Superintendent Christopher Brown is ready to welcome students to Marcus Whitman Central School Thursday.
Christopher Brown wants Marcus Whitman students to see him as the person who can help them achieve their goals.
“Of all the people who can make a change, it’s me,” he said, stressing the importance of making connections with students, staff and the community at large. “The kids know what they need. Say it. Ask a question,” he added.
Brown, who took over as superintendent of Marcus Whitman Central School District this summer, brings his experience from Hammondsport (a small rural school) followed by West Genesee (a large suburban district) to this community, which he calls “very welcoming.”
Sitting at the conference table in his office with a to-do list scrawled on a yellow pad in front of him, Brown says his aim is to build on the strengths he’s already learned about in the weeks he’s been on the job, and he’s excited for the opening of the school year. After two days of conferences Tuesday and Wednesday, the district welcomes students on Thursday, Sept. 5
The strengths he’s become familiar with include the school district’s place as the community center for the 154-square-mile rural district that stretches from near Hopewell to Italy, and from Canandaigua Lake’s eastern shore to just west of Bellona.
Brown said he has learned in his two months on the job and in the community that “Marcus Whitman has left a mark on a lot of people.”
He said his educational philosophy revolves around the goal to prepare students for whatever comes after their high school graduation in recognition that college is not for everyone.
That philosophy fits well with the district’s courses and programs, such as FFA, technology, and the Environmental Classroom Opportunity (ECO) program for sixth graders, he said.
Brown said the district will be taking a multi-tier approach to addressing the behavioral, emotional, and mental health challenges that youngsters carry into the school. A recent workshop attracted over 100 people who come into regular contact with youths. “Safety is everybody’s responsibility,” he said.
After resigning from his former position at West Genesee Central School earlier this year in an agreement with that board of education, Brown accepted the position at Marcus Whitman in April.
Brown says he has relocated because he feels strongly that it’s important for a superintedent to be near the community they serve. “You can’t learn or adapt to the culture if you aren’t at least in proximity,” he said.
Joining the district in mid-summer allowed him to work with former superintendent Jeramy Clingerman for a smooth transition. He was able to be part of the hiring process for new teachers and administrators, and the district has filled most of the vacancies.
He takes over in the midst of a major capital project that will add a second floor to the high school to accomodate an indoor track and fitness center, new mechanical equipment, a new roof, pool upgrades, and improvements to classrooms, technology, safety and security measures. A new playground is being added at the Middlesex Valley school, and a new athletic field with upgraded parking and a concession area is also in the works.
Clingerman left to take over the superintendent job in the Seneca Falls School District.
Brown has over 25 years of educational experience, 20 of those focused on district leadership. After starting his career as a teacher, he has been a director of instructional technology, school business administrator, assistant superintendent for general administration and superintendent of the Hammondsport school district and West Genesee School District near Syracuse.
There are 1,450 students in Universal Pre-K through grade 12 at the Marcus Whitman School District, compared to the 4,400 students in the West Genesee District and the 500 students in Hammondsport when he left that district in 2008.