Henry Mitchell “Mitch” Brickell, died on Friday, Oct. 25, a few days shy of his 93rd birthday.
He is mourned by his wife of 66 years, Mary (Daly) Brickell; his children Mark, Julia, Sally and Todd Brickell; 11 grandchildren; four great grandchildren; and many other family members and friends.
Born in Yazoo City, MS, on Nov. 3, 1926, to Missye (Gibson) and Carey Mitchell Brickell, Sr., he spent his youth in Yazoo City, New Orleans and Jacksonville, and then left home to earn a B.A. from Ohio State University, an M.A. from the University of Chicago, and a second M.A. and then an Ed.D. from Columbia University Teachers College in 1953.
He set an extremely high bar for himself and others and made short work of his first teaching job when, as advisor to the school newspaper, and frustrated by student reporters missing deadlines, he published an issue of the paper with blank spaces featuring bylines such as, “This space was supposed to have been filled by John Smith.”
A few years and a few jobs later, he created a unique system for organizing the policies, regulations and bylaws of local school systems. This innovation was published as the Davies-Brickell System and is the basis for the policy systems that are used today in most school districts across the country.
Brickell was recruited by the Manhasset public school system and by 1966 had risen to become the assistant superintendent of schools. When New York’s Governor Nelson Rockefeller sought improvements in education in the state, Dr. Brickell was appointed by Commissioner James E. Allen to write a seminal study, published by the New York State Education Department in 1961 under the title Organizing New York State for Educational Change. Implemented in succeeding years, it helped to establish New York’s leading place in elementary and secondary education.
With a national reputation, Brickell was asked by colleges and universities to educate their educators. He taught at Stanford University and New York University and was brought to Indiana University’s flagship campus in Bloomington from 1966 to 1969, where he served as the associate dean of the School of Education. He strongly believed that principals should spend time in classrooms observing teaching practices, a belief he captured with his own definition: “Supervision is the over-the-shoulder prevention of mistakes.”
Returning in 1969 to Manhasset with his wife and four children, Brickell soon established his own nonprofit organization, Policy Studies in Education, with offices in New York City. Conducting more than 500 projects in the ensuing 45 years, that nonprofit organization worked with hundreds of school districts in most states to improve K-12 education and conducted studies for more than 200 colleges. Brickell also directed studies for state education departments, state legislatures, foundations and national professional associations. He wrote numerous books and articles and was a prominent national speaker on a variety of topics, including educational evaluation and school governance.
A firm yet loving parent, ever in teaching mode and usually traveling, he was willing on weekends to help one of his children review key concepts or edit an essay, but he preferred to enlist all of them in much-needed home maintenance projects such as yard work, repairs or painting. He will be remembered by his children for coining phrases like, “The moving van is at the door” (used to convey urgency) and, “Things don’t break; people break things” (used to place responsibility).
A memorial service for Brickell was held on Sunday, Nov. 3, at 2 p.m., at the Congregational Church of Manhasset, 1845 Northern Blvd., Manhasset. He will be laid to rest at Glenwood Cemetery in Yazoo City on Nov. 22.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the nonprofit Manhasset Student Aid Association (co-founded by Mary Brickell), which provides financial assistance to help local students achieve the goal of a college education.