South Charlotte

Former operations manager becomes head of Brookstone Schools

Students at Brookstone School sing in the choir and perform at special events.
Students at Brookstone School sing in the choir and perform at special events. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Steve Hall’s résumé seemed completely out of place in the search for a new head of school for Brookstone Schools.

Hall has had a long career in engineering operations and management.

Libby Kelligrew, vice chairwoman of the Brookstone Schools board of directors, said, “When I got his résumé, I thought, ‘What in the world? This doesn’t make any sense.’”

Brookstone Schools opened in 2001 to provide quality education and moral teaching to low-income, urban children. The school is almost entirely privately funded, with about 6 percent of its $1.3 million budget coming from tuition and fees.

After positive talks with Brookstone leaders about the job, Hall created a nonprofit résumé detailing his volunteer work and community commitment. Hall, 43, started as head of school on July 1 after a yearlong search to fill the position.

Ultimately, Kelligrew described Hall as a “great fit” for the school.

“When I went to speak with him, I realized he’s just a great manager of people and systems,” she said. “Even though he didn’t have an education background or a business background, he came across as someone who is very strategic and put great thought into things he did.”

When executive search firm Anderson and Associates, which conducted the head of school search for Brookstone Schools, first contacted Hall, he was operations manager at custom cabinet company Decore-ative Specialties in Monroe, where about 120 people reported to him. He wasn’t looking for a new job, but his pastor, Kenny Hibbard of Team Church in Matthews, had recommended him to the search firm.

“Kenny did a great job explaining what I did outside work,” Hall said.

He came across as someone who is very strategic and put great thought into things he did.

Libby Kelligrew, vice chairwoman of the Brookstone Schools board of directors

Hall’s second résumé showed experience and commitment to values and causes in line with Brookstone Schools.

And, as he put it, he saw how his avocation could become his vocation.

Hall has long been involved in missions work, both in the U.S. and overseas. He is on the leadership team of Team Church and the board of directors for Won-By-One to Jamaica, a missions organization that has worked in a rural, mountainous community in south Jamaica for more than 20 years.

Kelligrew said Hall’s work with Thompson Child & Family Focus caught her eye. Hall and his wife, who met as students at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, have served as therapeutic foster parents for four children through the agency.

“He has instant credibility in my mind talking about kids who deserve a break because he’s been living and breathing that work as a therapeutic foster parent every day,” Kelligrew said.

Hall previously spoke at a fundraising luncheon for Thompson Child & Family Focus, where the story of one of his foster sons was featured.

Hall said he and his family, which includes his biological, teenage children Josiah and Haven, also have traveled to Richmond and Philadelphia with friends to work with at-risk youth in the inner city.

As he learned more about the job at Brookstone Schools, he said its mission resonated with him. “It’s a great opportunity,” he said. He replaces Donald Larson, who left the school in mid 2014 and now is head of school at Orangewood Christian School in Florida.

We want to have a model of growth so we can touch more children’s lives.

Steve Hall, head of school for Brookstone Schools

Hall’s job will be to execute a vision that Brookstone Schools already has in place: to double in size, add a residential component and eventually move to its own campus. The school’s principal, Debi Preston, will oversee the school’s academic component and Hall will serve as the CEO of the school.

In December, Brookstone Schools moved from the former Amay James Pre-K Center near West Tyvola Road to space at First Baptist Church of Charlotte. The school will enroll about 150 children in grades K-8 in the fall.

“We want to have a model of growth so we can touch more children’s lives,” Hall said.

Kelligrew said that along with Hall’s experience in the nonprofit sector and as a foster parent, he also is a strong administrator, manages people well and respects educators – Hall’s parents and his wife’s parents are teachers.

Brookstone leaders liked his team approach to management and his ability to make decisions.

“I am super excited about working with him,” Kelligrew said. “I think he’s going to do an amazing job.”

Marty Minchin is a freelance writer: martyminchin@gmail.com.

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