Gearhart Elementary School Principal Sande Brown and her husband, Mike Brown, himself a teacher at Seaside High School, only planned to stay for one year when they first moved to the community.

But five years later, the same day Sande Brown was hired at Seaside High School, Mike Brown was offered a job at Wenatchee High School, Sande Brown said.

“We chose to stay here because, by then, it was in our blood,” she said. “And we love the community.”

It has now been 27 years. In that time, the couple has raised three children; all of them went through the Seaside School District, and Sande Brown has gone from a teaching position to roles in administration. She will be the new principal at Seaside Heights Elementary School, replacing retiring principal Dan Gaffney.

“At Seaside Heights there will be teachers coming together from three schools,” said Brown.

Teachers from both Cannon Beach Elementary School, which is closing in June, and from Gearhart Elementary School will begin work at Seaside Heights in the fall.

“I know them all in some way, shape or form, and they’re all wonderful… I’m going up there (to Seaside Heights) and looking forward to that very much,” she said.

The move was also an opportunity to begin connecting elementary staff members from across the district in preparation for the planned combined campus on the hills east of Seaside. Brown said it is important to begin working on that synergy before the school comes to fruition.

Brown has spent more than 20 years in various roles throughout the district. Her first position was teaching language arts and journalism at Seaside High School. From there, she worked in administration at Broadway Middle School, Cannon Beach Elementary and Gearhart Elementary.

Brown grew up in Bellevue, Wash. and went to college in Ellensburg, Wash. She majored in park and recreation administration and spent the first several years of her career managing a year-round aquatics program in East Wenatchee and working for the parks district in Douglas County, Wash. She also taught people how to downhill ski and fought fires for the U.S. Forest Service.

She said these diverse experiences proved valuable later in her career.

“I look at a playground now, and from the standpoint of a pool, can a lifeguard -- A.K.A. recess duty people -- can they see all the kids,” Brown said. “And then in terms of the drills and the things we do, I have no problem doing drills because of those two previous professions.”

Brown said after she and her husband moved to Seaside, she figured out what it was that she really wanted to do.

“I realized what I enjoyed most was teaching,” Brown said. “Whether I was teaching people to swim or to ski, I enjoyed teaching. So I started to go back to school when I got here. I went to Clatsop Community College and then Portland State (University) and finished my master’s at Pacific University.”

In the time before online classes, Brown drove back and forth between Astoria, then Portland, then Forest Grove to finish her education.

For 12 years as a teacher at Seaside High School, Brown worked in the same building as her husband – he teaches science as well as photography, computer science and robotics. She said working in the same building, in the same profession was “kind of nice.” They understand each other as teachers and respect the long hours associated with the work, she said.

As for her favorite thing about working at the elementary level, Brown said it is the students. After spending six years with students, she said, she gets pretty attached.

“When I went to different classes (at Gearhart) to tell kids I was leaving, one student said, ‘But Mrs. Brown, does that mean you’re not going to be here for the rest of my years at Gearhart school?,’” Brown said.

“And that’s touching to me that kids see that as my years here; these are the people that are here, these are the people I know. That’s the kind of connection you have with kids at any school, but especially when you have them for six years.”

Brown officially starts her new role as the principal at Seaside Heights on July 1. She said she is working with Gaffney to get prepared and is assisting incoming teachers with the transition to a new school.

“This has been a really great district to work for,” Brown said. “We’re committed to a three-community school district regardless of the shape it takes. I think that’s an important thing to know.

“We have longevity in our teachers and administrators. We don’t have people popping in and out every few years. People stay here long enough to make a significant contribution to the district.”

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