Retiring Frontier Regional superintendent reflects

  • Martha Barrett, superintendent of the Frontier Regional School district, will retire at the end of the 2016 spring school semester. RECORDER STAFF/ANDY CASTILLO

  • Artwork hangs in the office of longtime Frontier Regional School Superintendent Martha Barrett, who will retire at the end of the 2016 spring school year. RECORDER STAFF/ANDY CASTILLO

  • Longtime Frontier Regional School district Superintendent Martha Barrett will retire after the end of this school year. RECORDER STAFF/ANDY CASTILLO

For the Gazette
Tuesday, June 07, 2016

WHATELY — Inside the Frontier Regional School administration office, a tangible sense of respect and appreciation for longtime Superintendent Martha Barrett emanates from staff members.

“She is going to be missed,” said Donna Lloyd, who works in accounts payable in the office. “She brings just a family, community presence. She has brought us in as an extended family to her.”

After serving for more than 20 years as an educator in the region, Barrett will retire at the end of the school year.

Barrett started as a substitute teacher in the district in 1988, and quickly became interim principal of the Old Deerfield Grammar and South Deerfield Elementary schools, which were combined to make Deerfield Elementary School in 1992. Since then, she has served as a teacher and a principal at numerous local schools, including Frontier Regional School, where she was principal for 12 years.

When she became superintendent, Barrett said she did not know what to do at first. She started walking through the halls, meeting people.

“I called it leadership by walking around. And I didn’t think it was revolutionary, but it was,” she said. “No (superintendent) ever walked around.”

During the course of her career, Barrett said she is most proud of pushing the arts in the district, especially at Frontier Regional during her tenure as principal.

“I’ve always felt strongly that everyone should take an intro to theater class,” she said.

Barrett’s legacy in the district spans generations. Her influence has affected students, faculty, parents, educators and people in the community from all different walks of life.

“She was my family’s first experience in this school district,” said Rhonda Lutenegger, assistant to the early childhood coordinator. “I’ve worked with her in three different buildings.”

Every year for 15 years, Barrett has had graduating seniors over to her house for tea. She got the idea after finding an old tea set in a classroom.

“They come and sit in my house and we just talk,” she said, while swiping through pictures of this year’s seniors on her phone.

“It’s a lovely event, and the juniors are really bummed,” she added with a laugh. “We had 65 people at the house on Friday. It was a beautiful day.”

After graduating from Lycoming College with a degree in theater, Barrett later earned a master’s degree in education from Suffolk University.

“I finished my degree and went to London,” she said. “I ran out of money and came back. I did a lot of community theater. My poor husband, he knew every line of every play.”

Before transitioning into this Franklin County school district, Barrett worked in curriculum design, served as administrative director at Suffolk University in Boston, and reported for the Gardner News, a newspaper serving Worcester County.

Barrett has been married to her husband, Steve, for 42 years, and has four children and seven grandchildren. Her three sons all served in the military, and her daughter followed in her footsteps and became an actress.

Her proudest moments in the district came when former students said they were prepared for life through the school system.

After the end of the school year, she plans to take a long vacation and spend time at her house in Pennsylvania, and has not ruled out going back to work part-time. No matter where she goes, her heart will always be with students — who she has served her entire career.

“Always be kind,” she offered as departing advice to students. “Always look for the good in people. Always help people out. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone, and remember to have face-to-face conversations with people.”