Dedicated to Student Success
LPIE sat down with Greg Barnes, Assistant Superintendent of Student Success at the Lafayette district, to learn about him, his role, and all it entails.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself, your background and experience, and why you chose to join the Lafayette school district?
Academically, I graduated with a BS in Psychology from Grand Valley State University, earned a couple of master's degrees in cross-cultural teaching and administration, and ultimately completed my doctorate in Organizational Leadership at the University of LaVerne. Professionally, I landed my first job as a manager of a group home for adults with developmental disabilities. I spent three years as a series seven licensed stockbroker working for Charles Schwab and Co. and ultimately found my way to the classroom in 1998. Twenty-three years later I was hired as the assistant superintendent of student success with Lafayette school district, having spent seven years in the classroom, nine years as a middle school assistant principal and principal, and finally 6 years as a director of curriculum and instruction.
I wanted to join Lafayette…
I was drawn to LafSD for the work. The job description for the new Assistant Superintendent of Student Success read like a who's who of my educational passions. The opportunity to collaborate with colleagues in special education, social, emotional wellness, diversity, and inclusion was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. To further this work in a community like Lafayette was a dream come true.
Assistant Superintendent of Student Success is a new position in the district — what is your purview, and can you highlight the areas that Lafayette is focusing on within Student Success?
My work is divided into five main areas, special education, DEIB, SEL, Wellness, and Attendance. Highlights of this work include a series of committees of representative stakeholders shaping the mission and vision of our work. These committees help advise our special education, diversity, and equity, social-emotional work. Additionally, they work collaboratively to support existing counseling services, intervention strategies, and school wellness areas, including community partnerships, nutrition, physical education, and health services.
Why is it important that schools offer Social Emotional Learning and Wellness services?
Social-emotional wellness is the foundation for learning. Fostering motivation, and self-confidence, while reducing anxiety is essential as students absorb social-emotional, and academic instruction. The CASEL framework would suggest helping students learn self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationships skills, and how to make good decisions, sets the student up for success in all other areas of education. What I love about this work is how it's built on a foundation of a home and school partnership. The interplay between what happens in the classroom, school, home, and community leads to lifelong benefits, including improved academic outcomes and behaviors that foster success.
How is the district cultivating an environment of inclusion and belonging in our schools?
Creating a sense of acceptance and belonging is foundational to DEIB work. Understanding the unique social, emotional, cultural, and behavioral needs of all students is vital to making all students feel safe, welcomed, and represented. LafSD has a proud history of fostering DEIB work. Counseling services provide a welcoming and safe space for students. Educator professional development has encouraged inclusivity by asking teachers to be culturally reflective of their practices. The bias incident reporting system allows students and family members to share their social experiences with us. Our special education efforts focus on support and services that promote inclusive classroom settings.
What advice would you give parents at this time?
As it relates to SEL or DEIB, I'd say learn as much as possible. Talk to your students, ask them how they feel about school, share your thoughts with site leadership, get involved in our committees, and reach out to me if you have questions. On a human level, we all understand how quickly time goes by as parents. Our students grow quickly, dynamics change. While we will always be parents, I hope that we can all embrace the relational evolution in each moment. In short, engage. Enjoy.
What is your favorite outlet for personal well-being?
I've always been a runner. I've taken to running later at night recently. Dark and solitary, it is both invigorating and hazardous...one twisted ankle down, one to go.The setting heightens the endorphin kick, and encourages some of my most inspiring thoughts for both home and work.