Dominion’s Beloved Principal Brewer Returns to School after Lengthy Suspension

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Dominion’s Beloved Principal Brewer Returns to School after Lengthy Suspension

Written by Chris Tuttle

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Dr. John Brewer, principal of Dominion High School has been out on leave since December 2016 following an investigation that he wrote a letter of recommendation for a former band director who was found guilty of inappropriate behavior with a student in Florida. Dr. Brewer was terminated from his position as principal on March 20 by the Loudoun County School Board and offered the job back on probationary terms. He has recently accepted these terms and returned to Dominion as principal on April 17, 2017.
Loudoun County School Board voted to reinstate the principal, granted that Dr. Brewer agree to re-training and refrain from mentoring students.

Supporters of Brewer feel that he has been made the scapegoat of the School Superintendent trying to place blame, while critics argue that principals need to be held accountable for writing letters of recommendation for questionable teachers in order to get rid of “bad apples”.

What made the Principal of the Year in 2010 fall from grace with his superiors and yet at the same time harvest an overwhelming amount of support from students, parents, and co-workers at Dominion High School?

To understand this paradox, a journey back in time to 2014 is necessary. On November 24th, 2014, Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office was contacted by Dr. Brewer, principal of Dominion High School. According to Public Information Officer for Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, Kraig Troxell, Dr. Brewer shared information about an incident involving Brian Damron, band director at Dominion High since 2012.

“The Principal advised that he learned from other school personnel that a teacher at Dominion High School had allegedly provided alcohol to a student while they were at a non-school related event in Norfolk, Virginia,” Troxell said.

According to Jackie Funk, parent of students attending Dominion High School and an organizer of a grassroots movement in favor of Dr. Brewer, Band Director Brian Damron was walked out of Dominion High School first thing in the morning on the day that the Sheriff’s office was contacted and never returned.

Since the alcohol incident occurred in a jurisdiction outside of Loudoun, a detective in Norfolk was contacted. However, no criminal charges were sought in Loudoun County as there was no evidence of a crime being committed in Loudoun.

What happened afterward with this case is a little blurry. It is likely that LCPS did an internal investigation into the matter. It is a fact, though, that Loudoun County School Superintendent Eric Williams chose to let Mr. Damron resign rather than terminating him.

“Had he been terminated, LCPS could have and likely would have pursued revocation of Damron’s teaching license,” says Jackie Funk.

Up until that point, there seemed to be little to no controversy over Dr. Brewer’s decisions regarding the fate of Damron, as Brewer had personally contacted the LCSC and had had Damron escorted out of the school upon learning of the incident in Norfolk. That changed in November 2016, two years later, when an investigation in Duval County, Florida concluded that Damron who had been working as a band director for Stanton College Preparatory School in Jacksonville after leaving Dominion High School had made inappropriate comments and sexual advances towards a 15-year old student.

Upon learning of the results of the investigation in Florida, Dr. Brewer went on leave and the Loudoun Sheriff’s Office opened a new investigation into Damron’s employment at Dominion High School as new information came to their attention.

“Since early December 2016, detectives with the Loudoun Sheriff’s Office Special Victim’s Unit conducted numerous interviews to determine if any criminal activity took place in Loudoun County. Detectives followed up on multiple leads during the course of the investigation. However, no criminal charges are currently pending,” Public Information Officer for LCSO Troxell says.

During the investigation in Florida, it became public knowledge that Dominion Principal Dr. Brewer along with music supervisor for Loudoun County Public Schools, Michael Pierson, had written glowing letters of recommendation for Damron in March of 2015, stating that Damron had raised expectations and transformed the band program of Dominion High School.

“His ambitious agenda for Titan instrumental music demanded a renewed sense of energy from all participants, including himself, and Mr. Damron’s infectious personality empowered him to easily rise to this opportunity,” Dr. Brewer states in his letter addressed to Damron’s “Prospective Employer”. “His enthusiasm pervades every rehearsal, each performance, indeed, the innumerable daily interactions with students, colleagues and community members alike in which he engages.”

The controversial letter of recommendation that Dr. Brewer gave Damron let some people wonder why Dr. Brewer would praise Damron in such a fashion knowing that Damron had left Dominion High School under unusual circumstances followed by a police investigation. Even Brewer supporter Jackie Funk admits that the letter of recommendation made her uncomfortable.

“When I read the letter of recommendation, I have to admit it made me cringe. I think that Dr. Brewer in hindsight probably would not have written it the way he did,” Funk says. “But Dr. Brewer believed in this teacher’s ability to change, that he had made a mistake providing alcohol to a minor, but that it should not define him for the rest of his life. I think that is why he chose to provide him with a chance to start fresh.”

