By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
CLINTON — Prince of Peace Catholic School Principal Joseph Brown Sr. began his journey in Clinton Catholic schools as a student in the mid-1950s.
At St. Irenaeus Catholic Elementary School, most of the teachers were religious sisters. Classes were large, with 60 students in his combined fifth- and sixth-grade classroom. “There were six rows of 10 students” and one teacher, he recalled.
Much has changed since then. The parish elementary schools in Clinton eventually merged into Prince of Peace Catholic School where all of the teachers now are laypersons. Whiteboards and smartboards have replaced blackboards and class sizes are smaller, with an average of 15 students per class.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the dedication of faculty and support staff, he said. “Our teachers could make much more money by teaching in a public school but they are each dedicated to professionally serving our Catholic school.”
After serving for three decades as a public school administrator and educator and for several years as an Iowa state senator working on education legislation, Brown made plans last year to retire and return to Clinton. The principal position opened up while he was house hunting and he decided retirement could wait.
Brown lives two blocks from his boyhood home and enjoys catching up with former classmates and old friends. He’s also re-engaging in the Catholic faith of his childhood. “Starting each school day and athletic events with a prayer and attending weekly Mass has greatly enhanced my faith,” he said. “I was born and raised Catholic and am pleased to return to my original faith.”
Being principal at Prince of Peace has been a blessing but recruiting certified teachers has been a challenge. “The teacher shortage is severe all throughout our nation and will continue to be a serious issue until society once again values the importance of quality education,” he believes.
In addition to serving as principal, he teaches American Government and Economics to the Prince of Peace senior class. “As a former government and economics teacher and an Iowa state senator, I have thoroughly enjoyed teaching a new set of future voters these vital classes.”
Brown is encouraged by the cautious optimism of the students. He hopes they understand that it takes a community to provide a quality education in a safe learning environment. For Prince of Peace, this includes the Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace Parish community, parents, faculty and support staff. “My hope is that each of our students will become ‘citizen scholars’ and contribute positively to a better society.”