It was an emotional afternoon at Strawberry Crest High School last Friday, when beloved principal David “Dave” Brown was treated to a goodbye party unlike any other as he prepared to close this chapter of his life and begin leading at a new school.
The entire school — every student, teacher and staff member — headed to the inner courtyard on the Chargers’ campus to say goodbye to Brown, who literally brought Strawberry Crest into existence 10 years ago. Lining the sidewalks and hanging over the railings of the second floor bannisters, they waited in hushed silence as Brown stepped behind a student in a strawberry suit and the Charger mascot, then followed a police car slowly through the courtyard in a mini parade.
Flocked by color guard members and the SCHS band, Brown slowly walked down the hall one last time, waving to cheering students and teachers and saluting ROTC members as a roar of applause and shouts of affection rang out around him.
When the parade circled back to the starting point, Brown positioned himself by one of the school’s exits in the courtyard and soon was surrounded by students wanting a hug, a selfie or a final handshake before they darted off to their buses and cars. Several wiped away tears as they gave him one final squeeze and others took a brief moment to thank him for all he’s done for the school.
Upstairs, the party was just beginning. Faculty members rushed to the media center as Brown wrapped up his goodbyes, slipping through the doors and laughing with their coworkers as they put the final touches on his last surprise.
After the exodus of students had passed, Brown headed upstairs and opened the doors to a large human tunnel of his staff, who lined a “red carpet” that had been taped to the floor in his honor. Shaking his head and smiling, he attempted to wave them off but their cheers eventually pulled him down the “carpet” where he clapped and waved before being shepherded to a homemade throne in the center of the room.
Goodbye posters lined windows and walls of the center and two cakes with a fondant strawberry and a large “SC” were waiting for onlookers to cut in and take a slice. Black and red balloons hovered over a few of the assembled tables and the teachers and faculty soon piled around Brown’s throne for a final goodbye.
A few of those gathered shared words of affection and gratitude, handed him gifts ranging from a “Mr. Brown car line preparedness kit” from PTSA to help him temper traffic control in any weather at his new school, to a framed poster that captured some of the highlights of his decade-long career from teachers in Building 1. He even received a framed picture of himself in a strawberry costume that was signed by teachers on staff.
Brown will open a new high school in Riverview in August 2020, and because he knew how stressful starting a new school year was, he elected to stay at SCHS until everything was up and running for the current year. For 10 years he stood at the helm, guiding the Chargers into not only crafting an identity that is recognizable throughout the county, but also into achieving accolades and recognitions that forever put Strawberry Crest on the map.
Christie Raburn, assistant principal for curriculum at SCHS, joked that Brown enjoys writing poems, even occasionally practicing them on campus. So she wrote one of her own, admitting she may have made up a word or two of her own to help the lines rhyme.
“Here’s something fun for those that don’t know, I met Mr. Brown 20 years ago,” Raburn said. “I was a brand new teacher, him a brand new AP. He got a bit irritated when I lost my portable key. True story. From Freedom to Leto he thought it over and made the decision to open a new school in Dover. So nine years later he made me an offer, one I couldn’t refuse, to become ‘The Grasshopper.’ The lessons I’ve learned are many, not few, so I’d like to share some of them with you.”
Quoting many of Brown’s “words of wisdom,” Raburn highlighted his affinity for lock-outs, his love of graduation rehearsal and advice for dealing with frustrated parents. Drawing laughs from the crowd, the speech acted as a transition into a long video of goodbyes from all of the faculty as Brown and his family soaked in their last moments in the Charger setting.
One sentiment was echoed all afternoon, both by students and staff. Brown may be leaving to help shape a new legacy, but he’ll always be family in their book.
After all, “Once a Charger, always a Charger.”