After spending more than three decades in a district of nearly 40,000 students, Dr. Susan Brown is moving on to her next professional endeavor as the new superintendent of Smyrna School District.
“I did not get here alone,” Brown said. “I’ve had many people who had confidence in my abilities to both lead and treat other people exceptionally.”
The entirety of her career thus far has been with Hartford County Public Schools in Bel Air, Maryland, and she said she’s excited to be joining a smaller district.
“I went to a high school that was rather small, but it was very much a community school,” she said. “So when I think of Smyrna, I think of that area and how close knit that school was.”
She said even though Hartford County has about 40,000 students, that’s an “average-sized” Maryland school district.
Smyrna has just under 6,000 students enrolled across its eight schools.
Brown’s appreciation for public education comes from her parents, who she said were always advocating for their children and putting them in the best position to succeed academically.
“I had a great support system in my own family to help me get to this point and help me understand the power of education,” she said.
She knew she wanted to teach, so she pursued an education degree in college. Now, she has four degrees.
First, she attended Hartford Community College where she earned her associate’s degree.
What Brown brings to Smyrna
At Hartford, Brown taught for years, becoming a teacher leader, a department chair, summer school director, and since 2013, executive director for curriculum, instruction and assessment.
“We are delighted to welcome Dr. Brown to the Smyrna School District,” said board member Dr. Charlie Wilson in a press release. “We recognize her extensive record of leadership in education and are excited about the path of our district going forward.”
Brown said although she’s out of the classroom, she’s always a teacher first, and utilizes the same leadership style that helped her succeed in that realm.
“Once you’re a teacher, you’re always a teacher, and that’s how I try to lead — as if I was still in the classroom as a reflective practitioner,” she said. “So once I learn something, I really think deeply about how that informs my own practice and how I can make a larger impact.”
Although she’s only six days into the job, she plans to spend her first few weeks in the schools developing relationships with administrators, teachers, students and families.
“That’s where I get my energy,” she said. “I want to see kids and teachers and I want to be involved in the activities and the learning that’s going on in the building.”
She described her leadership style with a six word mantra that she not only leads by, but lives by: “Be bold, be authentic, and be kind.”
Outside of the classroom, Brown enjoys hiking up mountains and snapping photos of the world.
She said photography is cathartic for her because she’s always concerned about getting the perfect shot and then editing the photo afterwards.
“It makes me think about something,” she said. “Really, it has nothing to do with me professionally or quite frankly with me personally, but just doing it gives me a creative outlet.”
Part of her excitement to move to Delaware is the abundance of parks and green space.
Brown also likes to bike and spend her time off at the beach to “reflect, refine and come back refreshed.”
Some administrators start new jobs and immediately seek to change the way things are done.
“I’m more methodical and deliberate than that,” she said. “I want to, first and foremost, discover what things are going great in the district and how to keep the momentum of those successes.”
In the fall, she’ll be doing a “seek to understand” tour where she will hold community engagement events to learn what families in the community prioritize, and what challenges or problems they might have with Smyrna.
Some of the challenges she’s already recognized in her first week are internet access gaps and food scarcity, something she called a universal problem that was highlighted by the pandemic.
“I like to include others as part of my vision, because I can’t do it all by myself,” Brown said. “I can make a great plan sitting at my desk, but if it doesn’t make sense to teachers, or if it doesn’t make sense to parents, then that’s not going to work.
“We have to have feedback in our decision making as we build what we want for our children.”
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
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