James Brown, beloved principal of the Grover Cleveland Middle School in the Caldwell-West Caldwell school district, died from complications of COVID-19, school officials announced on Thursday, April 2.

Brown, 48, was vice principal at James Caldwell High School for six years, and since August 2012 had been principal of Grover Cleveland Middle School.

Brown is survived by his wife and three children.

The district paid tribute to him in a statement on its website, noting some of the innovating programs he pioneered at his school, including transforming two unused supply rooms into state-of-the-art STEM learning centers. “Perhaps his most transformative work, though, was in the area of social-emotional learning and community service,” noted James Heinegg, superintendent.  Brown introduced a house system to foster team-building and school spirit, and created an advisory/enrichment program that allows students to develop networks of support and to explore their interests.

“Jim Brown will be remembered as an outstanding educator who made tremendous contributions to the entire community of Caldwell, West Caldwell and beyond,” said Heinegg. “We mourn the loss of a wonderful colleague who enriched our lives with his kindness, intelligence and humor, we extend our deepest condolences to his family.”