Interim BVE principal Wendy Barrett

Interim BVE principal Wendy Barrett quickly building relationships
Posted on 09/11/2018

For Wendy Barrett, getting a late August call asking her to serve as the interim principal at Bernice Vossbeck Elementary was a “quick decision, but it was an easy decision.”

With principal Becky Midboe taking a leave of absence, Vossbeck needed a new leader. And in a hurry. The 20-plus-year veteran of the Bellingham School District who now lives in Lynden has both the experience and the passion to ably fill the role.

“What I have learned about myself is my passion is driven by the kids and the staff and the school community,” Barrett says. “The idea of being able to go back, what feeds me is that energy that comes from wanting good things to happen for kids. At this point, having been away for a couple of years, the opportunity to go back in was super appealing.”

Barrett started her career in Bellingham in 1993 after a move from administration roles in California as a reading specialist teacher, leading students in grades K-5. She then served as an assistant principal at Whatcom Middle School for one year before transitioning into the director of curriculum for the district. But after seven years in that role, she was missing the kids. Barrett then became the planning principal and opened the new Northern Heights Elementary and stayed in that role until 2015, moving to Lynden during the stint. After a few months back in the district office, she moved into retirement.

“What has been most rewarding has been being able to come to Vossbeck and get to know the teachers, kids and school community,” she says. “I’m still in learning mode with that. I’m learning about them and developing relationships with them. People have been very gracious and welcoming and very grateful to have someone be able to come on fairly short notice. People have just been wonderful about that.”

While the principal role at Vossbeck is new to Barrett, the personal connection to the school certainly isn’t. Barrett has a grandson attending the school. She was afraid the transition would prove awkward for him, but he’s embraced the role of his grandma and it has opened doors for her to quickly get to know other students. Early in the school year, Barrett was in the hallway and her grandson’s class was passing by. He reached out for a hug. It seemed natural for others and soon every kid in line behind him was also asking for a hug. “These kids are warm, they are inviting and respectful,” Barrett says. “They have been high-fiving in the hall. It is good. I put them in that group of people that I call most welcoming.”

Barrett, who has three kids living in Seattle, Bellingham and Lynden and four grandkids (another attends Lynden Middle School), says she has tried to make quick personal connections with as many students as possible so that she can build on those relationships as the school year continues and learn more about the students as time allows.

As far as getting to know the staff at Vossbeck, Barrett says she couldn’t be more impressed. “My first impression was they were super strong and highly functioning,” she says. “They work well together and they put kids right at the center of everything they are doing. They are doing some fabulous work around meeting student needs through interventions.”

The transition to Vossbeck may have happened quickly for Barrett, but it has proven a positive experience that she is working to build on as the year progresses.