Ken Brummel — who was named principal of Bedford Junior High School at just 28 years old, then served 12 years as Westport superintendent of schools — died last weekend at his home in Palm Springs, California. He was 77.
The Michigan State University graduate began his career as an English teacher in the Detroit school system.
After earning a master’s degree in secondary education from Harvard in 1959, he became a teacher and administrator in Glenbrook, Illinois. Ken joined the Westport school system in 1964, as principal of Bedford Junior High.
While superintendent of schools here, he was a strong advocate for student achievement and teacher preparedness. He received his doctorate from Columbia Teachers College in 1979.
After leaving Westport, Ken served as superintendent in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, and Orange County and Lancaster, California. He retired from education in 1992, and was involved in small business in Southern California.
Ken is survived by his wife, Josephine; their children Lisa, Beth and Peter, and 4 grandchildren. He is also survived by his long-time business partner, Darnell Harrison II. Burial will be private.
Former Westport art instructor Jim Wheeler began his Westport teaching career in 1964 — the same year as Ken. It was his 1st year teaching, and Ken’s 1st year as principal.
At the initial faculty meeting in September, Jim was astonished to see Ken introduce the entire staff — each one, by name.
“As an educator, Ken had no equal,” Jim says. “He was never satisfied with the status quo. He was forward thinking, and had the courage of his convictions and ideas.”
A prime example was what became knows as the “Bedford curriculum.” Each faculty member was encouraged to write a curriculum that would be integrated schoolwide, the last 2 weeks of school.
Some classes ran for half an hour; some for half a day. Students could use the blocks any way they chose. The only requirement was that they fill their time with classes.
“We were both congratulated and condemned by people across the country for giving kids that kind of power over their education,” Jim recalls.
“I will always be grateful to Ken for having had the opportunity to stand with him in an endeavor that shaped some of my views about the one-sided manner in which decisions regarding educational practices are made.”
Jim was also grateful for Ken’s love of a good time. The Brummels often threw parties. And, Jim says, “on more than one occasion Ken suggested to several of us that we should go to New York after school on a Friday. So off we went — to the consternation of our spouses.”