For the first time since the Shenandoah Iowa Education Foundation was founded in 2016, there is a change on the board. Steve Lorimor, who has served for the past four years, is stepping down and Paula Brownlee will be replacing him.
When our education foundation was being formed, we felt it important to have a member that would represent our Farragut community,” said foundation president Corby Fichter. “Steve Lorimor was our top choice. Steve has been a dedicated and engaged member of our foundation from our beginning. He has provided great direction and leadership in many of the decisions our foundation has made. He challenges all of us to make sure we are making the best decision possible. Steve will be greatly missed as a member of our board. On behalf of all us involved in the foundation, I want to say a huge thank you to Steve for his leadership and faithfulness to our board and the people of Farragut and Shenandoah. When we asked Steve if he had someone in mind to replace him, his first thought was Paula Brownlee.”
Brownlee joins the board as no stranger to the Shenandoah area or to education. With the exception of a few years living in Colorado and Missouri, she has spent her entire life living in the Shenandoah and Farragut areas.
She graduated from Shenandoah High School in 1973 and then went to Northwest Missouri State University to pursue her bachelor’s degree in special and elementary education. A lifelong learner, she went on to get her master’s degree in learning disabilities and behavior disorders.
After a short stint working in the hospital setting in Des Moines while earning certification in developmental disabilities for exceptional children through Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny, Brownlee moved to Colorado where she worked for the Loveland School District. Brownlee then returned to Farragut where she lives with her husband, David, a farmer who is a 1976 Farragut graduate. The Brownlees raised their two kids, Abby and Andrew, in Farragut.
Paula started her teaching career in 1982 for the Shenandoah schools where she stayed for 29 years. She taught a variety of different subjects including special ed, third grade, Title One reading and was also a lead teacher at Central School.
In 2011, she left teaching to become a special education consultant for the Green Hills Area Education Agency (GHAEA) and spent five years doing that. Brownlee’s passion for learning and helping others learn is evident by her long list of certifications and experiences. In addition to consulting, she became a certified LETRS trainer for GHAEA and helped teachers with best practices for instructing reading, writing and spelling in their classrooms. She also has her PK-12 and special education administrative certificate and has training experience with the Boys Town classroom management program.
Lorimor, who is pictured below right here, attends the same church as Brownlee, and approached her there to talk about possibly joining the foundation board as his replacement. Duane “Coach” Rexroth, another fellow board member, also had encouraging conversations with Brownlee about what she might bring to the board.
“I know most people on the board, some relatively well, and respect them,” Brownlee said. “I always support kids and teachers and I felt joining the board is another way to do that.”
At the August meeting, Brownlee was officially approved to join the board. As she thinks about what she wants to accomplish on the board, Brownlee knows that she wants relationships to be at the center of it.
“The foundation is not just about cash, it’s about connections,” she said. “I think we should be not just about fundraising, but ‘friendraising’ as well. This is an opportunity to continue to build bridges and to help teachers continue to be effective and innovative in the classroom.”
In addition to the work she will be doing for the foundation, Brownlee has been a substitute teacher for the Shenandoah schools since 2017. In her free time, she loves spending time with her family.
Her daughter, Abby Weinrich, teaches at Shenandoah Elementary, and Abby’s husband, Jon, is the activities director and assistant principal at the high school. The Brownlees’ son, Andrew, works as a site manager in the Des Moines area for the G4S security firm Andrew also is certified as a substitute teacher. Brownlee loves spending time with her grandkids, she is a big reader and stays active walking, swimming and occasionally bicycle riding.
“I’m really looking forward to giving back and contributing with the foundation,” she said.
You can reach Jamie Burdorf, executive director of the Shenandoah Iowa Education Foundation, by phone at 515-520-7641 or by email at email@example.com.