By EMMA BARTLETT
Cranston West principal Thomas Barbieri, 54, remembers his first day teaching in Cranston Public Schools quite clearly. It was October 1993. He wore a sports jacket with a tie and …
By EMMA BARTLETT
Cranston West principal Thomas Barbieri, 54, remembers his first day teaching in Cranston Public Schools quite clearly. It was October 1993. He wore a sports jacket with a tie and walked into Cranston East with a briefcase that contained a newspaper, notepad and pens.
“I was so excited,” said Barbieri, who will now return to East in the fall as the school’s principal. “I know the teacher I covered for – Mr. Andrews. I know Lisa Nadich with the substitute call line who called me around 6 o’clock in the morning.”
Going into education wasn’t always Barbieri’s plan. He was studying to become a lawyer and in the middle of completing his political science classes at Rhode Island College. He said he was all set with the LSATs and ready to attend Suffolk University.
While in school, Barbieri coached baseball in Providence – the city where he grew up – which led to a conversation with his friends about how much he enjoyed coaching kids. One of Barbieri’s friends who was an education major suggested Barbieri switch his major to education and mentioned that the political science classes he took could count toward that degree; he decided to make the change.
Barbieri started his career as a substitute teacher for Cranston Public Schools. Over time, he found that he was doing a lot of long term special education assignments, so he decided to go back to school and obtain his special education certificate at Providence College.
“I’ll never forget the angel voice from Catherine Ciarlo who called me up and said ‘hey would you like a job in Cranston Public Schools’,” said Barbieri.
In 1993, Barbieri became a special education teacher at Hugh B. Bain Middle School and eventually took on the same job at East where he remained for five years. In 2000, Barbieri returned to Bain as the assistant principal and in 2005 became West’s assistant principal. After moving on to serve as Bain’s principal, Barbieri became the West principal where he has remained for the past decade.
Barbieri loves working as an administrator at the school-based level; he said this and graduation are what he gets his “why” from. His favorite part of the job is walking around and saying good morning to students because he gets to see teaching and learning in action.
Barbieri credited current East Principal Sean Kelly for doing an amazing job at the school and thanked him for laying a foundation and groundwork that Barbieri hopes to build upon. Barbieri said East has some great things in place and, when he gets there, he will listen to students, faculty and parents to continue bringing the school on its educational journey. He wants to ensure the environment is safe and a place that kids want to come to.
Barbieri, who focused on culture and pride said East’s student body is full of energy and enthusiasm.
“Getting that enthusiasm and energy and bringing it forward and celebrating their accomplishments is one of my priorities,” Barbieri said. “I’m a culture guy – I believe culture is the foundation to every single school. We talk about school safety, educational programs, a school can't continue its journey if it doesn't have culture, and so I will be looking to continue celebrating their culture that they have at Cranston East.”
Barbieri said culture is always being nurtured because it doesn’t take much to weaken it; culture requires a lot of time and energy to cultivate and he said it should never be taken for granted. Barbieri said he’s looking forward to having a mini renaissance at East – mentioning exploiting the arts and making them come alive in a place.
“I look at the last two buildings I've been in, and the arts have been instrumental in making a good school great,” Barbieri said.
Barbieri does not know who will take over the position as West’s principal but knows and trusts in the fact that the individuals conducting the interview process will make a decision that is in the best interest of the school community. He said a principal should only leave a school when it is in a good spot – which he believes West is. He said hopefully the next person can put their own spin on the school and continue to make Cranston West great.
As for the reassignment to East, Barbieri said Cranston Public Schools are known for opportunities.
“Jeannine Nota-Masse, to me, represents Catherine Ciarlo. She’s someone who can recognize that people have certain characteristics that make a place what she wants it to be. So she’s not afraid to be able to use us for what we have and make a place and build upon what a school may need,” Barbieri said.
Barbieri, who has lived in Cranston for the past 22 years with his family, is excited about the new position. He recognized his mentors who helped him in the start of his career and mentioned that some of the teachers from the beginning of his career are still at East.
“I’m going back home – coming around to a full circle,” said Barbieri.
As for what to expect at Cranston East, you’ll have to stay tuned.
“You haven’t seen anything yet,” Barbieri said, with a smile.
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