|Bryan Reed, School Director, YES Prep Northbrook High School|
Senior Writer, SBISD
Bryan Reed could hardly contain himself as he sat down recently for an interview in the commons area at Northbrook High School.
“I’m really excited to be leading the YES Prep high school here,” he said, unprompted, while looking around the large open area, the walls and ramps leading to the second level adorned with motivational slogans – and the Northbrook Raider, astride a black steed, setting the tone.
That YES Prep high school will be YES Prep Northbrook High School, and classes begin there this summer. The high school program represents the maturing SKY Partnership, an innovative collaboration between Spring Branch ISD, a traditional school system, with YES Prep Houston Public Schools and KIPP Houston Public Schools, the highly successful state charter schools.
The founding school director for YES Prep Northbrook High School, Reed has been splitting his time this spring between YES Prep Northbrook Middle and Northbrook High School. He’s spending much less time at his now-former school, YES Prep North Central, on Aldine-Westfield Road in Northeast Houston, where he spent 10 years as a teacher, then principal, then school director.
He didn’t grow up wanting to be a teacher – like so many, he really didn’t know exactly what he wanted to do. Changing majors several times at the University of Florida (UF), he graduated in 2003 with a degree in psychology.
But it was his work at a small Catholic school during high school and college that set him on his current path. By the time he graduated from UF, he was a counselor at the school, as well as serving at one point or another as athletic director and working after-school programs, security – even performing custodial functions.
“I was their utility infielder,” he said.
An apt analogy, because coaching is in his blood. Coaching has been the root of several of his teaching jobs, and serves at the core of his leadership philosophy.
“I consider myself a coach first,” said Reed. “It drives who I am as a leader. I’m someone who’s always looking to get the best out of folks.”
The Catholic school experience made Reed realize that he liked working with kids. And he was ready to leave Gainesville after spending most of his life there. He had a friend who worked with Teach For America (TFA) and the more he learned about TFA the more he thought about educational inequality in the United States.
He signed up for TFA and was assigned to teach social studies in a New Orleans high school. It was an eye-opening experience, he said.
“The students were phenomenal,” he said, “but not at any level ready for college.” He said that he had 11th graders there who were “pre-literate” – they could barely read and write at all. “They were kids with no resources, who could have been successful.”
In 2005, the school was wiped out by Hurricane Katrina. Reed had evacuated two days prior to landfall but watched the storm from afar and knew how bad it all was for New Orleans.
Legions of evacuees made their way to Houston, including many school-age children who were missing school. Reed said TFA called him and asked for help recruiting students from shelters to enroll in schools in Houston. “I slept on teachers’ couches across Houston for a month,” he said of that time here.
It was in Houston that he first learned about YES Prep, through a friend he met here. Reed was skeptical at first.
“I wasn’t sure I believed it,” Reed said. “He was so positive.”
But Reed checked it out anyway, stepping on the YES Prep North Central campus one day and teaching eighth-grade social studies the next, as well as coaching basketball and directing athletics.
Ten years later he finds himself the founding school director at YES Prep Northbrook High, leading what will be the transitioning and opening of a 140-student ninth-grade program. The school will add a grade each year as the ninth-grade class progresses.
He hopes to have his staff of seven teachers and five support persons hired by the end of this month. Space at Northbrook High School is currently being remodeled and is scheduled to be completed by the first of April.
He said the SKY Partnership is a big reason why he’s excited about his new role, considering his background at the large public high school in New Orleans and his 10 years at YES Prep.
“It’s an opportunity to be part of YES Prep but also be part of a larger school community,” said Reed. “It plays to my strengths, I think, to help partner these two worlds and make sure every student in the city is served.”
Reed is working with school leadership on the transition and has started integrating himself on campus, working the lunch area once a week. He has nothing but praise for Northbrook High School Principal Randolph Adami and his staff.
“Randolph’s team is awesome,” he said. “They’ve been so accommodating. I’ve been blown away so far at how receptive they are … I’m going to hire staff that are equally as gracious and eager to partner.”
And that certainly fits in with yet another part of Reed’s leadership philosophy.
“Relationships are the foundation of everything,” he said. “We’re in the people business – students, teachers, parents, community.”
For more information about the SKY Partnership and school choice in Spring Branch ISD, go to www.springbranchisd.com.
At a Glance
NAME: Bryan Reed
HOMETOWN: Gainesville, Fla.
EDUCATION: Master’s degree, Education Leadership, Sam Houston State University
Bachelor’s degree, Psychology, University of Florida
PLACES WORKED: Sarah T. Reed Senior High School (New Orleans), YES Prep North Central (Houston)
INTERESTS AND HOBBIES: Coaching basketball, college football (specifically Florida Gator football), mediocre golf