Like many who go into education, Luvelle Brown draws inspiration from her mother, who was a teaching assistant for 46 years. It is what propelled her into a career as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, central office administrator, and, since 2011, superintendent of New York’s Ithaca City School District.
“My passion for teaching and learning has developed over a lifetime of watching the positive impact my mother has had on several generations of young learners,” says Brown, whose district is home to Cornell University, Ithaca College, and other higher education institutions.
As superintendent, Brown is “committed to cultivating a culture of love that is patient, kind, trusting, unselfish, forgiving, dedicated, and truthful.” These “love principles,” as she calls them, are the backbone of a community-wide strategic planning process that resulted in the district’s vision of “6000+ Thinkers” and the mission of “Engage. Educate. Empower.”
Ithaca’s initiatives are based on systems thinking. They include integrating thinking skills in every classroom, design and implementation of transdisciplinary curriculum units, redesign of learning spaces, and technology initiatives that include game-based learning, innovative uses of social media, and a one-to-one mobile device implementation.
Brown is quick to point to Ithaca’s successes: a graduation rate that has grown from 78 to 94 percent in six years; a 63 percent decrease in discipline referrals; an 8 percent increase in overall attendance and in enrollment and diversity in higher level courses; and a 6 percent increase in students reading on grade level in grades K-5. The district also was placed on The College Board’s Advanced Placement Honor Roll and has been named as one of the best communities for music education by the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation.
The list goes on and on. And Brown says it’s attributable to one thing: a culture of love.