Honor Roll: A Q&A With Award Winning L.A. Teacher Maynard Brown


Today is World Teacher’s Day, and Maynard Brown is celebrating with more than an apple. The Crenshaw High School teacher will receive Junior Achievement Southern California’s first ever “School Makes Cents” Award at a ceremony attended by congresswoman Maxine Waters. Brown, who is being recognized for helping students engage in Junior Achievement programs, tells us about the school’s public-private partnership with the organization, the biggest challenge he faces as an educator, and why he’ll be back in school on Monday.

Tell me about Junior Achievements Graduation Pathways Program.
Within LAUSD, almost north of 50% of students don’t graduate for one reason or another. There’s a critical point in middle school where we’re losing a lot of these people. Many times it has to do with the education they’re receiving or circumstances in their own lives. Junior Achievements Graduation Pathways Program gives them the kind of experiences that allows education to become relevant, that allows them to change their identity—who they are and what they can become—with job shadow programs, internships, and a high school heroes program where our academy students go down to the local elementary school and teach economic and community building and entrepreneurship to the kids at feeder schools to Crenshaw High. That’s how we begin to change how these young people see themselves, and that changes who they believe they can become. 

How many students are involved in the program?
In total we have about 350 students in the Business Management and Entrepreneurship Academy [at Crenshaw High] who are getting these touchpoints through Pathways. But that is just a small part of the 96,000 students that Junior Achievement reaches countywide. 

We recently ran a profile of John Deasy and hosted a discussion with him about the challenges he faces at the helm of LAUSD. What’s the greatest challenge you face in your job every day?
I’m going to push the budgetary issues aside for a moment. There are those who would say we are just a failing school with failing students, but when you come inside these walls and look at the transformation that is occurring in these young people through [the Pathways Program], you get a sense of what has to be done to change the current failures of public education. 

The challenges that we face are things like instability in administrative support here at the school. We’ve had four LAUSD superintendents in five years. We’ve had eight principals here at Crenshaw High School in ten years. We’ve had 33 administrators in eight years. I lost half my faculty in the academy through layoffs and displacements, and so you come back in August and look around and think, What happened to my team? That’s the backdrop to the goals we’re trying to achieve. So where’s the support for this public-private partnership? Where’s the consistency that will allow progress to continue in this kind of partnership from year to year? People want to help. Junior Achievement has been on the ground for the last 27 years. The challenge becomes, how do we keep the partnership alive?

Maxine Waters will be honoring you on Friday. Is there anything you want to tell her?
Absolutely. Maxine is a hero in this community. She’s been a defender of our work and a supporter of Junior Achievement and the work it’s done in this high school. I’ve known her son, [Crenshaw High coach Ed Waters] for 40 years. It’s really special to have her present this award. 

How will you celebrate after the ceremony?
The award is great but the work continues on. We’ll have a toast for that day and then we’ll move on. We’re trying to save the model. It’s worth fighting for, so we’re in discussions with LAUSD to make sure the program is allowed to continue to impact these kids. I’m inspired to do more. 

Watch PBS’s January 2012 Tribute to Maynard Brown:

Photograph courtesy JA.org