Although Riverbank Unified School District is closed for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year there is business that must continue. The district office may be closed to the public but there is still a small crew working in the office and others working from home. The new Chief Human Resources Officer William Brown was recently hired, taking over the post in January, and he was able to get to know staff at the district office and learn a little bit about Riverbank before COVID-19 took over.
The coronavirus has Brown working from home and he said that has brought more distractions and made him realize that he misses the interaction with his colleagues. With technology like Zoom, email, and text he is able to stay connected.
“We now have to deal with the challenges of getting essential work done while keeping employees and their families safe. Our team is keeping the lines of communication open with employees and their bargaining reps so that we all are making informed decisions,” Brown shared. “The biggest adjustment is using media instead of direct communication; our employees have been great about it.”
Brown has been in education for 24 years in a variety of positions including a principal, vice principal and football coach. The reason he got into education was because when he was a student he got into a lot of trouble. He was put into a remedial program in high school and was told that he would not go to college. After that he went to talk to his counselor and even though he feels he did not deserve it, the counselor gave him a chance.
“It took my cage being rattled a little bit for me to understand that school is important,” said Brown. “Everything I had done up to that point had earned me a remedial track in high school and in spite of that he gave me a chance which made me want to go into education and do what was done for me for other kids.”
The original dream was to be a tight end for the Dallas Cowboys and a very close second dream was to be a high school principal. That second dream came true as he was a principal for 10 years before moving in a new direction, going into human resources in Richmond for the West Contra Costa Unified School District. He has been there the past three years working as a Human Resources Director. The opportunity to return to the Central Valley presented itself so he took it.
“I think that things work out the way they are supposed to,” stated Brown. “I think I am supposed to be here doing this work.”
He started in education as a football coach and a math tutor in the AVID program at Roosevelt high School in Fresno after completion of college. Then Brown got his Master’s degree and completed the credentials necessary to pursue teaching and administration.
The district he was at previously had about 28,000 students and at RUSD there are approximately 2,800. RUSD has about 12 people in the office and there were 12 people in his previous HR department. Although there is a big difference in size he heard good things about Riverbank and the district. He is also familiar with the Central Valley as he spent three semesters at UOP, Delta College, and has friends in Modesto.
“The district is moving in a good place; there is a lot of confidence in the community around the work that is being done,” added Brown. “So I felt really good about applying and coming here.”
Brown expressed that he is the first to have the title of Chief Human Resources Officer with RUSD yet even as the titles have changed over the years the work has remained the same.
He said, “You come in, you recruit, you hire, you support, train, encourage your people to move barriers so they can be successful every day.”
With goals of student success and helping people move barriers to get to where they need to be, Brown is excited to get started with RUSD. He believes that every student whether they have been in trouble or made mistakes have the ability to be successful. If high performance schools can produce kids that go to MIT, Stanford, and Harvard then so can Riverbank with the right conditions.
“I have been in every bit of trouble that you can get in in school and somebody believed in me and because they did I am here,” Brown explained. “Because somebody has made a mistake that doesn’t mean they can’t be successful. I am looking forward to really helping us take the next step as a community and as a district.”