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PROGRAM — Charter school

Hello, my name is Shawn Brumfield. As the founder and director of Pasadena Rosebud Academy, it is my job to ensure all the staff, the teachers, the parents, and the students uphold the mission and vision of our school. I set the tone and the culture for ensuring that everyone believes all children can learn and that all children should be held to high academic standards.

How have you achieved your mission?

I’ve been able to create a diverse group of staff that can contribute to that mission and vision. They are very committed to teaching our students and making sure they have a really strong foundation to be successful.  Not only do they set up a strong foundation for our students, but our diverse teaching staff is able to bring their culture into the school. Because of this, they can connect with the students and provide a rich and well-rounded experience.

Academically, we understand that strong reading comprehension and critical thinking skills are instrumental to a child’s foundation for academic success. Understanding that critical thinking is tied to language skills, reading, comprehension, writing, listening, and speaking is fundamental. So all of our practices are geared towards the symphony of all those different areas.

We believe in closing the opportunity gap for Black students. That means giving them an opportunity to excel academically, but to also be wealth-conscious. We do not want fear to find its way into our students’ minds and stop them from achieving their true potential. Again, I want our students to leave here knowing they can compete, they can achieve, and they can do anything that they want in society.

How did you get involved in education?

I became an educator haphazardly. Teaching was never on my radar; I have my bachelor’s in economics. I ended up going into education because somebody recommended giving substitute teaching a try. From there, teaching just became my passion and my purpose. As a middle school teacher, I worked with students in English and social studies. I found that there were so many students falling behind because they were reading two to three grade levels behind.

They had not been provided the academic skills they needed to be successful. That can affect how a child views themselves; I could tell their confidence was low. I wondered what was happening. I knew these students did not have learning disabilities. I discovered that there was some sort of gap in their education along the way. These students were capable, but something was wrong.

“I needed to get away from that bureaucratic system that was impeding student development. I knew students needed a strong foundation at the elementary level; that was my driving force behind opening a school.”

As I got deeper into the problem, I became more purpose and passion-driven. I knew the only way that I could affect change was to do something on my own. I needed to get away from that bureaucratic system that was impeding student development. I knew students needed a strong foundation at the elementary level; that was my driving force behind opening a school.

What year did you open your school? when did concrete plans come to fruition?

I always knew one day I was going to open my own school. I was already thinking about it in the late 1990s and early 2000s while I was teaching. During that time, I got married and then got pregnant. Once I was on maternity leave, I started to develop plans for my school. When my son turned five years old, I opened my school. I started doing all the groundwork while I was home with my son as a stay-at-home mom.

How many students do you serve today?

We serve students from kindergarten through eighth grade, and right now we have roughly 200 students. We are a charter school, and we are now serving students virtually due to COVID. One of the things that is empowering is that we are able to follow our students into high school and beyond because of our familial community. We keep in contact with our students. So when students come to Pasadena Rosebud Academy, we are not with them just while they are here; we go along with them into the future, and we are providing resources and support to them along their journey in life. It is amazing to be able to do that with these students.

How does it make you feel reflecting on your progress?

It feels great! Even when I was in the classroom, I had my own thoughts and ideas on what I wanted to do and how I wanted to affect students. A big thing I wanted was for students to gain experiences outside of the classroom.

When I was teaching in the classroom, I started this club called the travel club. I believed students were not getting out and experiencing things outside of the school. Having those experiences of the world really fits with our vision to initiate well-rounded critical thinking.

As a result, we would take the students on a lot of field trips. My dream was to take kids out of the country. Now with my school, we can do just that. Before COVID-19 we were able to take our kids to Costa Rica and even a few groups to China.

Our eighth-grade students go to Washington D.C. and New York, so they can experience what they’re learning in the classroom and get hands-on experience. We are able we do a lot of traveling, even at the kindergarten level. We make sure to arrange an end-of-year field trip for every grade. The kindergarteners go to Catalina Island on the Catalina express. Our fourth-grade students fly into Sacramento, our capital, so they can get experiences there. It is a really big deal for me to be able to have our students enjoy these experiences outside of the classroom.

Was being a Black school founder top of mind when you were creating your school?

Not necessarily, no. I was just passionate and purpose-driven. I wanted to educate students effectively. I think that is what led me initially. Since then, I do understand the importance of what I do now in terms of being black and educating black students. So now I do have a certain mindset concerning my approach to things. It is important for me to work with students of color and to ensure they get what they need to be successful long term.

Do you feel that black-led schools have an extra flavor or spark to them?

There’s always flavor!  As African Americans, we have that swag to us in general. So anytime we have programs they are always lively or “lit” as the kids would say. Our culture just naturally brings that swag and that energy to our school.

Do you think that more black-owned schools should exist?

I do. I think what we have to offer is very important. Some of the things that I am doing are geared towards ensuring that we change the trajectory of the black and brown experience in America. For example, we have a financial literacy program. We want to ensure that our students are gaining a strong foundation in financial literacy so that they know how to use their money effectively.

“Through our travel and all of our outside experiences, our students are able to think bigger, dream bigger, and understand that they can do anything. They are not limited.”

We want them to have a wealth mindset. The only way we are going to be taken seriously in this country is through economics and building wealth. It is a mindset that we need to cultivate. We also want to make sure our students are confident, that they have the experiences to understand that the world is bigger than their immediate environment. Through our travel and all of our outside experiences, our students are able to think bigger, dream bigger, and understand that they can do anything. They are not limited.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about launching their own school?

A big thing is making sure not only that you have a mission and vision, but that it is upheld. That is going to be very critical in terms of who you hire. The people you hire must believe in the mission and vision of the school and aid in creating a positive culture and environment in which everyone can live and work.

You also have to understand all the aspects of the business. A lot of times people just think about the teaching and learning, but all of the things that go into running the school should be a part of that mission and vision. If you are going to lead a school, make sure that you are hands-on and that you are one sticking to that mission and vision. Understanding how everything that happens at the school is tied to that mission is vital; it is going to contribute in a positive way to what you are trying to do in the long run.


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