Paul M. Brown Secondary School, of Course

The HWDSB is now asking for public input into the naming of the new mountain school to be located somewhere south of the Linc. There is a strong following who believe that school should be named after Paul M. Brown, a teacher who passed away last December 17th. Of course, we all know that this would be a great accomplishment! But it’s up to all of us to convince the school board of this.

So I went through their school naming policy and reviewed the criteria for suggestions. I think you’ll find this kind of interesting…

The name for a new school must reflect HWDSB’s vision, mission, commitments and community composition.

Nobody did this better than Paul.

The HWDSB’s MISSION STATEMENT – Providing relevant, responsive education so that each student becomes a life-long learner and contributing citizen in a diverse world – almost comes close to defining Paul as a teacher. Paul didn’t just relate, interact, and connect. He inspired, encouraged, and uplifted. He took students who didn’t want to be in school and taught them to believe in themselves. He took students who wanted to learn and lit them on fire. Every student lucky enough to have Paul as a teacher – and a great many who never actually sat in one of his classrooms! – carries lessons learned per curriculum and beyond well into adulthood. Paul taught by lecture, book and example, preparing his students for more than just graduation!

The Board’s VALUES – Respect, Creativity, Excellence, Citizenship – are just a few of Mr. Brown’s values. Add to that integrity, accountability, acceptance, responsibility, ambition, charity, and a host of other values, and you begin to get the picture.

And as for their VISION – All students achieving their full potential – Paul did his best to make all of his students recognize their own potential, believing that you can’t achieve what you don’t perceive.

The school’s name must provide inspiration to students.

Paul struggled as a student. Through elementary and high school, he was told he would likely finish high school but no more. He took ‘3’ and ‘2’ level courses, and believed in his fate. After graduating high school, the first in his family, he set off to work in a factory. It wasn’t long before  he decided he wanted more. He went back to upgrade, working two and three part time jobs all the while. His dream was to attend Carleton University in Ottawa, but he barely met their acceptance requirements. Refusing to take no for an answer, Paul argued his case, writing letters, attending interviews, and convincing the admissions board that he was worth the risk. They took him in on a semester by semester probation. He worked his way through, never having less than two jobs, finishing his degree in four years. He graduated with a BA in Criminal Psychology. The confidence and pride he won with this accomplishment changed his entire life plan. Teaching was simply his way of paying it forward. In his mind, if he could do it, every other student had potential beyond their own imaginings. And he made sure they saw that.

The name must have community and district acceptance.

I have yet to run into anyone, anywhere, who didn’t think the world of Paul. I have never heard of anyone, ever, who was as universally admired and welcomed as he was. Honestly, if there is anyone out there who would be accepting of this, I’m sure they would be considered the same ilk as that guy who scooped the homerun baseball from the glove of the little boy…

The name must be appropriate for the whole district.

As a teacher with the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board, a loyal and dedicated employee, who taught at several different high schools, coached several teams, was actively involved in skills development, career growth, union endeavours, interdisciplinary studies, safe schools, extracurricular supervision, and special education, Paul crossed paths with virtually everyone in the Board.

The name must have local community, district, provincial, Canadian or International significance.

Paul’s impact as a teacher was only a small part of who he was. As a baseball player on the same rec team for over 20 years, Paul’s influence was far reaching. He expanded his involvement to coaching, and later to umping, achieving his Provincial card and turning the task of umping teenagers’ games into an art, regularly overseeing games and tournaments at several Hamilton area parks. Paul remained a part-time respite worker for Banyan, at Arrell Youth Detention Center, spreading his unique style of teaching to those who needed it most. His involvement in the corrections community far exceeded his part-time status. Paul stepped onto the stage during his last two years, melting himself into the hearts of two local theatre groups with no effort at all. The Down Syndrome Association of Hamilton, the OPP and Haldimand Regional Police, Carleton Alumni Association, Niagara Falls Immigration offices, Niagara College, and the OSSTF all benefited from Paul’s energy and enthusiasm.

The name must address underrepresented groups

Paul could easily be defined as universal. As a black man himself, he could easily, and respectfully, represent the black community. But Paul’s capacity for tolerance of all people, regardless of age, sex, sexual orientation, race, culture, religion, or level of ability, made him champion for all. He may have seemed so to the world at large, but we know he lived by example. With a mixed race marriage, and five biracial kids, three of whom were adopted, and one of whom has Down syndrome, Paul was the epitome of diversity! The underprivileged, the strugglers, the gifted, the challenged, of any age, in any station, all found compassion, understanding, and a raw lack of pity in Paul’s support. That kind of acceptance qualifies Paul to speak for all of us.

