Students and staff at Brown Middle School celebrate 50th anniversary

Even after 50 years, some things about middle school never change.

Just ask Burton and Margaret Huggett, who turned out last Friday afternoon to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of R.A. Brown Middle HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: DOUG BURKHARDT - In the hallway outside the schools gymnasium, former school teachers Burton and Margaret Huggett reminisce about Brown Middle School 50 years ago, when the school was brand new and called East Hillsboro Junior High. Margaret taught at the school for 23 years and her husband Burton was a substitute teacher there.

Margaret Huggett, now 87, taught seventh-grade language arts and social studies from the day the school opened in 1963 until she retired in 1985.

“I taught eighth-grade for a year, but told the principal I’d quit if he made me teach eighth-graders again the next year,” she remembered with a smile.

Her husband Burton was a substitute teacher off and on at the school, educating students on subjects ranging from math to wood shop and keeping an eye out for trouble as well.

“I remember collecting a whole pile of spit wads some boys had ready to fire off during a math class one day,” he said.

Spit wads remain a part of middle school shenanigans today, but Brown Middle School has seen many changes during the span of a half-century.

The school was called East Hillsboro Junior High School when it opened to seventh-, eighth- and ninth-grade students in the fall of 1963. Because the school was not quite complete when it opened, some classes were initially held on school buses, and Margaret Huggett recalled the north hall was still a dirt floor when the school made its debut.

In the school’s first year, the ninth-grade football team was undefeated and went on as seniors to win the 1966 state football championship for Hillsboro High School.

At the time the school opened, Margaret Huggett said, the Brandl family had a hazelnut orchard to the south of the school, where Reedville Creek Park and the city’s skate park now sits.

In the spring, she remembered, a helicopter flew low over the orchard to stir up pollen, sending her allergies into high gear.

To the east was a dairy farm, she added.

Fast forward to 1974, when East Hillsboro Junior High was renamed after the school’s first principal, Raymond A. Brown, and the school became a middle school, serving seventh- and eighth-grade students.

Several principals with the last name of Brown — not related to one another — have worked at the school, including the current principal, Don Brown, who plans to retires at the end of this school year.

Ralph Brown, currently a Cornelius resident, was vice principal at the end of the 1970s.

And to carry on the tradition, Koreen Berraras-Brown will take the helm as principal in September.

During Friday’s anniversary party, the entire student body viewed a slide show with snippets of the school’s history and events of the era read by former staff members. Also during the assembly, a new mural designed by Brown student Grace Strid was unveiled on the gymnasium wall. (See story on Page A1.)

The school has grown over the decades to match the growing population surrounding it.

In 1980, the gym, library and counseling center were expanded. The school, however, maintained its rural roots. There was a strong vocational-agriculture program, with a small farm on the premises with sheep, a horse, a cow and pigs. Students also enjoyed forming special interest groups, including a sci-fi club and an Atari club.

In the mid-2000s, Brown Middle School underwent another addition, gaining eight classrooms after voters approved a construction bond in 2006.

On Saturday, the 50-year-old school at 1505 S.W. Cornelius Pass Road was treated to a complimentary facelift from about 60 volunteers from Synopsys, a high-tech company located just up the road.

Although not directly tied to the school’s anniversary, it was certainly good timing as volunteers spent the morning spreading bark chips, painting part of the gymnasium and the main office and weeding and power-washing the courtyard.

The volunteer day was part of a company-wide global community service day sponsored by Synopsys.

Next up for Brown: A badly need roof replacement is at the top of the school district’s maintenance and repair list.

And, as the school’s slogan states, students will continue to strive to “Be better today than you were yesterday.”

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