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Saturday, March 2, 2013

The BIG Picture: Remembering Tech High School

I was either a participant or front-row spectator for almost all of Tech High's rise and demise, and readily accept responsibility for the part that I played in both.

Helping to build a school is a unique leadership experience that offers many sobering (if not painful) lessons that become even more so when they are ignored.

As we sift through the ashes for remnants of our time together, I share these lessons that have helped me to heal, understand, and grow ...

  1. Civil discourse between dissenters promotes growth. (SEE LETTER BELOW)
  2. Sometimes the cause masks the agenda.
  3. Sometimes our causes mask our issues.
  4. Value listening much more than speaking.
  5. Knowing and showing trump selling and telling.
  6. Creative problem solving trumps blame shifting.
  7. Real power is work done efficiently.
  8. Truth tellers often encounter great resistance.
  9. Sometimes "let go"; sometimes "let know".
  10. Those who ignore history become infamous.

Farewell, Tech High, and may all who participated in your community enjoy the peace of wisdom earned through lessons learned.


Derrick Brown
Tech High Math Teacher (2004-2005)
Director of Corporate Relations (2005-2006)
Dean of Student Services (2006-2010)
Assistant Principal (2010-2011)
Governing Board Representative (2005-2006, 2010-2011)

Subject: Re: Reaching Out 
To: ""
From: "Derrick Brown"
Date: Thu, 3 Mar 2011 16:23:43 +0000

Hi Mr. ,

I want to thank you for the chance to discuss Tech High in some depth on last Friday. I believe that there is still much to discuss, which I am willing to do to whatever degree my input is valued and respected as constructive feedback.

As a scholar, thought leader, and potential donor, I have been sorely disappointed - and remain gravely concerned - by the culture, climate, and community established and maintained by past and present Tech High School leaders.

To be specific, this group of leaders includes both the foundation and governing boards, as well as administrators, staff, faculty, and parents.

I have witnessed numerous instances of each group trying to overtly chastise and scapegoat the others - while subtly promoting itself as being beyond reproach. This tactic is unfortunate, and is far too prevalent in our small community to be discarded as mere coincidence.

We have all erred in the process of building this school, and there is much wisdom to be earned through humbly sharing lessons learned. To reach this point of maturity, though, we have to end the arrogant pattern of teaching each other on matters where we have not yet learned our lesson.

The final contribution I attempted to make to the school was a transfer of the body of historical, experiential, corrective, operational, and tactical knowledge that I amassed and created - but never disseminated - during my years with the school.

I hoped that this knowledge transfer would effectively address the significant accountability "leaks" that I have observed since 2004. The leaks exist largely because those who tell do not know, and those who know are never asked to tell. Their presence has led to cyclical, systemic personnel and governance mishaps, and a resulting frustration reminiscent of Bill Murray's in the movie "Groundhog Day".

I see now that my offer led to a governing board resolution that has been myopically interpreted by many as an effort that undermines current administrators - instead of as an attempt for us to all learn, grow, and be accountable to each other. That makes it instructive for me to withdraw that offer, and to end my association with Tech High as an advisor.

To echo my thoughts from our talk last Friday, I have witnessed firsthand the knowledge, character, and leadership "leaks" in Tech High's current and past vanguard. These leaks will continue to compromise the school's progress and image if they are not confronted, addressed, counseled, and monitored.

For years, I attempted to confront, cover, support, and counsel these leaks directly as a subordinate - and have been repeatedly patronized, smothered, subverted, and now apparently even vilified by those I tried to help. That made it wise for me to cease those efforts, and to end my association with Tech High as an employee.

I accept that my legacy at Tech High is a polarizing one. I am either deeply appreciated, conveniently overlooked, or subtly hated. There are many in the community who seem to simultaneously hold two or more of these views.

Perhaps a key reason why I am received and perceived with such disparity is because I stand, speak, and act on my convictions even if I am a lone voice. I speak and act out of sincere concern, even if it annoys and angers those who support the status quo.

In closing, I will share my view of what Tech High looks like to objective, careful observers who do not think with their eyes.

Schools are evaluated yearly based on student achievement (knowledge and performance), attendance (presence), and behavior (character).

Even after seven years of supposed growth and evolution, Tech High still seems to value activity (image) over achievement, and the views and mindset of a largely absent minority over the concerns, experiences, and treatment of the present majority.

Lastly - and most regrettably - it still seems to value adhering to a Machiavellian message of saving people from themselves rather than confronting the behaviors that would clean up its own mess, save it from itself, and establish the financial and social capital needed to ably serve its constituents.

These contradictions must be addressed and resolved before they become Tech High's permanent image to all outside of its insulated core.


Derrick Brown
"Do not mistake activity for achievement." (John Wooden, noted achiever)

From: ""
Date: Fri, 25 Feb 2011 09:14:44 -0500
To: "Derrick Brown"
Subject: RE: Reaching Out

Mr. Brown:
        I would like very much to talk with you.  My office number is and home is .  Good times to call today are between 10:45 and 12:30 and between 1:30 and 3.  Also, please feel free to call me at home over the weekend.
        Many thanks,

From: messages-noreply@bounce.linkedin.com [mailto:messages-noreply@bounce.linkedin.com] On Behalf Of Derrick Brown via LinkedIn
Sent: Thursday, February 24, 2011 9:19 AM

Cc: Derrick Brown
Subject: Reaching Out


Derrick Brown has sent you a message.
Date: 2/24/2011
Subject: Reaching Out
Mr. ,

Should you ever decide that direct dialogue between us about Tech High's past, present, and future might be worthwhile, feel free to contact me via email or telephone.


Derrick Brown

Copyright © 2013 Derrick  Brown. All Rights Reserved.

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