Paul’s energy and zest for life was an example to be followed. He inspired his peers, motivated his students, and encouraged their families. He taught beyond the teachable. To name, of all things, a school after him, would be a testament to his character, his passion, and his spirit.

The facebook page to support the naming of Paul M. Brown Secondary School can be found here.

Click here to link to the Board’s webpage where you can complete the survey.

Or click here to find links to the Board Trustees to write a letter/email outlining your support.

What to Say About Mr. Brown

No one knows better than I do how getting something done online can turn into one of those tasks that just gets away from us. ‘I’m thinking I should post something. Now I have to remember what it is, when I have time, while I’m sitting at my computer, and then I have to think of something intelligent to say.’ We’re busy – and sometimes the smallest feats can take the biggest effort.

That said, let me try to help you along to get that HWDSB School Naming survey completed as quickly as possible.

1. Below is a bunch of comments you can copy, giving full credit to the original writer;

2. Click here to go to the Board of Education’s website to complete the survey;

3. Answer the quick questions as to who you are. (They just want to know student/peer/community, etc. – no names and addresses.);

4. Paste your copied comments into the “Why should we pick your guy?” section.

Sample comments:

(A great place to find more comments is at Paul’s Memorial Facebook Page, at )

I agree with what Jeff Baker said on Facebook, “To the one who struggled with keeping Paul’s name as a reference on resume…leave it there. Anyone who phones can be redirected to this page. If Paul was willing to stand up for you in life, his voice and reputation will be spoken through others and he’ll stand up for you still. Whether his name is on the paper or not, he’s there for you.”

I agree with what Monica Wilson-Cook said on Facebook, “Dear Paul,
Baseball has started and I could feel and sense your physical absence from the park especially from behind the plate. You are missed in many places and Eastmount Park is one of them. Your wave’s and smiles to all us mom’s sitting in the chairs, your big voice calling those calls so all us moms know whats really going on, your pep talks to the catchers behind the plate, our after game chats and laughs. As much as we all miss you being there and wish you still were I know your with us all and you are watching all the games and not missing a play as you have the best spot in the park, We miss you and the kids miss you and I just felt like stopping at your page to say hi.
Take care our friend and we will all see each other again one day and we will all play ball or at least try LOL!!!”

I agree with what Suzanna Gabanna said on Facebook, “Hey Paul Thinking of you today. You definitely brought alot of happiness and laughter around myself and my family. We miss you dearly, you were free spirited and joyful all the time and we are going to miss having the best neighbor anybody could ever have! You were so caring and giving, and I’m sure we will all meet again! God bless you Paul. Rest in paradise!”

I agree with what Kala N Mike Nora said on Facebook, “So sorry to hear you pasted away. I will always appreciate the talks you had with me about missing class lol. You were always a over the top teacher that cared deeply about your students I will remember you always and forever. May you rest in peace.”

I agree with what Julia Bee said on Facebook, “Sir:) just thinking of you brings be back to Delta days, Everyone Respected Your Strong heart, honest consistent ways & most of all your class room!!! I made sure I was on time for your classes! I can still hear your voice correcting me by simply saying BROTTON! With that look:).& will Always remember your big jolly laugh & smile.
The world needs more teachers / people like you. You will Always be in the Brotton’s Hearts”

I agree with what Rob Jeffery said on Facebook, “Still can see your smile, you were such a good guy,teacher, and role model. Teaching was your calling, you made a difference in many peoples lives, mine included. Thanks for being fair, consistent and just a good dude. It was a privilege to know you.”

I agree with what Candice Ellen said on Facebook, “this past week has been hard for me,
i have been placed at hill park and EVERYONE knows you.
and when they ask where i was before i say macnab and they insantly ask if i knew you or what not.
Not a day goes by that i dont think about you and what you taught me.
Miss you Mr Brown.”

I agree with what Josh Bull McColl said on Facebook, “Mr Brown i know in football i was usually the loudmouth cheering everyone on and i always had a firepower to win just like u u taught me so much more then i knew the first day of practice and i wanna thank u for not giving up on me even during bad times in games and when i got tooken out in churchill and when we were always wanting to win Rest In Paradise Mr.Brown ur truly missed”

I agree with what Brandon Hill said on Facebook, “I know I was hard headed at times and I was a huge pain in the rear but youre the one teacher that never gave up on me, I still think about the lessons you taught me, Thanks to you I’ve become a better person. Miss ya every day coach. Rest in Paradise.”

I agree with what Angel Khattra said on Facebook, “I’ll always remember Mr. Brown as one of the few teachers that actually inspired me; I always remembered everything he taught because he kept it interesting.

