At the beginning of every school year, the Washougal School District’s newly hired staff members gather for a photo shoot as part of their new employee orientation process.
District leaders use the photographs for public relations purposes, but Washougal’s communications and technology director Les Brown keeps them handy for another reason — they allow him to memorize the names and faces of every new employee before he meets them for the first time.
“I keep the picture hanging next to my desk, which helps me recognize and remember them,” Brown said. “Washougal is a really special place, and this is a great way to get to know them and help them feel welcome in our community. I do take pride in knowing all of the teachers, and feel that it’s very important that they feel seen, heard and known. I value their input into big decisions, and know that when we listen to what our teachers need, we make great instructional decisions.”
Brown’s welcoming nature, attention to detail and inclusive mindset recently earned him accolades from Diligent, a governance, risk and compliance provider that serves more than 23,000 international organizations.
Brown was named to the company’s 2021 “Modern Governance 100,” a list that recognizes community governance leaders committed to driving positive organizational change.
“I’m humbled by the recognition,” Brown said, “and am very glad that I get to do meaningful work in an organization that is dedicated to improving the lives of students and the community.”
Linda Henderson, the Washougal district’s technical support specialist, said Brown deserves the recognition.
“He works hard, and it’s great to see him recognized,” Henderson said of Brown. “I like working with Les because he doesn’t micromanage our team but is always available if we need help or have a question. He is very intuitive and thoughtful, and that makes him great at what he does.”
Washougal schools superintendent Mary Templeton noted that Brown “has been a steward of modern governance for the Washougal School District, directly supporting its work in a variety of roles for more than 15 years.”
“He consistently goes above and beyond to help facilitate efficient board meetings and effective governance practices,” Templeton stated in a Washougal School District news release. “We congratulate Les on this well-deserved honor and appreciate all he does for our district to know, nurture and challenge all of our students to rise.”
Over the past year, Brown has worked to disseminate information about the pandemic-related changes to the district’s learning environment and shape the district’s public information campaign around its closure and phased reopening plans.
“He is an excellent communications director,” said Rene Carroll, the district’s public information coordinator. “Personally I have learned a lot from him by watching his careful and thoughtful approach to crafting important and sometimes difficult messages.”
Brown is also known as “the keeper of our district’s institutional knowledge,” according to Carroll.
“I am regularly blown away with his ability to recall facts, figures, decisions and background (information) on important issues,” she said. “He also has a knack for communicating complicated data and statistics for any audience to understand.”
“He has so much knowledge about the history of Washougal School District that he can explain why things are the way they are currently and direct us in how to encourage change if needed,” Henderson added.
Brown has also helped the district to increase opportunities for public comment, bring student representation to the school board and expand its use of technology to provide remote access to meetings and other events.
“Les has the unique combination of skills as a communicator and technology expert,” Carroll said. “Those attributes come into play with his work with the board around governance. As the board pivoted to remote meetings, Les provided the tech support and supplied training for Zoom meetings and now webinar meetings and expertly assists in their facilitation.”
Brown was hired by the Washougal School District in 1998 as a network support specialist and assumed his current role in September 2010. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Spanish language and literature from Washington State University and master’s degree in education from Portland State University.
“Les has an outstanding work ethic and commitment to our district,” Carroll said. “In larger districts, several staff members would do the work that Les performs for Washougal. As busy as he is, he is never too busy to provide help or advice on a technical or communications issue.”