R.L. Brown turns its campus upside down

March 13, 2019 – Decreasing attendance and increasing behavior issues. That’s what Principal Tammy Haberman and School Counselor Joshua Nelson noticed three years ago as R.L. Brown was transitioning from a neighborhood school to a dedicated magnet school.

The two began brainstorming to find a creative way to address their issues. Their first brainchild was “Club Day.”

This initiative was designed to increase attendance. Each month, students who miss less than two days of class have the opportunity to participate in 45 minutes of activities that relate to potential careers.

Haberman and Nelson partnered with A. Philip Randolph Career Academies to expose students to careers such as firefighting, crime scene investigation, construction and cosmetology.

Through this initiative, Haberman says students are both learning about the work force early on and becoming excited to get to school. They don’t want to miss the chance to complete an obstacle course wearing fire gear, or paint their nails with high school mentors.

“It’s been empowering at all angles,” said Haberman. “Not only has our attendance increased three or four percent…but the empowerment and commitment we see in students to come to class is so powerful.”

Haberman said another powerful initiative in transforming the school is the Kindness Academy. She credits this initiative for the school seeing a 54 percent decrease in referrals this year.

A major component of the Kindness Academy is an act called “drops in the bucket.”

With “drops in the bucket,” students reward other students or staff members for doing something kind. They write the student’s or staff member’s name and kind act they performed on a piece of paper, known as a “drop,” and place it in designated buckets around the school.

Those who get a drop in the bucket get recognized in the afternoon announcements and get to have a donut with Principal Haberman.

Team Duval News recently got to witness a kindness activity in Marilyn Smith’s kindergarten class. Each student wrote a thank you note to one of their classmates for something nice they did.

Some students were thanking a classmate for hugging them, while others thanked their classmate for helping them clean up at the end of an activity.

Smith’s student, Aaliyah, was writing a thank you note to her classmate, Jonathan, for playing with her. She shared with us her favorite way to be nice to those around her.

“My favorite nice thing to do is to walk across the street with my neighbor, Jonah,” said Aaliyah.

Haberman couldn’t be happier seeing the impact that the Kindness Academy has had on her students, staff and school.

“I can’t stop smiling,” said Haberman. “Kindness truly is contagious. I have seen it happen right before my eyes.”

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