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The Power of Partnership, Innovation and Learning

School Desk Blog: Reflections on a career in education

During my 53 years with Ukiah Unified School District, I have worked in several capacities and have had the distinct pleasure of collaborating with amazing staff, parents, and community members. However, my favorite years were those spent working with students as a teacher and Principal.


I started my career at Frank Zeek Elementary in 1969 as a 4th-grade teacher. I worked with many capable teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals, and other classified staff who shared their years of wisdom with me. However, the one who provided the most advice and was my mentor in teaching and administration was Carl Morgensen. He was a proponent of collaborative teaching. He stressed that teachers planning and working together provided greater learning opportunities for students. Under his guidance, Frank Zeek was a wonderful place to work, and our students showed great gains, especially in reading. My long-time teaching partner, Shari Crew, and several other retired teachers still reminisce about how much fun we had teaching at Frank Zeek. But, I also enjoyed working with other teachers and staff and began to think about obtaining an Administrative Credential. Carl encouraged me in this endeavor and emphasized that the main job of a principal was to keep the school running smoothly so that teachers could concentrate on teaching. This was advice I always tried to remember. It was a difficult decision to leave Frank Zeek, but after 24 years, I decided to pursue a new challenge.


Charlie Myers, UUSD Superintendent at the time, gave me the opportunity to become principal of Calpella Elementary and later Redwood Valley. I thoroughly enjoyed working with the Calpella staff and was especially thrilled with the parent participation we had. We also had some challenging times with becoming a year-round school, reverting to a traditional school schedule, and ultimately dividing into two schools. One year I was principal at both sites, driving back and forth and feeling like there was never enough time at either place. Thankfully there were great teachers at each site to help keep things running somewhat smoothly. My time as principal at Redwood Valley was a dream job. With a collaborative staff and only three grades (3,4,5), we had a greater opportunity to know all our students. I decided that it would be a good time to retire - ending my career on such a positive note. I was thrilled when our son, Bryan Barrett, was selected as Redwood Valley principal to succeed me. It has been a joy to have both my children become educators.


However, retirement wasn’t in the plan for me yet. I was asked if I would consider working part-time as an assessment coordinator for the district. At that time, state testing was just expanding to include grades 2-12, and the California High School Exit Exam had just been implemented. So, I stepped into a position that grew over the years, but one that I enjoyed. Although I was no longer working with students, I had the opportunity to work with all district schools, and I liked the organization and precision required for this job. The part-time nature of the position gave me the opportunity to help care for my grandchildren and to volunteer in their classrooms, too.


In 2013, as I was considering where I could volunteer some time, Bryan suggested that I should run for the school board. After much contemplation, I decided that having spent my life in education, this was a position I should pursue. Shortly after winning the election, I was presented with another opportunity. I was asked to be the interim principal at Potter Valley Elementary for a year. Since this gave me the chance to work with students and teachers again, I agreed to the position. It was a very busy year, but it gave me a renewed perspective on school life.


I have thoroughly enjoyed my 9 years on the Board. I am pleased that I have been a part of a group that works well together - all with the goal of providing a quality education for the students of Ukiah Unified. I am also grateful for the opportunity to work with Deb Kubin, who is a dedicated superintendent and truly cares about UUSD students. We have had some difficult and challenging times during the past few years, especially dealing with the pandemic. But, I am proud of the many decisions we have made and the added services the district has been able to provide to students, such as increased counseling, more paraprofessionals, family liaisons, and

campus security personnel. I am also pleased that our music and performing arts have been restored and are flourishing. We have been able to build a new soccer field, and much-needed maintenance has been done at all sites. In addition, I am happy that our district has increased the salaries of all our employees.


Ukiah Unified has provided me with a long, rewarding career and with an avenue to provide service to our terrific community. I have had the pleasure of working with many wonderful teachers, administrators, and classified staff who made my job easier and more enjoyable. And truly, working with students has been a blessing. Thank You!