Focus on Leadership

Barbara Barnes

Barbara Barnes began her education career as a teacher, reading specialist, special education teacher and principal at Inverness School in Cupertino Union Elementary School District. During her role as the reading specialist she coordinated the Dilworth School Title II, Phase II Library Media grant. Mrs. Barnes was recruited to Irvine School District to become the Principal of Vista Verde, a K-8, Year Round Calendar school. As a result of her leadership working with an exemplary group of teachers and collaborating with Dr. Paul Brandwein, scientist and author, Vista Verde was designated the Outstanding Science and Technology School in the State of California. Vista Verde was also featured on a CNN education series as having a highly successful year round program. School Talk, Barbara’s weekly news program on the Irvine Network was produced by students at Vista Verde and aired throughout the community.

The partnership between Vista Verde and the Irvine Marriott Hotel evolved into Barbara becoming the Director of Partnerships for the Irvine District. Under her leadership partnerships were formed between business, corporations, service clubs, community groups, and universities with every school in Irvine. Barbara served on the UCI Partnership Network and was an annual presenter at the National Consortium on Partnerships in Education held in Washington, DC where she was honored with the Outstanding Partnership Award by McKee Foods Corporation. In the late 1980’s Barbara coordinated a satellite “space bridge”, offering a message of peace to the world between students in Irvine Unified with the World Philharmonic Orchestra in Montreal, and choirs singing simultaneously in the Soviet Union, Geneva, and New York.

Partnering with Pacific Telesis Foundation, Barbara led a study to “Define the Role of the Principal in the State of California”. The project included meetings, analysis and data collection from 50 outstanding principals in small to large school districts across California. Pacific Telesis received a Presidential Citation for Private Sector Initiatives from President Reagan for this study. Barbara went on to help Pacific Telesis write and coordinate the Education for the Future Project, collaborated with Rockwell International to lead restructuring at Bellflower High School, and worked with the Barnsley - Doncaster Enterprise Zone to transform school curriculum in England.

Beginning in 1990 Barbara, in partnership with Joel A Barker, Futurist and numerous corporate executives, university professors and international educators, conducted ten summer conferences to identify the content, skills and technology expertise students would need for success in the 21st Century. Barbara applied these concepts at 21st Century Prep, a K-12 inner city magnet school in Chattanooga TN. Students excelled in this low socioeconomic school, learned four languages and subsequently studied in Japan and Germany. Barbara also led educators and their partners in twenty-three states and five countries to implement this 21st Century Learning process. She was invited to present these strategies at numerous international conferences including The World Conference on Education For All, The International Partnership Conferences in England, France, Canada and Norway, the New Business Initiatives in Education Conference in New York, ASCD, the National School Boards Conference, the Business Roundtable, the New Zealand Principals Conference, and the Brandwein Leadership Institute in New York. She conducted professional development programs with: University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Middle Tennessee State University, Northern Arizona University, University of California, Irvine, Chapman University, Virginia Tech, North Florida University, and Sheffield Hallam University in the UK.

In 2002 Mrs. Barnes returned to the public sector to become the Principal of San Onofre School, located on Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base. With her leadership the school received a Beaumont Foundation of America Technology Grant supporting a Camp Pendleton / world emphasis. This included a student produced weekly world news program broadcast throughout the school and across the Marine Base linking learning to the world of the students and their families deployed around the world. As a result of leading edge technologies, improved test scores and numerous collaborations with business and the community, the school won the Impact Award from the Classroom of the Future Foundation in San Diego County and a State PTA California Golden Bell award for Partnerships.

In January, 2008 Barbara founded It’s Your Environment, Inc., an eco-educational online community where schools, teachers, students, and youth groups collaborate with eco-conscious business, universities and community organizations to investigate all aspects of environmental challenges locally and globally. The goal of this 501C3 corporation is to inspire students to create, and share innovative, real world environmental projects and community service on web pages at The eight winning projects in the 2nd Annual 2009 Virtual Environment Fair represents the work of over 3000 students, in four states, Kindergarten through High School. It’s Your Environment has formed partnerships with Toshiba America Information Systems Inc., Con Agra Foods, Southern California Edison / SONGS, and the University of California Irvine Fuel Cell Research Center and the Urban Water Research Center. Membership in this online community is growing rapidly.

Mrs. Barnes served on the boards of Crystal Cove Alliance at Crystal Cove State Park and the Consortium for Health Studies at University of California, Irvine. She currently serves on the UC Irvine Department of Education Leadership Council and the Irvine Ranch Outdoor Education Center Steering Committee. Barbara is an Elder at San Clemente Presbyterian Church. She lives in San Clemente near her 3 sons and 4 grandchildren.