Education

John Barry to leave Aurora Public Schools superintendent post in July

Barry, who started as APS superintendent in July 2006, said he will leave before his contract expires so that the current board can choose his successor

AURORA | Aurora Public Schools Superintendent John Barry will leave his position at the district at the end of the school year, according to a letter sent to the APS Board of Education Tuesday.

Barry, who started as APS superintendent in July 2006, said he will leave before his contract expires so that the current board can choose his successor. Because of term expirations and limits, the board could change by as many as four members after its election in 2013. Barry, whose contract ends in 2014, said he wanted the current iteration of the board to pick the next APS superintendent.

“Part of my decision is based on the fact that the board of education election in November, 2013, will have four  board of education slots up for election with three of the positions term limited—so, there will be at least three and maybe four new board members elected next year,” Barry wrote in the letter. “Even though my contract was out to 2014, I would like the current experienced board to have the opportunity to select my successor.”

  • Truancy Door Knocking Campaign

    Aurora Public Schools Superintendant John Barry and Mary Lewis, APS board of education, knock on a door during the truancy door knocking campaign on Jan. 25 in Aurora. (Heather L. Smith/The Aurora Sentinel)

  • Aurora Public Schools Superintendant John Barry

    Aurora Public Schools Superintendent John Barry poses in an F-4E Phantom at Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum in Denver. Barry flew the F-4E Phantom for about 10 years. (Heather L. Smith/The Aurora Sentinel)

  • Superintendent John Barry

    John Barry, Aurora Public Schools Superintendent, and Casey Wardynski, chief financial officer in Aurora. (Heather L. Smith/The Aurora Sentinel)

Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan said Barry has been instrumental in changing the public perception of the district.

“He will be missed. He was the right guy in the right position at the right time. He’s made a tremendous impact along with the board itself in terms of changing the face of Aurora Public Schools,” Hogan said. “I think he has helped tremendously to change the impression of the district, from one of ‘you just don’t want to go to school there,’ to one of ‘this is a successful, innovative, improving, on-the-way-up school district and it’s a great place to be.’ That’s about as good as it gets.”

A graduate of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Barry came to Aurora Public Schools in 2006 as a retired two-star general and a former wing commander. As a pilot, he logged more than 3,000 flight hours in F-4s and F-16s and flew more than 270 hours of combat time over Iraq. Before retiring from the Air Force in 2004, he’d served as the military assistant to Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney and led the investigation into the 2003 space shuttle Columbia disaster.

Barry’s background isn’t rooted in K-12 education, but that hasn’t stopped him from stirring things up at APS. Last year, Barry earned the 2011 Colorado Superintendent of the Year title from the Colorado Association of School Executives, beating out superintendents from the state’s other 177 school districts. Since Barry started at APS, the district has seen increases in student proficiency rates that outpace state averages.

“My family and I will continue to live in Aurora (after 26 moves in 30 years in the USAF, my goal is to never pack another box again) and my wife Ellen and I will continue to attend APS events, games and performances,” Barry wrote. “We will continue to support the APS family and the tremendous work of increasing student achievement and closing the achievement gaps.”

The full text of Barry’s letter follows.

APS Teammates and Community Partners,

I want to inform you that I have decided to end my service as Superintendent of APS as of July 2013.  When I started in APS in 2006, I gave my word to the Board of Education that I would serve as Superintendent for at least five years.  This year, I will complete my seventh year.

Part of my decision is based on the fact that the BOE election in Nov 2013 will have four  board of education slots up for election with three of the positions term limited—so, there will be at least three and maybe four new BOE members elected next year. Even though my contract was out to 2014, I would like the current experienced board to have the opportunity to select my successor.

Over the last 6.5 years our team has made terrific strides in accelerating student achievement and closing the achievement gaps with the laser focus on our strategic plans, starting with VISTA 2010 to our current VISTA 2015.  Some of our major accomplishments include:

  • Drop-out rates have been reduced from 10% to 4.6%.
  • Graduation rates have increased from the 40th percentile to over 60 percent with an accumulation of over 2600 college credits earned last year with 33 students earning associate degrees—a first for APS.
  • Truancy has been reduced by over 29%.
  • We have surpassed the CSAP/TCAP state increases in achievement rates for reading, writing, math and science every year since 2006.
  • We have met or exceeded the state median growth percentile in all subjects since 2006.
  • We have developed partnerships for our P-20 and pathway concepts that involve experiential opportunities with more than 30 outside partners that were recognized by the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, as being “…significant to the Nation.”
  • We passed a bond and mill levy override in 2008 and now, in 2012, we have passed a mill levy override.
  • Our school district has won state and national recognition—just to name a few:
    • Colorado Secondary Principal of the year.
    • Colorado Elementary Principal of the year.
    • Colorado Board of Education of the year.
    • Colorado Superintendent of the year.
    • Colorado Teacher of the year.
    • Colorado Assistant Principal of the year.
    • Colorado Nurse of the year.
    • Colorado and National PE Teacher of the year.

Although this school year started with significant sadness and difficulty with the shooting on 7/20, I believe we are recovering with a proactive plan of taking care of our APS family.  In spite of this horrible shooting, the year is progressing strongly in alignment with VISTA 2015 and APS continues to receive accolades.  For example:

  • Board member Matt Cook is now president-elect of the Colorado Association of School Boards.
  • Dr. Lisa Escarcega is president-elect of the Colorado Association of School Executives.
  • Jesus Escarcega is the Chair of the Colorado Association of Latino/a Administrators and Superintendents.

As I mentioned already, we also successfully passed 3C, our mill levy override, which will allow us to restore funds related to  our priorities: achievement, instructional resources and high quality staff. This includes a pay increase for all eligible employees beginning on January 1, 2013. Thank you to all staff, students, parents and community members who supported 3C.

You may recall that I encourage staff to leave APS better than they found it.  Although my decision has been a very difficult one to make, I want you to know I am proud of what our team has accomplished over these many years.  I have been honored to serve as your Superintendent during the worst financial crisis in the history of APS while avoiding a reduction in force (RIF).  I am also humbled to have been a member of a terrific Aurora team as we worked our way through the worst shooting crisis in Colorado history, if not the Nation.

I have been moved deeply by my experiences in APS.  After a full career in the military in helping to defend this Nation with millions of others, I have been honored to serve with you all in helping to defend the right of every child to learn in APS.

My family and I will continue to live in Aurora (after 26 moves in 30 years in the USAF, my goal is to never pack another box again) and my wife Ellen and I will continue to attend APS events, games and performances.  We will continue to support the APS family and the tremendous work of increasing student achievement and closing the achievement gaps.

Thank you for your support and for allowing me to have the privilege to serve as your Superintendent. Please remember to begin every conversation and end every conversation with our students in mind.

Warm regards,

JB

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