Staff photo by Philip Wright
BARBARA U'Ren spends time becoming organized in her new office at C-OC School District. U'Ren was recently promoted from her position as principal of Cottonwood Elementary School to director of Educational Services for the district.
The job title has been changed from assistant superintendent to director of educational services.
U'Ren welcomes the new challenges that accompany her promotion. "I'm anxious to do it," she said. "You've got great leaders in this district. They have a philosophy of bringing up leaders from within."
But U'Ren doesn't believe her goals are much different from when she was principal. "I see my role as a support system for the classroom teacher," she said. She said she is really looking forward to seeing classroom teachers district wide instead of only in one school. "It's so exciting when you have the opportunity to be inside a classroom and see the great things that are going on," she said. "The teachers in this district are fabulous."
Her first goal, however, is to fully understand the managment process of the district's grants, a big part of her new job. Once she is comfortable with her new job responsibilities, U'Ren wants to become more involved in the grassroots of education. "I would like, down the road, to work in professional development of teachers and provide more staff development to help the teachers meet the needs of the kids."
U'Ren solidly believes that the classroom — the teachers and the students — is the most important consideration in education. Everything else, and everyone else, is, in her view, support for the learning that happens in the classroom. Within the standards required, U'Ren wants to work toward making certain that the curriculum is enriching and exciting. "I want a strong balance for students to do well on tests but also in things that aren't necessarily measured."
"You must be well rounded to be a good citizen," U'Ren said. And she believes that means schools must provide well-rounded education.
U'Ren started with the district working with special education students. She also went back to school and earned her bachelor's degree in 1990. She then became a classroom teacher at Oak Creek School. By 1993, she had earned her master's in elementary education. In 1995 she went to Dr. Daniel Bright Elementary School as assistant principal for one year. She moved to Cottonwood Elementary School as assistant principal and finally took over as principal in 1997. During that time, U'Ren earned her administration credentials, and she is now close to completing her doctorate at Northern Arizona University.
She has three daughters and five grandchildren, a big part of why U'Ren is so focused on what happens inside the classrooms of the district. She sees the school system basically as support staff for the teachers and students. "We are all here to support the classroom teacher," she said.
"As principal I looked at the school as my classroom," U'Ren said. "Now, I look at the entire district as my classroom."