Barber to run for superintendent of Santa Rosa County schools

Ramon Rios

MILTON — Karen Barber knew she wanted to be a teacher at the age of 10. That is when her parents brought home a 4-year-old foster child named Mary.

“Mary came with some challenges because of the neglect that she endured as a child,” Barber said. “So I became a teacher at 10 years old.”

From that point on Barber wanted to advocate for all kids, especially the underprivileged and those with challenges. Barber is hoping to expand her impact on local students and has announced her candidacy to replace the retiring Tim Wyrosdick as Santa Rosa County superintendent.

“I feel uniquely qualified and prepared to be the next leader in our county,” Barber said of the superintendent position.

Those experiential learning lessons led to a 33-year career in education starting as a special education teacher in Illinois.

For 23 of those years, Barber has taught and worked in Santa Rosa County. Her current position is director of federal programs for county schools.

Barber has worked in all positions from teacher through principal. She has worked at every level of education from pre-kindergarten to universities.

Barber has taught in county schools from Chumuckla to Gulf Breeze and Milton to Navarre.

Barber is an adjunct professor at the University of West Florida where she teaches master-level classes in how to become a principal.

“My whole focus for all 33 years is my approach with families,” Barber said. “That family approach is really at the center of how I make decisions, but it’s also a community-based approach.”

If elected, Barber said she would improve the communication between the school district and the community.

“(I would) have enormous amounts of two-way communication at the front end of decision making,” Barber said. “Have town hall meetings with parents and citizens.

“Be deliberate about understanding the various needs of our community because they are different,” she added. “Be very thoughtful in measuring the impact of whether it is school construction, changing school board policy or implementing what we do to address school safety. Make sure to meet face to face with people to listen and get their input and their feedback.”

Barber is the third administrator with the district to announce she is running for superintendent. David A. Gunter, the compliance and labor relations director, filed to run in August 2018. Michael Alan Thorpe, the district’s inservice and instructional technology director, filed to run in March of last year.