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Superintendent Joe Brown leaving Fairmont Area Schools after 11 years

Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 10:43 PM CDT
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FAIRMONT, Minn. (KEYC) — Joe Brown landed in several different industries before his 26-year career as a school administrator.

A turret lathe operator, classroom teacher, Iowa state senator and a job in IT that brought him to Mankato.

But Superintendent Brown says his run as a rock and roll drummer prepared him most for working in schools.

“The main purpose of a rock and roll drummer is to keep a steady beat. Everyone relies on you to keep a steady beat,” Brown said. “Sometimes you have to play really fast. Sometimes you have to play really slow. Sometimes you have to play really loud. Sometimes you have to play really soft. Sometimes you’re a soloist. But you always have to keep a steady beat. And as I look back over my last 26 years serving as a school administrator, I’ve kept a steady beat.”

11 years ago, Brown took the job at Fairmont Area Schools, following principal and superintendent jobs in Austin and Grand Meadow, Minnesota, and Chicago’s South Side.

Prior to that, Brown served as principal of Le Sueur-Henderson High School.

He was working on Sept. 11, 1997, when a student entered the school with a gun and the intention of harming several students and teachers.

A police officer was shot and survived. Nobody else was injured.

The shooting came a year and a half before Columbine — before schools were equipped with cameras, resource officers and safety plans.

Brown says it forever changed the way he does his job.

“Up until that time when I walked down the hallway, I always looked at people’s eyes. On Sept. 12, I started looking at their hands.”

He says he still carries that day with him, and he learned lessons that schools across the country are learning much more often today.

“You have to use your ears in the same proportion as your mouth,” Brown stated. “Listen twice, talk once. Listen to the kids. Every time there was a school shooting, kids knew in advance.”

Brown now heads to his home state of Iowa, where he has accepted a one-year interim superintendent position at a school district in Johnson County.

Fairmont School Board approved his replacement Tuesday night, Andy Traetow, who has been serving as co-principal of Fairmont Elementary School.

“Superintendent Brown has really done a fantastic job of leaving our school district in a great place in a lot of areas,” Traetow said. “I’ve had the opportunity to learn a lot of aspects of the superintendency from him. ... I’m extremely excited to serve our district in this role.”

Brown will spend one more year in Iowa before his tenure in schools is done. He says he will miss serving the communities and, most of all, being around the kids.

“Being able to go to the lunchroom to sit down with the kindergarteners at lunch, or going over to the high school to sit down and eat with the girls’ basketball team or the boys’ football team. I just love being around the students.”

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