Barron national principal of year; Smokey Road leader wins middle honor
By REBECCA LEFTWICH
Dr. Laurie Barron of Newnan has been named 2013 National Middle Level Principal of the Year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) and MetLife, which co-sponsor the award.
Barron, principal of Smokey Road Middle School, was prepared to be recognized as one of three finalists for the national honor at a Tuesday morning assembly. Instead, Coweta County Superintendent of Schools Steve Barker surprised her by announcing she was, in fact, the national winner.
Deal’s education policy advisor, Kristin Bernhard, read a letter from the governor praising Barron, who will again be recognized at next month’s Principals Institute for State Principals of the Year in Washington, D.C.
Coweta Board of Education Chairman Sue Brown said it was a privilege to have watched Barron grow as an educator and administrator during the years Brown has served on the board.
“Congratulations, my colleague and friend,” Brown said. “You rock!”
Steve Mader, whose SouthTowne of Newnan auto dealership is one of Smokey Road’s business partners, spoke of Barron’s enthusiasm and capability.
“I’ve never worked with someone who had such clear vision or drive for excellence,” Mader said. “But she can’t do it alone. She’s smart enough to get out of the way and let (teachers) do their jobs.
“She’s always been principal of the year in my book,” he added.
In her 17 years as an educator, Barron has earned many honors. Earlier this year, she was named GASSP Middle School Principal of the Year and also has received the Georgia Educational Leaders Outstanding Middle Level Educator Award and the Georgia Association of Middle School Principals Exemplary Leadership Award.
A National Board Certified teacher, Barron was Newnan High School’s Teacher of the Year in 1999 and was chosen STAR Teacher in 2000 and 2001. She has been a member of the Governor’s Education Advisory Board for Principals and currently serves on the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education Council.
“With all the things we have going on in education today, we must have great instructional leaders like Dr. Barron to improve student achievement and close the achievement gap,” said Georgia School Superintendent John Barge in a press release.
“When you look at schools with the highest student achievement, you will find a great leader running the school. That’s definitely the case at Smokey Road Middle School.”
Although the turnaround process at Barron’s school took several years and a commitment from the entire community, Barge said the transformation would not have been possible without Barron’s leadership.
Since 2003, absenteeism has decreased 11 percent and students have raised state test scores in reading and math by more than 20 percent.
A four-year Georgia Title I Distinguished School, Smokey Road has made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for seven consecutive years.
Under Barron’s leadership, SRMS has been named a GASSP Breakout Middle School and was a 2011 MetLife Foundation-NASSP Breakthrough School for being high-achieving while serving a large number of students living in poverty.
“NASSP’s experience has taught us time and again that nothing is more challenging or essential to school improvement than changing the school’s culture,” said NASSP Executive Director JoAnn Bartoletti in a press release. “With genuine concern for her students’ welfare, Laurie Barron has established at Smokey Road Middle School a model climate of what the Breaking Ranks school improvement framework requires – a personalized environment where every student is known and feels valued.”
At Smokey Road, shared leadership, data-driven decision making, and job-embedded professional development help teachers provide personalized lessons.
Parents, business leaders and other stakeholders play an active role in the success of the school.
Most importantly, according to Bartoletti, students receive extensive support through supplemental instruction, mentoring, behavior intervention and recognition programs.
“We applaud Laurie Barron for her leadership in engaging the teachers, parents, and all stakeholders in the transformation of Smokey Road,” said Derrick Kelson, vice president of MetLife, in a press release. “Her efforts empower students to fulfill their potential and create a brighter future for the community.”
As with Feburary’s state Principal of the Year honor, Barron refused to be acknowledged as as the lone recipient.
Telling the crowd she was “honored” to receive the national award – which comes with a $5,000 grant – Barron asked past and present members of the “Smokey Road family” to stand and be recognized alongside her.
“These are the people who have done this,” she said.