The School Committee is expected to appoint Thomas Barbieri, currently serving as principal of Hugh B. Bain Middle School, as principal of Cranston High School West at .
Barbieri will be replacing outgoing principal Steven Knowlton, who is leaving the district at the end of the year.
Barbieri was named Middle School Principal of the Year last year by the Rhode Island Association of School Principals and has been working in the Cranston school district in 1991.
He became principal at Bain in 2005. He first began his career in Cranston at Bain in 1991. During his career, he’s been a teacher and an assistant principal as he floated around the district. More than half of his career was spent at Bain, though, and he says that’s part of the reason he’s been able to turn the school around from a low point in the mid-to-late 1990s.
“The school’s culture was at its knees,” Barbieri said in an interview last year.
As assistant principal at Bain, Barbieri was part of a team assembled to try to begin a turnaround process. The school was under caution status from the state Department of Education. They developed a strategic plan and went door-to-door to get the entire school community on board.
The effort began to show signs of progress, but there were setbacks along the way, mostly because of turnover. Bain couldn’t hold onto a principal for very long, and the school soon had gone through its third principal in just a few years when Barberi finally took over in 2005.
“One of the first things I did was sit down and make a promise to everyone that they were going to see consistency.”
Today, Bain is listed as a High Performing school by RIDE — the highest designation for a school. For the last few years, Bain students have consistently scored above the state average on standardized tests. As scores have climbed, absenteeism has plummeted. The suspension rate, which stood at 15 a month, is down to one or two a month. Twenty-one students a day on average used to be late in the morning. Now that figure is down to four.
“And that’s not good enough,” Barberi said. “The day that we’re satisfied where we are, once we’re content, is the day we settle for mediocrity.”