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Balsz Superintendent Dr. George Barnes talks encouragement, representation

Posted at 4:38 AM, Aug 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-08 09:38:18-04

PHOENIX — ABC15 is sitting down with Balsz Superintendent Dr. George Barnes as the district begins the 2022-2023 school year Monday.

For Dr. Barnes, who started on the job this past February, it's all about seeing himself in his students.

"I was this kid," he said to ABC15's Nick Ciletti. "If someone didn't step into my life at that point and then a multitude of people stepping into my life and saying you can, you must, you will achieve, there's no telling where I would have ended up."

And that's exactly what he wants to do for Balsz students.

"People refused to give up to me...I am refusing to give up on them because they deserve the opportunities."

Opportunities that life hasn't always given them.

Many families in the Balsz District are facing socio-economic challenges. For example, Dr. Barnes tells ABC15 that all students will receive free breakfast and free lunch this school year.

"I think sometimes, there is a misnomer that even in communities of lack, we could say even in communities where there are socio-economic challenges, that those parents don't love their kids a whole lot. Sometimes, they are working two jobs... But in most cases I've experienced, they love their kids a whole lot. Bringing the community into the school is a big win and it's a great tool."

And for the former coach, part of the success is having more people rooting for you from the sidelines.

"Going back to that idea of being a team, you always had an adversary you had to beat — that nemesis. Our kids need to understand that their nemesis is sometimes life and the obstacles that are against them. The goal is to show these kids they are amazing that they can and they will and they must overcome."

Part of Dr. Barnes' plan to carry out that goal is through his vision for the district, which he describes as "excellence."

"Excellence in care, excellence in productivity, excellence in all we do. I think people are talking about getting back to normal, but our normal wasn't good enough. The district has been run really well by good-hearted people, good-spirited individuals. But our students need to get to that level of excellence where you know that student came from Balsz School District. That's a difference."

It's a change Dr. Barnes wants to spearhead this year as the new superintendent, taking over for Dr. Arleen Kennedy after she was terminated by the District's Governing Board in June 2021.

"Our students are looking for love. Our students are looking for high expectations. They might not always say it, but our students want someone to look at them and say 'you are great, you will achieve greatness. Keep at it. I'm here for you.'"

And in a district where people of color make up more than 90% of the student body, Dr. Barnes says representation matters.

"What does it mean for these students to see someone like you, that looks like them, leading the district?" Ciletti asked.

"I've wondered what kids see in me," Barnes said. "Their eyes light up. Maybe it's my energy or the vibe I offer that I do care? And I think it does matter to them that they can see that they can do whatever it is to be a superintendent."