What happens behind the doors of the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science is magical. And at the end of this academic year, the school, which has helped talented students from all parts of Mississippi reach their full potential, will say goodbye to its beloved wizard: Charles Brown.
For more than 25 years, MSMS has been hosted at The W, serving as a second home to academically gifted high school juniors and seniors who are taught on a college and college preparatory level.
Not your typical school, MSMS was created by the Legislature in 1987. Mississippi became the fourth state in the nation to open a public, residential school, preparing students for leadership roles in mathematics, science and technology.
An extraordinary school calls for extraordinary leadership; enter Brown, who took his first teaching job as a math teacher at Ocean Springs High School in January 1973. Brown worked his way up the ranks, as teacher, assistant principal and principal at schools in Pascagoula and Moss Point.
He served as principal at the Yazoo City High School, at that time home to one of the first academically talented programs for high school students. There, he helped identify gifted students in the program. Two were in the first class at MSMS.
After Yazoo City High School, he worked as a high school principal at the Choctaw Reservation, where ACT scores rose after three years. He joined MSMS in 1990, working in academics for three years. From there he became Gautier’s junior high principal, subsequently retiring from Hattiesburg High School in 2000.
His Hattiesburg tenure saw the district produce more national merit semi-finalists than any other district in south Mississippi, and offer more advanced placement coursework for students than any Mississippi district.
In 2002, MSMS called him back to serve as interim for a semester in academic affairs. Six years later, he returned to consult as director for school advancement, leading to his being named executive director.
“MSMS has always been able to pull me back in,” he said.
Today, the school enrolls approximately 230 students at no expense to the students’ parents.
“We continue to be grateful to the taxpayers of this state,” he said, Brown adding, “The interaction between academically motivated kids and outstanding faculty who are strong in their content area is magical.”
He said amazing things happen when you put students together from different backgrounds. “It doesn’t matter. They figure out real quick that if they are going to survive, they have to help each other.”
And of course, there are the many stories of graduates going on to successful careers in medicine, law, engineering and other fields. One, a BP research scientist, briefed the situation commanders during the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in 2010.
We think we have made a positive impact on the state,” he said, noting the school’s relationship with The W.
“MUW has been an excellent partner,” he said. “This has always been a good home for us. I believe the two institutions have the best working relationship that we’ve ever had.”
In the next stage of his life, Brown said he plans to be a contributing member of society.
“I have to figure out what that transitions into,” he said, which makes his decision to retire bittersweet.
“When I decided I was going to teach school, I made myself a promise that if there ever came a time that I did not enjoy the kids anymore then I would get out,” he said. “That has never happened. It has made this decision difficult. I thoroughly enjoy the kids, and I thoroughly enjoy what I do.”