Crofton Elementary's new principal guided by goal to put kids first


July 16, 2002|By Nancy Gallant | Nancy Gallant,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WHEN Wayne Bark began his new job as Crofton Elementary School's principal, he moved a round table into his office for meetings with teachers, parents and administrators about the next school year.

Whenever an issue is being discussed, Bark says he tries to imagine a child sitting in the center of the table and how the school can best serve the needs of that child.

"This approach has served me well," reflects Bark, 47, as he addressed the Crofton Elementary faculty last month.

"One thing I always hold true," he says, "I always try to put children first."

Bark's philosophy drives the two major goals he has set forth for the next school year. First, working with the school team, he hopes to ensure that school is a caring and nurturing environment where children feel safe. Second, he asks that teachers approach each school day as if it were the last day they were going to be able to teach their pupils. Every single day should be special.

After he spoke to the faculty at the end of the school year, some of the teachers came up to him to praise his ideas. But, to Bark, these aren't ideas. "That's me," he says.

Bark is a passionate proponent of public education. Public schools, he said, provide the opportunity for children to see a microcosm of society, meeting people from all races, all backgrounds and all social and economic groups. Public education, he added, is "open to all children and helps make them the best they can become."

Bark, a Baltimore County native, attended public schools, graduating from Overlea High. He earned a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in educational administration from Towson University.

For the past 25 years, he has worked in the Anne Arundel public schools. He taught almost every grade level at Belle Grove Elementary before moving on to Point Pleasant Elementary, where he served as assistant principal for three years. He then served as principal for four years at Overlook Elementary, for six years at Richard Henry Lee Elementary and most recently for four years at Windsor Farms Elementary.

Although he has only been in Crofton for two weeks, Bark has already been touched by the warm, open welcome he has received from staff, parents and pupils.

In his first year at the school, Bark is not planning to make big changes. His primary job, he says, will be to listen to the concerns and needs of his faculty, the parents and the students and to try to work to make the school even stronger.

Bark says he sees himself as a "hands-on" administrator. He likes to walk around the school and meet with teachers and pupils regularly. He enjoys taking part in other events outside of regular school hours, too, such as Pinewood Derbies and sports events. Understanding pupils' lives helps him create a better school atmosphere, he says.

Bark lives in Severna Park with his wife, Cindy, a media specialist at South Shore Elementary. Their daughter, Lauren, is studying art at East Carolina University. Son Justin, 15, helps his dad with computer problems, while Jonathan, 9, is a soccer player.

For the next six weeks, Bark will be busy preparing to make the coming school year run smoothly. This involves procuring supplies, reviewing programs, hiring staff and completing a variety of administrative tasks. One major focus will be overseeing the construction of the school's new gymnasium. Bark laughingly points to a bookshelf in his office where a hard hat rests among the books.

He says he has enjoyed meeting many pupils and parents.

"I see a common thread," he says. "They want the best this school can be."

Softball game

Seton Softball, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church's co-ed softball team, will play its next game tonight at Bell Branch Park on Davidsonville Road at 6 p.m. Anyone 16 and older is welcome to join. Information: 410-721-5770.

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