When Dr. Brewer went on leave in the beginning of December 2016 and Loudoun County started their new investigation into Damron’s time at Dominion, hundreds of supporters for Dr. Brewer quickly organized calling for his return as principal at Dominion High School. They rallied around the popular principal who they said, knew the names of all the kids and made students and coworkers alike feel like they mattered and fostered an invaluable sense of community in a part of Loudoun County where there is a lot of economic and cultural diversity.

Since the dawn of Dominion High School, Brewer has introduced a “Welcome Wagon” where every summer he would personally go out with a team of administrators to the homes of every rising freshman at Dominion High School and meet them.

“He knows every kids’ name, parents’ name,” said the PTO President at Dominion High School, Amy Curran, at the Loudoun County School Board meeting on January 10th where 200 people had asked to speak, the overwhelming majority in favor of Dr. Brewer. “He does this every year, without fail, because he cares.”

The comments in Dr. Brewer’s defense came as Superintendent Dr. Williams following the investigation into Damron’s employment at Dominion and Dr. Brewer’s action in this regard, recommended that Dr. Brewer would be terminated as principal of Dominion High School. Parents at Dominion say that this termination is unfair and believe that Brewer is being targeted for the letter of recommendation he wrote on Damron’s behalf, a letter they say only was prepared, because Dr. Williams himself decided to let Mr. Damron resign, rather than terminate him, following the alcohol incident in Norfolk. They insinuate that Dr. Williams and the school board are trying to use Dr. Brewer as a scapegoat for their own failure to terminate a teacher that had made inappropriate decisions in regards to a student.

“Dr. Brewer should not have been hung out to dry by the Superintendent,” says Dominion parent Jackie Funk.

At the same time, in Florida, the mother of the 15-year-old student who accused band director Damron of inappropriate behavior and sexual comments, Patty Wilson, sees Dr. Brewer as a principal who was all too ready to pass on a teacher who had been investigated for inappropriate behavior. In reference to the scandal in the Catholic Church in which it was disclosed that the church had tried to cover up sexual abuse by priests by reassigning them to different parishes, Patty Wilson accuses Brewer of “passing the trash” by writing a letter of recommendation to ensure that Damron was not going to be his headache any longer.

“Dr. Brewer should have been aware,” says Patty Wilson of Duval County, FL. “Damron wouldn’t have ended up here and my son wouldn’t have been harmed.”

Following Dr. Williams’ recommendation to terminate Dr. Brewer, it was up to the Loudoun County School Board to vote on the future of Dr. Brewer in March 2017. Brewer’s supporters led a tireless fight for months to have the popular principal reinstated and even raised thousands of dollars for his legal defense. But it all came down to the School Board vote.

On Monday, March 20th, the School Board decision was in: Dr. Brewer was terminated from his position as principal of Dominion High but then immediately offered the job back under probationary terms for three years. In addition, he was to agree to be retrained on abuse and neglect of children, on the separation of public education and religion and furthermore prohibited from mentoring students in the so-called “Clubhouse” program.

Dominion High School has a “Clubhouse” program that seeks to connect students socially. About four years ago, Dr. Brewer decided he wanted a Clubhouse of his own and asked his staff to identify five-six at risk students that he could mentor during their time at Dominion.

“He keeps a close eye on them, at school, at sports, and at home. Every weekend he would text them and invite them to his church,” Dominion parent, Jackie Funk, says. “I asked the two kids I know (who are in Brewer’s clubhouse) and they told me that at no time were they required to attend services.”

Without proof, this mentoring program where Dr. Brewer invited students to attend his church, seems to be the reason why the School Board is calling for him to be re-educated on the use of religion in mentoring public school children and prohibits from him participating in the Clubhouse activities.

The decision to accept the position as principal under the new conditions and return to Dominion High School is now in Dr. Brewer’s corner.  Two and a half years have passed since Damron was escorted out of Dominion High School never to return, but the implications of his employment have forever changed Dominion High School.

Dr. Brewer’s supporters are hopeful that Dr. Brewer will again be the principal of the Titans. They stress that the core of this case is a lack of clear policies and protocols when dealing with a teacher who has crossed the line with a student.

“I hope that Dr. Williams, the LCPS administration and the Virginia Department of Education will work together to put safeguards in place to prevent such situations in the future,” says Jackie Funk. “This has been painful – for any students who were adversely impacted by Damron, for the Dominion student body, Dominion faculty, and our community. It’s time to heal and move forward.”

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