With his tattoos, youth, and skateboard, New Zealand native Hamish Brewer does not look the part of a traditional public school principal. And, in many ways, he’s not - he’s better than the traditional prototype. Brewer, who gathered district and national awards during his five years at the helm of Occoquan Elementary, is taking over the reins at Fred M. Lynn Middle School.
Lynn Middle is challenged at the moment. Forty percent of the school’s students speak something other than English as their first language and are still learning. Eighty percent live in households that fall below the poverty line. And the school failed to meet state math and science standards, and so is not currently accredited. A Prince William County assistant superintendent was quoted in the press as saying that the school faces the largest challenges in the entire county. Brewer has a big task on his hands.
There’s no doubt that he’s the strongest leader for the job. In April, the principal was recognized as Virginia’s 2017 National Distinguished Principal by the Virginia Association of Elementary School Principals. His school, Occoquan was also named a National Title I Distinguished School, singled out for its achievements in teaching students from low-income families. One might imagine that Brewer was recruited for the principal gig at Lynn. Instead, he sought the job out.
He says that he loved his job at the elementary school, but he was seeking new challenges. Additionally, some of his former students from Occoquan would be promoted to Lynn. He says that he has no issues dealing with a diverse student body and is on a mission to prove that even economically-disadvantaged students can excel in school when given the right tools.
A handful of teachers who taught under Brewer at Occoquan are jumping ship to take jobs with him at Lynn Middle, proving that he’s as great a boss as he is an administrator.
Brewer has already made noticeable changes at Lynn Middle. He’s updated the lighting, had artists in to paint murals, and has structured a “tribe” system he implemented at Occoquan, which is based on the “house” system of the Harry Potter universe, where students earn points for their assigned group. He has also rejected the previous principal’s office and instead commandeered a meeting room off a main hallway that keeps him close and accessible to the student body so they can get to know him better and him, them.