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Bird Rock Elementary gets new principal

Carol Barry has high hopes

BY JONATHAN VAN DYKE

Contributor

After a hard fight simply to keep a principal position all their own, Bird Rock Elementary parents, students and faculty will be welcoming Carol Barry to the post this fall.

“I’m really grateful to the parents in all of San Diego and La Jolla that we were able to keep 22 principals,” said Lisa Bonebrake, parent volunteer at Bird Rock who was also on the principal interviewing committee. “Parents really stood up organized and got that decision rescinded by the school board.”

Because of that hard work, the nearly 500 students at Bird Rock will enjoy the efforts of a principal who has worked in the San Diego Unified School District for 25 years and has sent three children through the school at various times.

Barry was holding a dual position in the district as assistant superintendent and chief elementary school improvement officer, but the lure of coming back to La Jolla was too strong - she’d previously been a teacher at Muirlands Middle School for seven years.

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“It was the only school I interviewed for,” Barry said. “I’m really interested in changing how we give instructions to children, and this is the only school I wanted to go to.”

With her long list of experiences - she has studied school districts from Mississippi to Japan - Barry hopes to carefully create a “school culture that embraces change and reform.”

“I think public education can work,” she said. “There isn’t any reason public schools can’t compete with charter and private schools.”

To that end, Barry has eyes on the future of the classroom. For example, she has high hopes for the laptops being installed for her third-graders. Also, teachers will be encouraged to develop large-scale projects that would be “posing problems to students that they’d have to think about over time.”

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As for herself, Barry actually entered her college career hoping to gain the tools necessary to embody the life of a Jacques Cousteau. However, while she was a teaching assistant for a former scientist, she fell in love with education instead.

Now she’s just hoping to make a difference in Bird Rock.

“This school does pretty well already - great parents, staff and we get good scores,” Barry said. “I’m trying to build on that and make it even better.”

Coming out of the gates, she has received a good deal of parent and faculty support.

“She has experience in out-of-the-box thinking - creative thinking - and working with communities to help build their own ideas for what they want out of their school,” Bonebrake said, noting that the new principal even gave summer reading to parents.

And when class begins this fall, Barry could picture herself nowhere else but Bird Rock.

“Ideally, I’d love to create a school that kids are dying to come to in the morning, and that they don’t want to leave at the end of the day,” she said.