Position: Retiring Middle School Principal
School: Western Guilford Middle School
School District: Guilford County Schools
City, State: Greensboro, NC
Music that Describes Patrice
Patrice Brown was nominated by her colleague, Arlene Sims.
"Mrs. Brown is the Proud Principal of Western Guilford Middle School in Greensboro, North Carolina. That is how she always introduces herself, as 'the proud principal of WGMS.' I've had the pleasure of being under her leadership for the past four years. However, I have known her personally for almost thirty years," Sims said.
Mrs. Brown began her educational career over 30 years ago as a special education teacher, and she has always been a strong advocate for her students. Since transitioning to Western Guilford Middle School in 2013, Mrs. Brown has worked collaboratively with community partners to enhance her students' learning opportunities and the school environment. Western Guilford Middle is a Title I school in Greensboro, North Carolina. WGMS is a diverse school with over 30 ethnicities represented in its student population. Additionally, as a Title I school, WGMS has over 70% of students who qualify for free/reduced lunch.
Mrs. Brown works tirelessly to enhance the students' learning experience. Western Guilford Middle is the only SMOD school (standard mode of dress) in Guilford County. SMOD allows staff to quickly identify people from "the outside" who are perhaps visiting the school. Another benefit to SMOD is the reduction in bullying based on what students wear. Finally, students are less concerned about what they're wearing.
Mrs. Brown recognizes that although SMOD is a considerable money-saving feature for parents and families, some students at her school still cannot afford SMOD clothes (khaki pants and a collared shirt). In response, WGMS has a SMOD closet where the staff provides free school clothes (new or gently used), undergarments, accessories, shoes, and outerwear to students in need. If students aren't wearing SMOD clothes, they have the option to call a parent/guardian. However, the SMOD closet is also an option, so students don't have to go home and miss vital instruction time.
Mrs. Brown has also recognized the need to provide additional support for students. As a result, WGMS began a Saturday Academy program to provide an extra layer of academic support, aside from after-school tutoring. Saturday Academy is a four-week program offered one month before the End of Grades. As part of Saturday Academy, students attend classes on Saturday for academic enrichment. During COVID, the program continued to exist, and students could work remotely and receive instruction on the previous quarter's standards. Students who successfully attended and participated received additional points to their current quarter's grade to boost students' overall grade average.
Learning has been difficult for all, especially during the pandemic. Mrs. Brown made the selfless decision to work remotely for the 2020-2021 SY when her husband, John, was the recipient of a kidney donation and needed to recover at home. Mrs. Brown still attended and facilitated team meetings and made herself available to parents, staff, and students. During the pandemic, Mrs. Brown began hosting weekly Facebook Live meetings every Sunday evening for parents. During this time, she shared important information and gave parents a platform to ask questions. Since returning to the school building, Mrs. Brown decided to continue having the weekly meetings, which are still well attended.
Mrs. Brown implemented Honor Roll strolls to create a positive school atmosphere. Students who made either the "A" or "A/B" honor roll participated in a quarterly parade through the entire school, led by the school's band department. These students also received a complimentary ice cream treat from the PTA for their great accomplishment.
Perhaps the biggest way Mrs. Brown ensures her school has a positive student environment is by implementing the Leader in Me (LiM) Program. LiM is a whole-school program that teaches the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Steven Covey. At Western Guilford Middle, Leader In Me began five years ago. Students receive instruction on the seven habits daily during Lead Block/Enrichment. Students have the opportunity to hold leadership roles in school, as well as in their communities. As a direct result, Western Guilford Middle received Lighthouse certification, the first (and only) middle school to reach this status in Guilford County. Lighthouse Certification is a highly regarded standard set by Franklin Covey Education that is attainable by every Leader in Me school and occurs as a result of implementing Leader in Me with fidelity.
One of the many ways students can lead is by joining the WGMS Student Lighthouse Team. The Lighthouse Team runs the school's "Morning Show," which airs each morning during Lead Block on the television and is available on the District's YouTube site. Mrs. Brown also believes asking for and listening to students' voices is important. She meets regularly with each grade level's class representatives to hear what students are thinking/talking about. She also will ask, "Well, what do the students think? Let's ask them." Before you know it, she sends out a poll for student feedback. It can be anything from what to do for International Day to how students want to celebrate Spirit Week.
