After 19 years on the Orcas Island School Board, Janet Brownell is stepping down. Her last meeting is Oct. 24.
What is your professional background and when did you move to Orcas?
We moved here in 1996. I was a screenwriter before and after I moved to Orcas.
When and why did you join the school board?
I’ve been on the board since 2000 (with two years off in 2005-6). I ran for the office because I fundamentally believe in the promise of public education.
I am a product of public education from kindergarten through college (University of California, Berkeley). I ran because of Mr. Hickman. He was the English teacher I had for three years in high school who not only taught me how to compose a well-crafted paragraph but believed in me when I couldn’t unlock that confidence myself.
But most of all I ran because of my mother. Ada Brownell was a public-school teacher in Los Angeles for over 40 years. She profoundly affected the lives of her students in the classroom, and outside of it. She embodied that promise that public education holds out to every student.
How has serving on the board changed you? What have you learned?
Being on the board has given me the greatest appreciation for the community. There is the Orcas community, which consistently rises to the call of need through its support of our schools through levies, bonds and private giving. For that I am ever grateful.
There is also the school community: staff and administration. I have been through five superintendents, five elementary principals, two high school principals, two new schools (OASIS and Montessori Public), revolving school board members and many new teachers. I used to consider this change as slightly turbulent; now I see it as evolution. And that is the best of education: it does not stay stagnant, rather it stays dynamic — adjusting to ever-growing need.
What is your greatest accomplishment during your tenure?
Almost since I joined the board, I have been working to improve the physical condition of our campuses. It has taken three bonds, almost 10 years and several phases — but I leave with the board with the district in exceptional condition. I hope everyone comes to visit the schools to see how they have invested in our islands’ children. I also believe that the current administrative team is outstanding. You should come visit with them as well.
What will you miss the most?
Vicki Clancy’s lovingly made corsage at graduation.
Where do you plan to volunteer next?
I am currently the President of the Orcas Island Education Foundation. I will stay on that board and continue to work for the schools.
My belief and support of the OISD does not end. I hope everyone knows how lucky we are to have such incredible staff and students on Orcas. It has been my absolute honor and pleasure to serve such a fine institution on the school board.
Now I will continue raising money to add more enhancements for our students. Go to OIEF.org for more information or to donate — just saying.