by Danny Wade
Humboldt Jr./Sr. High School has a new but familiar face leading the school. Carla Brown is the new principal.
Interim Superintendent Lillian Shelton recently hired Brown as principal. She takes over for Jason Newman, who was transferred to East Elementary School.
Even though this is a new position for Brown, she is very familiar with Humboldt City Schools. In fact, of the five school buildings still standing in Humboldt, Brown has worked in each of them one time or another during her educational career. She has worked at Stigall, HJSHS and East Elementary, as well as the former Main Street Elementary School and the old high school/junior high school on Ferrell St.
For most of her 17 years in Humboldt, Brown worked in the special education department where she worked with all age students from kindergarten to high school seniors.
While applying for a job many years ago, Brown recalled the late Billie Gardner suggest she apply for the special ed position. Brown said she hadn’t really thought about working in that specialized field but was up to the challenge. Brown had to get her Special Education Certification, which at the time was called Early Childhood Development.
“It was a lot to learn—all the laws, the reports,” said Brown. “My main concern was to educate my students and show them they aren’t different.”
As a special ed instructor, Brown said she is most proud of her students that went on to earn regular diplomas like the rest of the student body. That is a highlight and the goal of being special education teacher.
Brown got her first taste of administration at East Elementary School when she worked as assistant principal under Dr. Carolyn Stewart.
“She taught me a lot,” Brown said of Dr. Stewart. “She taught me how to be an administrator.”
“Always be diplomatic,” were words of wisdom from Dr. Stewart, Brown said. “People will come in and act crazy, will cuss you out. Be professional. Dr. Stewart always gave me great advice.”
Brown worked with the late coach, Thomas Boykin at the high school. Boykin was another mentor for Brown as an administrator. Some advice he offered was, ‘different school, same problems’, she recalled.
Both Boykin and Stewart helped her understand how to be an administrator. Now as a first time principal of HJSHS, Brown is using those lessons she learned.
Along the way, Brown lent her talents as a coach in Humboldt. She coached basketball, volleyball and assisted with track.
One of the highlights of her coaching career was as the girls basketball coach. That was a strong team with standouts Jessica Graves and Ashley Hayes leading the way. The team had the opportunity to go to UT Knoxville and meet the legendary coach Pat Summitt. Brown said coach Summitt was very nice and offered lots of advice to the team. She signed basketballs for the team. Summitt talked about the importance of getting an education.
Brown said she noticed a difference in her team after that meeting with the late coach. Her girls strived to go to college.
As a coach, Brown said you are almost like their mother. She said you have to build relationships.
“Life is not always fair,” Brown told her team. “Always have a back-up plan. Always do you best and give 100-percent all the time. And always be a lady. On the court, take care of business, but off the court, be a lady. They understood.”
When asked what is different from being a principal and being a vice principal, Brown was quick to say vice principals do a lot more work. Not to say principals don’t have lots of work, but a principal supervises all the administrative positions.
“As principal, I have people around me,” Brown explained. “You need people around you who know what they need to do. I oversee them (administrative team) and their work, and assist them when needed.”
Speaking of assisting, Principal Brown puts her money where her mouth is. If the phone needs to be answered, she will answer it. If a parent comes in, she will meet with them. If she sees a need to do something, she will do it.
Brown has a plan for Humboldt Jr./Sr. High School and part of that plan is to increase the number of vocational courses. In today’s world, college is not for everybody. These are the students that may fall through the cracks. By offering more vocational courses, students can learn a trade while in high school and be ready to compete in today’s workforce with high-paying jobs. Brown said she would love to a have nursing program for Humboldt students.
“I want things to get back to the way it used to be with high expectations,” Brown said of the direction for HJSHS. “I want community involvement. We need parents behind us. I want to offer programs that can help people live a decent life. I want our students to have those advantages where they can find a good job and lead a productive life. One person can’t do it—it takes all of us.”
This year, school is an ever-changing experiment due to COVID. The old normal is far from today’s normal. Brown and her team have a plan in place that is working.
“Thank God for my parents—without them I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Brown said of her educational journey. “If my daddy was alive, he’d be happy. I’m especially grateful for my husband, Mr. Wonderful, Darron Brown.”