Over the years, Mrs. Brown has partnered with several local community organizations to create programs that will benefit students, families, and the school community. While at Western Guilford Middle, Mrs. Brown collaborated with Shalom Community Church to create SMART, an Academic & enrichment summer program. She has also worked with Samet Corporation to make a memorial garden. Samet has donated commemorative bricks with the names of Western Guilford Middle School students who have passed away. Mrs. Brown is also a member of The Grange, a local community partner with the philosophy of seeking the greater good for the community. The Grange opened its door to Western Guilford Middle and community partner Campus Life to host club meetings when school resumed in-person learning this year. Guilford County Schools could not host after-school meetings, and The Grange was kind enough to allow Campus Life and students to meet at their facility in the mornings before school began.
Additionally, when the WGMS Counseling Department sought partners to help fund the new Relaxation Room (aka "Tiger Zen Den") for staff and teachers, The Grange, Samet Corporation, and the WGMS PTA, with no hesitation, provided monetary and furniture donations. Their response to the need was because of their partnerships with Mrs. Brown.
During the pandemic, when schools were doing remote learning, Mrs. Brown and her Admin team felt strongly about encouraging students to do their best and recognizing improvement. Teachers were able to submit names of "most improved" students. One student's name was drawn weekly, and they were hand-delivered a "Student of the Week" certificate and a gift card by Mrs. Brown or an Admin team member.
Mrs. Brown provides leadership daily at both the school and district levels. Mrs. Brown participates as a mentor and often has principal interns shadowing her. She was a member of the District Task Force that worked to determine the best solutions for the students and schools during the early stages of the pandemic. Mrs. Brown was a Principal of the Year finalist for her recognition of professional excellence in the 2008 – 2009 and 2014 – 2015 SY. As a leader, she also received a commendation from the Mayor's office for professional excellence in the City of Greensboro in 2013. Mrs. Brown has held the role of Curriculum Facilitator at two Guilford County Schools from 2000 – 2005; Adult Basic Education teacher at GTCC from 2000 – 2002; and Media Specialist in 2000.
Mrs. Brown is committed to continually providing a nurturing environment for her students. This year, Western Guilford Middle implemented restorative circles. In theory, when someone's behavior causes someone else harm, restorative justice (RJ) enables those two people to meet and come to a resolution that will repair that harm. It is not about punishment like detention, fines, or prison. It is about healing and change. For the last few years, part of the school's improvement goal has been to reduce the number of infractions (In-School or Out of School Suspensions) that young Black men receive by implementing another layer of support. Data has shown that 3 million students are suspended yearly (Advancement Project, July 2013). However, Black students are three times more likely to be suspended than white students, and just one suspension doubles a student's risk of dropping out (Advancement Project, July 2013). In Guilford County Schools, the total number of students receiving in-school or out-of-school suspensions was slightly more than 10,000 (as reported for the 2011-2012 SY).
Mrs. Brown wanted to work towards reducing this rate at Western Guilford Middle. This year, her team has completed over 50 restorative circles between students, a few with students and teachers, and two school and parent circles. It will take some time to see the full effects of implementing restorative circles. Still, WGMS is committed to working to reduce the consequences its minority students are receiving and thereby closing the achievement gap and positively increasing the school climate.
Lastly, Mrs. Brown ensures that she models high ethical and moral standards to teachers and students. Mrs. Brown is one of the fairest people you'll meet. She shows kindness, empathy, and correction equally to all students. She encourages and promotes an environment of equity among the entire staff. Staff is encouraged to seize professional development and leadership opportunities where we can grow in our profession. When teachers and staff share concerns, their feedback is taken to the Leadership team and addressed as needed. Principal Brown has an open door policy and makes time to hear everyone's concerns.
Additionally, Mrs. Brown recognizes that it is more important for someone to be happy in their space than it is to hold onto them just for numbers' sake. For that reason, she encourages staff to find their happiness. Her heart is huge, and she "shares the love" every day with students and staff.
"Western Guilford Middle is a family, and I know it is because of her leadership," said Sims.