Technically, he’s on vacation, but Brad Barrett still pops in often to his empty office to finish out his days as Gilbert Unified School District’s superintendent. He’ll officially leave his post June 30, although he cleaned out his office last weekend.
“I will miss the strong involvement of the community,” said Barrett, who has lived in Gilbert since 1978. “This is a very close-knit community. I’ve treated this job as if the 40,000 kids are my own.”
Dave Allison, the district’s current associate superintendent of administration services, has already begun the transition into the superintendency, and will officially take over July 1. Allison was named in February as Barrett’s successor after an internal three-month search.
Barrett knew two years ago he was planning on retiring. He announced his retirement in November, after working 37 years in three East Valley school districts, including the Kyrene Elementary and Mesa Unified school districts.
He worked out a plan with the school board to begin preparing top candidates within the district to move up and possibly one day become superintendent. These 11 employees were groomed for district jobs, and were part of a superintendent’s “cabinet.”
“I wanted to commit to them that there would be a group of candidates that would be prepared to move up from the inside,” Barrett said.
One of those is Ken James. He took the leap from principal at Highland High School, where he worked for 13 years, to executive director of educational services at the district office.
Although he’s leaving the district June 30 to become principal of Basha High School in the Chandler Unified School District, James credits Barrett for giving him the opportunity to reach the district level to see that his real passion is working in a school.
“He (Barrett) did a lot of nice things for Gilbert Public Schools and kept us heading in the right direction,” James said.
Barrett will continue his leadership role as the executive director and CEO of notMYkid. He was named Feb. 12 as the new leader of the Phoenix-based nonprofit prevention organization dealing with such topics as substance abuse, suicide and eating disorders.
“I’m looking forward to making a difference, making it so that the school districts and families have strategies to deal with adolescents making risky life decisions,” Barrett said.
“Every community, every family, has an issue they’re dealing with,” he said.
Barrett and his wife of 37 years, Elizabeth, have volunteered with notMYkid for a couple of years. His 23-year-old son, Kyle, also now works for the nonprofit.
The couple have five children, all graduates from either Gilbert or Highland high schools, and 10 grandkids.
Barrett started working for Mesa schools as a social studies teacher at Powell Junior High, while continuing his education at Arizona State University. He has since earned his master’s degree in community education and a doctorate in education leadership, both at ASU.
Barrett first started working for the Gilbert district in 1979 as an assistant superintendent of curriculum, then an assistant superintendent of business and finance.
He moved to the Kyrene district in 1993 to become the district’s superintendent, and worked there until 2001.
Barrett said he had intended to stay in the Kyrene district, but when the opportunity arose to come back to Gilbert, he had to jump at the chance.
Jeannie Burts, Barrett’s right-hand administrative assistant since 1992, said she was compelled to join him at notMYkid as an office manager.
“He’s just been a fabulous person to work for,” Burts said. “After so many years, you just know what to expect from each other.”