A Message from the Head of Barrie

Dear Barrie families,

We are in the final weeks of school, the time of year that we at Barrie observe the routines and rituals that help define who we are as a school. A few weeks ago, the Eighth Grade Poetry Slam, now in its eleventh year, celebrated student voices and the increased confidence that comes with the challenge of speaking before an audience in a personal way. Last Friday, Grandparents and Special Friends Day let our students share the joy of learning and everyday life at Barrie with their extended families and friends. The past week’s Art Show, for the first time an all-school exhibition of student work, allowed students, faculty, guests, and parents to see the power of what our students create, from the youngest to the oldest.

In the weeks ahead, the Kindergarten camp-out will highlight the ways we use our campus as a place for adventure and promoting family fun and connections. The Boat Races, a long-standing tradition, embraces learning by doing in the truest sense as students design, build, and try to keep their cardboard boats afloat. Some rituals evolve too, as this year students were able to test boat designs using the 3D printer for prototypes.

While we are made up of different divisions, we work hard to help students feel connected as one school with one mission and a set of common values. As we end this year, I want to thank you all for how you support the school in so many ways. Parents are critical to our success, from helping with the musical, to arranging special evenings like After Prom, to being engaged partners with our teachers as we educate your children, to helping produce big events, like the recent “Finding Neverland” PTO celebration. This year’s new PTO has been a great addition in helping connect Barrie families to each other and to the school. I appreciate all they have done. I also thank all those who have contributed to the Annual Fund and ask those who have not yet given to do their part to support Barrie.

I have valued by time being a part of this community and leading Barrie. I value the passion our staff have for meeting the social, emotional, academic, and physical needs of our children. I value the sense of wonder we share for the beauty of our campus and the unexpected experiences we all have watching the seasons pass at Barrie. I value the willingness of this community to engage in difficult conversations on important topics related to our students or world events. This is a caring community that values diversity and inclusion. There are few independent schools as diverse as Barrie and our diversity allows for a richer workplace and more powerful learning for students.

I have enjoyed my meetings to support Jon Kidder as we look ahead to his joining Barrie in July. The transition planning has been great and I feel he is well positioned to begin his tenure as the next Head of School. He comes from a school that shares many of the values we hold at Barrie, and I think he will bring new energy and ideas to make the School continue to serve all students, adult learners, and campers well.

Writing this final newsletter piece is tinged with sadness for me, as I will miss communicating with you and reading the pieces we shared each month which celebrate the amazing work of our students and staff. Barrie is an exciting place to lead. I will miss things like looking up and seeing our students pass by my window on horses and the toddlers visiting the Admin building to watch the fish in the aquarium. I appreciate so much the commitment of our faculty and staff and those on the administrative team who work so hard to make Barrie a safe, caring, thriving learning environment. I also thank the Board of Trustees for all that they do to support the School, in so many different ways.

I am looking forward to closing out a successful year and marking the special occasions of our moving-up and graduation ceremonies. We will all be coming and going from campus a great deal in the weeks ahead, so please remember our campus rules and drive slowly as we have more people out on campus and more wildlife as well (see the video below). Please continue to share your Barrie stories with others and invite those you meet to learn about our school and our camp.


Charlie Abelmann
Head of Barrie

Upcoming Events

A Sure Sign of Spring

Kitty Jones to Serve as Interim Communications Director

As Bill Lauck, our Director of Communication, departs at the end of May, I am pleased to announce that Kitty Jones has been named the Interim Director for Barrie. Kitty has worked closely with Bill for the past year managing communications projects and working closely with Camp, Development, Admissions, and the PTO. This will ensure a smooth transition as we welcome Jon as our new Head of School. Kitty brings experience in marketing, communications, and IT to the position.

Dao Hoang will support me as the executive assistant in a temporary role so that Kitty can spend time with Bill before moving into the Interim position on June 1st. Kitty has done an outstanding job in her work in supporting the Board and me and helping communications already. Once he arrives, Jon will assess the needs at Barrie and decide how to meet the long term needs of the communication function at Barrie.

I want to thank Bill for all his work with so many projects ranging from the web overhaul, to marketing pieces to our monthly newsletters. He has also shared his passion for communication in teaching classes and electives. I have valued his support and guidance on many strategic matters at Barrie. He has contributed so much to Barrie in many ways and I wish him the best as he pursues new opportunities.

Charlie Abelmann
Head of Barrie

New Campus Leadership Roles Announced

We are pleased announce that Barrie teachers Maati Wafford and Bridget Uptgrow have been named as Campus Coordinators for new cross-campus initiatives. Maati will focus on Diversity and Inclusion Bridget on Parent Education. Together, their efforts will encourage cross-campus work and advocacy and expanded connections throughout our learning community. Congratulations to Maati and Bridget.

Barrie Welcomes New Director of Student & Family Services in July

It is with great enthusiasm that we welcome Faiza Omer to the Barrie community as the Director of Student and Family Services. In our interview process, students, faculty and staff were impressed with her clinical and interpersonal skills. We are very excited about what Faiza will bring to both sides of the bridge in supporting our students, working with parents, and building programs. She will begin this July, and we are working on a transition plan. Welcome, Faiza!

Faiza Omer is a licensed clinical social worker who strongly embraces the belief that every child can achieve school and life success. She began her career in education as an 8th grade teacher in Houston, TX where she taught students the fundamentals of compositional writing, led a service and mentorship youth program, and coached Girls on the Run. When her school welcomed in students who were forced to evacuate during Hurricane Katrina, Faiza witnessed the effects of trauma firsthand. Her desire to support her students more effectively then led her to pursue the field of social work.

For the past five years, Faiza has been serving as the founding Dean of Social Emotional Supports at a charter high school on the west side of Chicago. During her time as Dean, Faiza implemented a school wide emotional literacy curriculum, created and supervised a peer mediation program, provided therapeutic support to a caseload of students, and collaborated with community partners to increase student access to social emotional supports. She is excited to join Barrie and work with our community.

Faiza has a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and Psychology from Washington University in St. Louis and a Master’s in Social Work from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration.

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Eighth Graders Compete in Eleventh Annual Poetry Slam

Barrie students showcased their edgy, original, spoken-word poems at the Eleventh Annual Barrie Poetry Slam. The event features the works of our eighth grade students, reflecting their work for the last several months. Preparing for Slamsation is ingrained in the 8th grade Humanities curriculum, and performing represents a spring tradition for the class. Students learn about slam poetry through writing, editing, and performing their pieces to refine their expressions and feelings. This year's winner was Wesley T. Head of Barrie Prep Kristin Arndt said "The Poetry Slam was a show of hard work, creativity, channeling emotions, and naked courage. Not only were the 8th grade performances examples of excellence, but also the open mic part of the event gave opportunity for students to share with our community.”

Barrie Celebrates Grandparents & Special Friends

Barrie's campus was abuzz with visitors last Friday morning as we welcomed grandparents and special friends into the classroom to share in students' growth and learning, and also to visit the All School Art Show. Special thanks go to the guests who joined us for the festivities, as well as the teachers, administrators, and staff that made the day possible.

Student Works Highlighted at the All School Art Show

Creative works by student artists from every grade level were on display at the recent All School Art Show in the Jamie L. Roberts Athletics Center. In the past a Montessori event, this year's Show featured art from every division. Thanks for Sunny Gough, Sujuan Meng, and Margie Smetana for making this year's expanded show a reality.

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