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Fair Street parents watch changes with wary eye
Longtime principal, key Boys & Girls Clubs official depart
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The Boys & Girls Clubs of Lanier in Gainesville, on Friday, June 15, 2018, has a close relationship with the adjacent Fair Street International Academy. Fair Street principal Will Campbell and Timeka Brownlee, the Fair Street site director for the Boys & Girls Clubs, are both leaving their positions, creating a feeling of uncertainty among the parents of students at Fair Street. - photo by David Barnes

Parents of students at Fair Street International Academy in Gainesville are taking a “trust but verify” approach to leadership changes that have occurred at the school and the adjacent Boys & Girls Clubs of Lanier.

“It’s like a trust thing,” Tristan Daniels, who has one child entering third grade at the elementary school, said at a parent meeting with Boys & Girls Club staff on Thursday, June 14. “These kids have been with the same staff a while. Right now, the kids have enough changes going on.”

After 10 years leading the school, beloved Principal Will Campbell has now relocated with his family to Rush City, Minn., where he has accepted the job of superintendent of the local school district there.

And Timeka Brownlee, the longtime Fair Street site director for the Boys & Girls Clubs, is soon moving on to new personal and professional opportunities.

The partnership between Fair Street and the Boys & Girls Clubs, which provides mentoring, after-school activities and events, and other support services for students and their families, has been a critical success for the school district.

“I love when the parents get involved and support our club,” said Steven Mickens, chief executive officer of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Lanier. “We really ask them to do that and voice their opinion.”

Mickens said he wants parents to know neither he nor any other senior leadership are leaving, and that the clubs will continue to hire the best staff based on experience to mentor children. 

“The impact through the Boys & Girls Club on the future of our community is shown daily,” Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Jeremy Williams told The Times. “We have a partnership that continues to grow as we look for additional ways to impact our students and their families.”

Campbell’s vacancy has been filled by Gwenell Brown, a 23-year veteran of the Gainesville City School System who attended Fair Street as a young student and most recently served as the assistant principal of New Holland Knowledge Academy.

Brown told The Times last month that she had met frequently with Campbell, teachers and school staff to review and prepare for the transition in leadership at Fair Street.

Brownlee’s departure, however, has added stress for parents already feeling strained. 

Many said they’ve been satisfied with the leadership at the school and among its nonprofit partners.

Brownlee said she “really struggled” with the decision to leave the Boys & Girls Clubs.

“My heart is for my children and my people,” she said of the Gainesville community where she was raised.

SheTeriha Lewis, program director at the Boys & Girls Clubs, told parents she is working diligently to fill Brownlee’s “big shoes” and hopes to update them again soon. 

“I understand your concerns,” she said. “I’m really looking for someone who has a passion and a heart for kids.”

But, Lewis said, finding ways to grow the nonprofit’s influence as the school evolves under its new leadership could mean additional staff changes at Fair Street, such as in which schools specific mentors are placed.

“These kids are happy and safe here,” said Cathy Moses, who has great-niece attending Fair Street. “Do not destroy that for our kids.”

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