PHOENIX, Ore. — After a year marked by the COVID-19 pandemic and the devastation of the Almeda Fire, Phoenix-Talent School District Superintendent Brent Barry has been named "Oregon Superintendent of the Year" for 2022 by the The Oregon Association of School Executives (OASE) and the Coalition of Oregon School Administrators (COSA).
The award also places Barry in the running for the National Superintendent of the Year Award from the American Association of School Administrators.
COSA highlighted Barry's leadership for the Phoenix-Talent school community through the pandemic and the Almeda Fire, the latter of which devastated both Phoenix and Talent and left roughly one-third of the District's students, staff, and families without homes.
"In the aftermath of the fire, most Phoenix-Talent school buildings were inaccessible for weeks, and school district facilities were without electricity, phone and internet service," COSA said in a statement. "Nonetheless, Barry rallied his staff and found a way for them to make contact with every family to check on their well-being. Staff also worked in emergency response roles, providing food, clothing, gift cards, language services and disability support to fire survivors."
Within two weeks of the fire, the Phoenix-Talent School District was able to start online learning, including the delivery of hotspots and Chromebooks to displaced families and staff — setting up internet router at motels and RV parks, adding tutoring centers and internet connectivity sites throughout the Rogue Valley. Staff went out to the evacuation center to deliver both emotional support and education help.
The Phoenix-Talent Schools Fire Relief Fund collected and distributed a total of $2 million to families displaced by the fire.
Barry has led the Phoenix-Talent SD since 2017, when he was promoted from his role as assistant superintendent for academics and student programs. He was born and raised in the Rogue Valley, and worked as a teacher in Oregon for years before starting his service as an administrator within the Phoenix-Talent School District when he became principal at Orchard Hill Elementary.
Barry will be honored at the 2021 Oregon School Boards Association Convention in November, the 2022 OASE Winter Conference in January, the 2022 AASA National Conference in February, and the 2022 COSA Annual Conference in June.
“The exceptional way Brent dealt with the ongoing COVID pandemic made him an outstanding candidate for superintendent of the year – but it was his incredible leadership during one of the most terrifying events in the history of the state, the Almeda Fire, that showed Brent's true strength of character,” said OASE President Tim Sweeney, superintendent of the Coquille School District. “Brent led his district through the flames, smoke, terror, and shocking aftermath of the tragedy. He stood side-by-side with his students, families, staff, and community and ensured every student in his district had an opportunity to learn. Students from the Phoenix-Talent School District were displaced and spread across the length of the Rogue Valley, but it did not matter where a student was located; Brent and his team found a way to meet not only their educational needs, but all the needs that his suddenly homeless families faced. Truly, Brent is exceedingly worthy of this honor and we congratulate him on his amazing leadership.”
“Superintendent Brent Barry is a steady, calm, and compassionate leader who builds resiliency in students, staff, families, and the community,” said Southern Oregon ESD Superintendent Scott Beveridge. “At a time when 30% of students were displaced by wildfire overnight in the midst of the impact from COVID 19, Brent offered PTSD to serve as a pillar for coordinating emergency community resources, while supporting families' social-emotional health, and students' academic success.”
“Through the challenges faced over the last school year, Brent Barry has led our district with honor, clarity and calmness,” said assistant superintendent Tiffanie Lambert, who nominated Barry for the award. “The pandemic and wildfire have impacted our Latinx communities disproportionately, and Brent continues to speak up for our unheard patrons. He continues to keep the principles of equity in the forefront and works actively to remove linguistic and accessibility barriers.”
Phoenix-Talent school board vice chair Michael Campbell agreed:
"Brent Barry is an exceptional leader and even better person who fosters a culture of caring, compassion, and an unrelenting commitment to student success. In the face of unspeakable challenges, Brent has provided a shining example of balancing community responsiveness with our core mission of educating kids. Today, we take a moment to pause and celebrate Brent on this tremendous honor. He certainly deserves it."