I agree with what Kim Mlekuz said on Facebook, “Paul was an Angel that walked on earth and blessed every person he came in contact with. Life is better for having met Paul. His smile made everyone around him smile. My only regret is that I didn’t tell Paul what a difference he made while I had the chance. RIP the Mlekuz Family”

I agree with what Evie O’Malley said on Facebook, “I will remember the big smile he had from ear to ear. He had a light around him that was comforting..even if u met him only once, it was like u knew him for years. He will certainly be missed. May u rest in peace Paul Michael Brown”

I agree with what Brenna Elise Dougan said on Facebook, “Don’t just let life happen to you.
Make. Life. Happen. Thank you for everything you did for me in my years at delta i have nothing but immense respect for you”

I agree with what Cassie Vukosa said on Facebook, “I always felt everytime I was with Paul that I was very special to him and I always felt so good after I had a chance to see him even if it was a quick hello on the street corner. It turns out that he had the ability to make EVERYONE feel very special to him.”

I agree with what Amanda Shay said on Facebook, “You will always have a special place in my heart. Thank you for being a wonderful leader, You are a big reason why I am who I am today.”

I agree with what Ginger Snaps E said on Facebook, “I am truly grateful to have been taught by this man and i will continue to honor his memory by succeeding in my life and becoming the person he believed i would be.”

I agree with what Amy Chong said on Facebook, “He was an amazing teacher. He was absolutely terrifying at times, but for good reasons! He cared about each and every one of his students and he wanted us to be the best we could possibly be. He had my class write letters to our future selves as an assignment, describing were we would hope to be in our lives 10 years from then. That was in 2008. I hope that those letters will make it to us someday!”

I agree with what Eric Stevens said on Facebook, “I feel honoured to have had him as a coach. Without mr Brown there would have been no football team at MacNab. Mr Brown helped many people pave the path to success. And as the tears fall the motivation to succeed rises. Mr Brown thank you for everything you have done to make this world a better place, Rest in Peace coach/teacher/rolemodel”

I agree with what Tom Beshoff said on Facebook, “There is no question this man will leave large voids in every corner of his life. His students have lost not only a teacher, but (judging from the many postings here), a real and true leader. He was a tremendous giver to the community he lived in.”

I agree with what Michelle Scott said on Facebook, “Mr. Brown was one of few grown ups that was nice to me. I recall my father reading my report from him asking, why he had such nice things to say about me! Thank you for your positive influence in my life.”

I agree with what Tanya Prosser said on Facebook, “I am saddened wondering if they will ever have a teacher like Paul was, or better yet to be able to call that teacher a great friend later in life.
A man who meant so much to everyone who had come into contact with him and was fortunate enough to know him and his infectious smile and laughter.”

I agree with what Miles Wallace said on Facebook, “Paul helped me get into teachers college by letting me train with him for a short time. I saw what a great person he was very quickly, he was the life of the school and a stranger to no one. In the special ed. department he was adored and loved by all of his students. It was a wonderful pleasure to meet him and I will never forget his personality. I am greatly saddened by his passing.”

I agree with what Heather MIller said on Facebook, “Paul coached my son Angelo football at MacNab. I always remember him smiling and treating all the boys with respect and would listen to them no matter how long it took.”

I agree with what Daniel Mischa Pillen said on Facebook, “One of the greatest teachers one could ever have. Ill always remember his talk with me… he changed my view on school completely. I wish there were more teachers like him.”

I agree with what Alex McGillivray said on Facebook, “Mr. Brown – I, like many others saw you as an outstanding teacher, a coach to Tyler, and later a great friend. I remember many things from your class as a student, but the things I remember most were your contagious laugh and your love for absolutely everyone and everything. You were one of the most accepting people I ever had the pleasure of meeting.

I will always treasure the moments that we saw each other long after you were my teacher. I remember you yelling at me from afar in Mills Library at McMaster, “Alex Plumb! Are you keeping out of trouble?” which was immediately followed by a hug and a chat about how life was going for each of us. You always made an effort to make people feel special no matter what walk of life they were from, and I was no different.

I was lucky enough to have run into you not long ago when Tyler and I were out running errands. I remember it felt like time had never passed, but we soon all had a good laugh about how old we all felt once you told us how old your son Ben was. I only wish we could have spent more time with you, but to be honest, I am just lucky enough to have known you. Thank you for the things you have taught me, and for the memories you have given me.”

I could cut an paste these forever! Feel free to take one or more or part of these comments and use them. There are plenty more on the Memorial Facebook Page, Posts by Others section. Bring a kleenex.

