People in Your La Jolla Neighborhood: Meet Bishop’s Interim Head of School Carol Barry

Editor’s Note: The “People in Your Neighborhood” series shines a spotlight on locals we all wish we knew more about! La Jolla Light staff is out on the town talking to familiar faces to bring you their stories. If you know someone you’d like us to profile, send the lead via e-mail to editor@lajollalight.com or call us at (858) 875-5950.

Come Aug. 1, 2018, La Jolla resident Carol Barry will take the helm as interim head of The Bishop’s School, expanding on a 30-plus year career in education. The Eric Clapton-loving, world-sailing mother-of-three holds a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies from San Diego State University, a master’s in public school administration from Azuza Pacific University and a doctorate in educational leadership from San Diego State University. Barry will lead the school following the departure of current head of school Aimeclaire Roche, who will move on to head Cranbrook Schools in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. A new head of school will be named for the 2019-2020 school year.

Where did you grow up?

La Cañada, which is a suburb of LA. I’m the youngest of six children, and attended Catholic school for most of my younger years. When my dad retired, most of my siblings were in college, so my brother and I moved to San Clemente when I was in sixth grade and I finished school there.

I went to SDSU for college, I lived on campus and then in Mission Beach. I played volleyball, mostly indoor, but I really started playing on the beach at that time, which was great fun.

How did you become a teacher?

I majored in liberal studies and started in elementary education. I student-taught and they offered me a job right away. I taught first grade at Valencia Park; then went to Muirlands, where I taught English; then I was a vice-principal at Logan Elementary; then principal at Carson; then principal at PB Middle for a short time. From there, I was asked to be area superintendent for San Diego Unified School District.

I was planning on finishing my career that way, but it was so much office work and I missed being with students. So I became the principal of Bird Rock Elementary, which is the sweetest school with great parents and lovely kids.

What brought you to Bishop’s?

Someone called me and thought this might be a good fit for me. I loved where I was and said it wasn’t for me, but a few months later, Aimeclaire Roche called me and asked me to coffee. She talked me into it. I joined as Head of Middle School in 2010.

What is your education philosophy?

At this point, we don’t know what kids are going to need to know and be able to do in 20 years. The jobs are changing. In middle school, I want them to be joyful learners. They are often curious at this age anyway, so I like creating opportunities that show them how much fun they can have being curious and finding their passions.

Typically, students come out of elementary school happy; they like their teachers. In many cases, middle school becomes a difficult period (socially and emotionally), and it’s a time when it can be seen as uncool to apply yourself or get involved with school things. So when you can create opportunities for students at this level, you’re going to create lifelong learners, not just kids going through the motions to finish a class.

There are different pressures in high school. We can say grades don’t matter that much (in their younger years), and then suddenly grades do matter, and quite a bit.

What subjects did you enjoy in school?

I really liked reading and writing, but I also really liked science. I’m a big reader, and one of the things I like to do at this school, is walk around at the end of the term and find books students left behind. I read the things they read, and I love seeing their annotations and what they were thinking about certain passages.

What are you reading now?

“Radium Girls” by Kate Moore; it’s a fascinating story (during World War I) about girls who worked with radium to paint faces on watches, and the health issues that came from that and the resulting coverup. Moore is going to speak before the La Jolla Literary Society, Feb. 13 at Estancia Hotel & Spa, normally hosted by La Jolla Country Club.

Also, I just finished “The Remains of the Day” by Kazuo Ishiguro, this year’s Nobel Prize winner.

What do you do in your free time?

My husband, Tim, and I love to travel. We went to Nicaragua, I have a son living there. Typically when we go on vacation, we charter boats and sail. We don’t have a captain or a cook, so we sail for 8-9 days and bring all our own food. We’re going to Tahiti that way.

What is your family make-up?

I have three children: two boys and a girl. My two youngest are both in teaching. My older son is the one in Nicaragua. He is a chef and manages two resorts there. And he surfs — a lot. I have two grandchildren now, too!

How do you relax at home?

I’m a gardener. I’ve also gotten into sewing in the last four years. When my daughter-in-law was pregnant, I started making baby clothes. I also exercise, I was at Orange Theory at 6 this morning. I have a very cute dog, a French bulldog, Chato. It means smooshed face.

What’s your philosophy on life?

I was raised Catholic and had a Catholic education, so I hope I live and show children that it’s easy to be kind. Of all the things you want to accomplish in your life, you can do all that and still be kind. I try to be kind and I’ve come to realize (with more than 30 years in education and raising children and now grandchildren) that a lot of the stuff we worry about doesn’t matter much. It’s more important to make the day you are in your best day and be kind and grateful.

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