Widow of Sir Allan MacNab teacher, coach says name would be fitting honour
By Gord Bowes, News staff
Paul Brown was the personification of everything the Hamilton public school board represents and because of that, the new south Mountain high school should bear his name, says his widow.
“He went so far above and beyond the call of duty that the comments we’re got back about him are overwhelming,” says Alexandra Brown, who would like to see the late teacher’s name used by the board for its new high school on the south Mountain.
“It wasn’t just coaching and classwork. It was pulling up a seat on the floor in the hall with a kid who looked like he was having a bad day. It was buying a kid a coffee and talking with her and saying, ‘How’s that problem working out with you.’ It was parents coming in for parent-teacher interviews and say, ‘How’s your other daughter doing at university?’
“He was so connected with everybody he worked with — teachers, staff, families, the kids. And kids still remember him for making a difference in their lives.”
Paul Brown died Dec. 17, 2012 while working at Sir Allan MacNab. About 700 people turned out for a service at the school three days before Christmas to pay their respects.
Colleagues and former students spoke at the service about what their friend and teacher meant to them.
“He easily related to the students and they respected him for his tough, no-nonsense approach,” Mel Laforme, who taught with Brown at Delta, said at a memorial service for his friend shortly after his death. “But really, Paul was a gentle giant. He would offer help to anyone he could.”
People started suggesting a school should be named after him during the funeral visitation.
“As time went on and people were asking me about it, I thought maybe I should take the lead on that,” says Alex.
She submitted his name as a suggestion for the merged high school in Dundas.
Oddly enough — or perhaps it was a sign — Paul’s son Ben was featured in the website promo asking for names. His photo had been been taken for stock imagery while he was a Grade 10 student at Westmount.
She’s using the image on the Facebook page promoting the idea for Paul M. Brown Secondary School.
And perhaps another sign is that Paul’s image is scheduled to be used in a Black History Month campaign by the board, says Alex.
While most of his career was spent teaching at Delta, then his last years at MacNab, Alex says he did work at every high school in the system except Waterdown as a supply teacher before getting hired full-time.
“For so many of our schools to be named after ancient politicians, yeah we get that,” says Alex. “But I think it’s so much more appropriate to take somebody who gave everything he had and use him as an example — use him as a role model for not only the students, but the staff, that we recognize our own. I think it would be a fabulous statement for the board to make.”
“He was every teacher. He represents everybody.”
And according to the number of “likes” on the “Paul M. Brown Secondary School” page on Facebook, about 1,200 people agree.
The new high school, which the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board says will open in 2016, will be constructed on land at the foot of Upper Sherman, south of Rymal Road.
The name will also be used for Barton Secondary School starting in the fall, as Hill Park high school closes in June and Barton and Hill Park students form a new student body.
Over 280 suggestions had been received as of last Friday.
Submissions, including rationale for the name of the school, must be received by 4 p.m. on Jan. 28.
They can be made online at hwdsb.on.ca/feedback or by postal mail to Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board; 120 King St W, Suite 1120; Hamilton, Ont.; L8P 4V2; Attention: Research Officer (E-BEST).
Trustees are expected to approve the new name this spring.