The Beatles are right: All you need is love, at least when it comes to transforming education, according to Luvelle Brown.
“My leadership style is different than other folks,” said the superintendent of the Ithaca City School District in New York. “In my district, we focus on love. We have created a culture of love. It’s not test scores or a curriculum. Love of students is the key to educating them effectively.”
This power of love has made the Ithaca City School District one of the most remarkable stories in the nation. During Brown’s tenure as superintendent, the graduation rate has jumped from 78 percent to about 95 percent; the number of students being sent to the school office for disciplinary reasons has decreased by 66 percent; and Ithaca High School has moved from being on the list of New York State Schools in Need of Improvement to being recently recognized by Newsweek magazine as being in the top 2 percent of the best high schools in the U.S.
“We’ve come a long way,” said Brown. “We are being recognized across the world.”
Brown and his team bring technology, community involvement and close, personal connections to students. His district, for example, implemented the largest Chromebook deployment in the state, and it was led by students, who chose these devices and had tremendous input on how they should be used. Brown also made sure that the devices were used correctly by providing professional development for teachers and administrators. In addition, Brown and his team upgraded the digital infrastructure across the district, making sure that the Internet is available — for free — from the playgrounds to the parking lots.
Once connected, the engagement intensifies, with the community and residents able to participate in “teletownhalls” about the budget or more effectively communicate with the district via the website, which was designed to be a two-way tool and create a dialog among stakeholders.
“In six years, we’ve changed a community and a culture,” Brown said. “It’s not work; I’m engaged. This is what I do. It’s not work. It’s my life.” —Tim Douglas