he secured created a “character courtyard,” where teachers can bring students to study character and science topics, as well as a diversity hallway that celebrates the diversity of the building with a student self-portrait tile wall. Additionally, he secured a grant that gave students an opportunity to write and perform their own interpretation of the book, “Maniac Magee”, a book centered around a boy who brings a town that was split racially, together.
Mr. Phillips also has a commitment to ensuring cultural competence of the staff and community at Brown. He led a year-long series of professional development sessions that provided opportunities for all staff to become more culturally competent by exploring topics such as white privilege and internalized racism. These sessions discussed other topics that gave teachers, students and members of the community opportunities to share their thoughts and feelings and understand others’ perceptions better.
Mr. Phillips’ commitment to children and the community doesn’t stop at the school door. For ten years, he served as a foster parent and adopted four boys out of the foster care system. Now that his kids are all grown up, Mr. Phillips has again started fostering and is providing a loving, caring home to other youth in foster care.
"You will not find another man with more integrity, high morals and ethics as Mr. Phillips," Woods said. "Students, staff and community members love him. He is an incredible pillar of the community and his leadership touches everyone he comes in contact with in a positive way."