We have five days left to convince the Board that this is a good idea. We all know it is. We just have to make sure we’re heard.

Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule!

Paul M. Brown Secondary School

“Thank you for calling Paul M. Brown Secondary School…”

Has a nice ring to it.

Since Paul’s passing last December, it has been suggested to me that ‘we’ should petition the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board to name its next school after Paul. While obviously biased in my opinion, I would argue that there is significant merit to the idea.

The HWDSB has asked for public input into the naming of its proposed school in Dundas. They have sent information home to the families, and posted the details on their website.

I would like to share with you the rationale that makes Paul the obvious choice for this honour.

As we approach December and are inevitably brought back to that day, a year ago, when we each first learned of Paul’s passing, the tragedy and sadness of the memory are almost immediately replaced with a smile. Anyone who thinks of Paul – family, friend, colleague, student – smiles in his memory, as he always smiled at us.

Teacher, mentor, father, brother, husband, friend, teammate, coach, umpire, leader, inspiration. Paul was an enormous influence on everyone he met. His funeral was testament to this, overflowing with students, many dating back to his supply teaching days, peers, some he hadn’t worked with in decades, friends, many of whom traveled long distances to visit with us, classmates he hadn’t seen since grade school. Paul left an impact as big as he was. He brought you into his circle, lifted you up, called you friend, and shared his love and energy; when you were with him, you were the most important person in the world. No one thinks of Paul without feeling loved.

HWDSB School Naming Flyer

The HWDSB is asking for public input to name its next school.
And yeah, that’s Ben.

Paul’s effect on the community was as deep as it was wide. He was always actively involved in and committed to any undertaking he could imagine. From baseball – as umpire, player, and coach, to community services – auxiliary policing, civilian police college, Down Syndrome Association of Hamilton, youth worker. From the social to the theatrical. From family – wife and five kids, to friends – he only had one, and you were it! No matter where Paul went, he took his energy with him and shared it freely. He never passed someone he knew without a fond and heartfelt conversation that usually started with a big Paul hug.

As a teacher, Mr. Brown’s success will be measured for years to come. He was ‘that teacher.’ He brought the world into the classroom and taught his students to love to learn about it. He was the one who convinced you to try harder, dream bigger, live larger. “Stay in school. Don’t let the bad people win.” There is no shortage of students who claim Mr. Brown’s encouragement as a turning point in their lives – and many of those came well after graduation. The countless stories of his compassion and commitment to his students carry an undertone of something much deeper that just a teacher who cared. He was a teacher, brought into a student’s life for a reason. He was a gift.

As a HWDSB employee, Paul was as dedicated as he was respected. Actively involved in safe schools development, OSSTF initiatives, career development, extra curriculars, staff morale, and mentoring, Paul was always available to lend a hand, get his hands dirty, or lead the way. His school day never ended, as I can personally attest to given his choice of topic when talking in his sleep! He was known and liked by support staff, peers, and administration alike. Reliable, responsible, and always accountable.

As a man, Paul lived by his life motto: Faith, Integrity, Perseverance. He trusted that his life had purpose, that he was here for a reason, and that time not spent helping others was time wasted. Every action, every decision, every word, came from a heart that insisted that the people around him were more important that he was. He held himself to an incredibly high standard of values. His  ethics and morals were above reproach. He was a good person with a giving spirit. And he understood, better than most, that, of course, he would have to work hard to achieve his goals.

HWDSB website screen shot

Yeah, that’s Ben on the website, too.

Paul was a role model to all. But he especially connected those who struggle, as he did. He himself struggled through school, growing up with the firm understanding that he would be lucky to be the first in his family to finish highschool and should be happy with whatever job that would land him. Paul never saw himself as he was perceived – he wanted to make a difference. He fought his way through highschool. And argued his way into university. And then pushed himself beyond his own expectations to become a teacher. And for two decades, not a day went by that he didn’t consider his profession a privilege. He never realized how big a splash he’d made in the world.

If ever there should be a name on the front of a building, a name that is spoken with respect and compassion, a name that inspires hope and determination to a community, a school, a student, Paul M. Brown is that name. A man who inspired students, uplifted his peers, and energized his community. A name that is synonymous with happiness, hope, and heart.

I would ask all of Paul’s friends, family, co-workers, students, to share this with anyone and everyone who might like to support this idea. Link over to the Board’s website, fill in the survey, talk to your HWDSB trustee, write an email. Check out the Board’s school naming policy and see if it doesn’t look like it was written just for Paul!! Whatever it takes. Let’s give Paul the school he so very much deserves.

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