LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Patrice Brown

Position: Retiring Middle School Principal
School: Western Guilford Middle School
School District: Guilford County Schools
City, State: Greensboro, NC

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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.

Comments (12)

Lindsey Gray Posted over a year ago

I have served and volunteered in many schools across Guilford County and worked with many principals and Mrs Brown has been the easiest and best principal hands down. I have watched her implement leadership, extra learning, and different learning pathway opportunities for each of her students. She believes in her students, she wants them to succeed above anything else, above test scores she cares about preparing them well for their futures. She cares for her teachers well. Teaching is not an easy career these days and yet I watch her staff feel appreciated and supported to the best of her ability. Mrs. Brown has engaged the community around WGMS to take an active roll in the success of these students - as one of those community partners - I am constantly surprised at how well she does at challenging us to take ownership of the next generation and create opportunities to be involved with the school. I am sad to watch Mrs Brown retire but she has set such a legacy that I have the utmost confidence that WGMS is still in good hands. The education system, community and world need more people like Mrs Brown.

Germania E Landaeta Posted over a year ago

La Senora Brown es muy atenta y muy amable hacia sentirse bien dentro de la escuela. Le vamos a extranar gracias por su tiempo.

Pepe Mesa Posted over a year ago

In my 40 years of working with students and having the opportunity to meet many principals. Ms Brown is easily the best I’ve had the privilege to know. She impacts not only students but families,community and the school staff as well. Ms Brown is truly a life changer to all those she meets.

Nadia Wright Posted over a year ago

You have a great spirit and you have been a wonderful principal. You have impacted so many lives this year we will all miss you.. have a great summer. Just knowing you where going to be my principal in middle school made the transition better.

Atiyah Wright Posted over a year ago

Ms.Brown is such an amazing principal she was my principal back in elementary school an while I was in middle school an I have to say she’s the most supportive an loving principal I’ve ever had. She works hard to make sure all the students an staff feel loved an safe within her school.

Ursula Gonzales Posted over a year ago

Mrs Brown a principal, teacher, mother, counselor, nurse, advisor and more to her students. From the first day I met her I knew she was a woman of excellence. She is there for her students, pushing them to believe in whatever they want to do or become so much, it has no choice but to materialize. Yes they might fall, or want to give up, but she encourages them to get up, stand up and keep on fighting. She uses her wit and intelligence to get things done. I know as she takes her next step in life, she will continue to be the caring person she is.

Lib Johnson Posted over a year ago

Principal Patrice Brown of Western Guilford Middle School certainly deserves being thrust into the limelight of "LifeChanger of the Year" for the influence she has had over many students. She has been amazing to watch in her give and take relations with the youngest and teachers of that school. They all seem to reach so positively to her energy, enthusiasm, and exuberant personality. The same is true of her relationship to the members of Guilford Grange. Any time we are looking for ways to contribute to the youth of our community. She always is "Everready" to give us suggestions of things that would benefit her students. Another it was putting picnic tables on the grounds for leisure moments for the students. Other years it has been sending kids to summer camp and showering teachers with extra school supplies. Her suggestions have always been on target and that has been so helpful for Guilford Grange. We always know our money and efforts are put to good use. Lib Johnson Grange Secretary

Marcella Cherry, MSN, BSN Posted over a year ago

Mrs. Brown has been supportive of my granddaughter’s success at Western Guilford Middle School. Any concerns that I had were addressed in a timely manner and she personally reached out to me. My fondest memory of Mrs. Brown were the first days of school at the car rider line. She was out there as we navigated how to get through the growing pains of helping the line move efficiently. I was sold on her dedication after this experience.

Neola Mcquennie Posted over a year ago

My sister, you are phenomenal! They true love you show for your students and all children is remarkable. Continue touching lives and making a lasting impression on all. Thanks for all you do!

Kelley Hill Posted over a year ago

You are simply amazing and I want to be like you when I grow up! Thank you for ALL you have given to me and my family! Much love always.... even though I was hit by the Purple Pony!

Robin Hill Posted over a year ago

Many years ago, early 2000s, I met Mrs. Brown at Vandalia Elementary School. She had been one of my sister’s colleague. My sister loved her. Mrs. Brown and I became colleague friends. She was and still is one of my strongest supporters. She calms, encourages, sustains, leads, listens, and LOVES anyone who walks along her path. She gives and rare takes. She is such a powerhouse! Mrs. Brown has had a major impact on my professional, spiritual, and personal life. She is nothing short of “love”. My life has been enriched because of her. My profession has been enhanced because of her. My heart has been enlivened because of her. The truth of the matter is Mrs. Brown’s ability to change lives comes naturally. She does it with grace and humility. It is all a part of her God given gifts. I am so grateful to have her in my life!!! She is indeed a LIFEchanger!!!

Kim Posted over a year ago

Mrs. Brown created “Tiger Nation”, here at Western Guilford Middle school. She works hard to make our students, families, staff and community aware of various resources. Our students receive free/ reduced lunch, SMOD clothes for families that don’t have clothing, food bank for the community every month and additional opportunity for staff collaboration. Our tiger nation have definitely been a family like experience and I feel so safe in our building. Mrs. Brown has kept us going and one step ahead with “Leader In Me”. The LIM program have created a leader in all of us. We know that it takes a village to educate our students. Mrs. Brown identifies with the whole student. She is definitely a life changer in my book and will always be apart of my life. Thank you, Mrs. Brown for making a huge impact on my life.