Photo: 02-27 Barbara Dutton
Northside Primary principal Barbara Dutton has received the 2020 Principal of the Year of award from the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association, Region 7. Dutton is one of 20 regional principals to receive the award, and was selected from about 300 in the region.
Dutton’s coworkers cite her kindness and ability to connect with children and parents. She teaches character education and problem solving to help students learn how to improve their behavior, such as helping them feel safe and accepted and setting goals for self-control.
“We teach [students] that our job is to keep them safe, and their job is to help us keep them safe,” Dutton said. “Children have to feel safe and that they belong before they can start learning academics.”
Sue Wilson, TEPSA president for Region 7, said it’s “unusual” for principals to serve at the same school for so long, and indicates her love and commitment for children in those grades. “It shows courage, strength, and compassion for children,” said Wilson, a principal for Longview Independent School District.
Diane Mendietta, who began teaching with Dutton in Palestine in 1979, now teaches first grade at Northside. She describes Dutton as a leader who “cares deeply about her staff” and “bonds” with children, sometimes tutoring them in the classroom or inviting them to her office to read. “On this campus, we all feel like family because of her,” Mendietta said.
Suzanne Eiben, human resources director for Palestine schools, began working with Dutton in 1981. She describes Dutton as a “lifelong learner” and mentor. “She was always very kind and gracious to share,” Eiben said.
As principal of Northside Primary School for 29 years, Dutton has served thousands of children, including parents of today’s primary students. “It’s a joy to work with [former students] as parents,” she said. Northside enrolls about 550 children in Kindergarten and first grade.
Dutton credits her success to a staff of 36 teachers who “help each other and learn collaboratively,” she said. “We do not have much turnover due to the camaraderie of our teachers.”
Dutton’s years at Northside represent only part of her long career, which began 47 years ago. She graduated from University of Texas at Austin and taught five years before joining the faculty at the former Sam Houston Elementary, where Palestine Independent School District’s administration building is now located.
Region 7, which includes 17 counties and in East Texas, is one of 20 educational regions under the state’s governing body, Texas Education Agency. TEPSA represents roughly 6,000 school administrators, who serve 3 million children, and honors one principal from each of 20 Texas Education Agency regions state wide.
Dutton will be honored at TEPSA’s June conference in Austin.