Monday, March 22, 1999

Name: Paul R. Brown
Age: 50
Education: Michigan State University
Occupation: Interim Maui District school superintendent
Hobbies: Collecting chess sets, riding motorcycle

Counseling with aloha spirit

Before becoming interim Maui district school superintendent, Paul Brown helped to develop new programs within the state educational system.

Now he's facing the task of bringing new understanding about racial tolerance to schools on the Valley Isle.

Brown, who has been interim superintendent for several months, rose to public attention after a racial harassment complaint was filed with the U.S. Department of Education against Iao Intermediate School on behalf of African-American student Philliep Knox.

Knox's mother, Shelly, has credited Brown with bringing about a change in the atmosphere of the school.

Brown worked as an English teacher and guidance counselor at Mililani High School in Leeward Oahu starting in 1987.

He helped develop a counseling program for gifted and talented students after noticing they confronted unique problems, such as not wanting to excel for fear they would be considered a "nerd."

Some of the gifted and talented students had "rotten social skills," didn't study and were close to suicide. Yet some teachers refused to recognize their situation, he said.

"Some of the teachers said these kids don't have problems," he recalled.

On Maui, Brown was a resource teacher assisting other teachers who worked under a court-mandated order with special-education students.

He later worked as a renewal specialist at King Kekaulike High School, and helped to develop a program at a couple of schools that used the performing arts to encourage literacy.

Brown said whenever he's feeling somewhat depressed, he reminds himself why he became a teacher and goes through his scrapbook, which includes personal letters of appreciation from students.

"You can never put a value or dollar amount on that, when a student tells you, 'You changed my life,' " he said.

Brown said he and his wife, Trisha, were teaching in Romeo, Mich., when -- after traveling to various states -- they decided Hawaii was the place they wanted to live.

"It was because of the aloha spirit and the people," Brown said. "You can go south. You can go west. No place but Hawaii offered us the sense of true community."

By Gary T. Kubota, Star-Bulletin

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