Planning and involvement key to her style

Dr. Christi Barrett is starting her third year as superintendent of Hemet Unified School District. Some staff is new and some have been in their positions longer. Barrett adamantly says, “I love my job.”

And her style seems to be involvement, participation, attention and planning. Her office is nearly void of personal mementos or photographs. She says this was learned when she first became a site principal and spent most of her time outside the office.

Dr. Christi Barrett, superintendent of Hemet Unified School District. Photo by JP Crumrine

“Don’t create a situation that keeps you inside,” she was advised. She participates in staff meetings at each school site, with the departments at the headquarters building, and reaches out to community stakeholders regularly.

For example, on Oct. 4, she will hold her second-annual “State of the District” presentation. Staff attendees will make presentations, but the audience is community members.

While nothing surprised her in the first two years, she said she is constantly learning about new projects and implementing new ideas.

Examples include Measure X, the $150-million bond proposal on the November ballot. Working with the board to get approval to move it forward was a learning process, she said.

Other innovations include Hamilton Elementary’s full-day kindergarten and West Valley High School pursuing status as an International Baccalaureate School in two years.

Paths that offer change, that innovate and experiment do not go unnoticed. Riverside County is honoring the district later this month, Barrett said.

First will be recognition for improvement in a system that connects available school resources into a framework more accessible for staff. Secondly, it will honor the district’s systems and leadership, which allow Barrett to become more active in the local community. For example, HUSD has many memoranda of understanding with a variety of social service groups. These people are members of the local community and can provide assistance outside of the school.

Also, HUSD and San Jacinto Unified School District are partners with many local businesses that offer a variety of internships for their students.

Extending the learning environment into the community and workplaces is not limited to supporting administration proposals or bond measures. The traditional vocational education programs have changed. HUSD offers both college-bound and career-technical educational programs.

In the latter, students can select agriculture, animal sciences, multimedia, performing arts, child development, patient care and a selection of engineering paths from civil and architecture to computer and robotics. Choosing classes in the career technical programs does not lockstep a student into one path. These also can be stepping stones to certification professions or college.

A recent staff meeting had a discussion of the ways to connect more with unions. This option will be explored more and Barrett is hopeful that next school year might find a connection with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

“It may be the most needed trade in the Inland Empire,” she said. “To not pursue it would be a missed opportunity.”

A second part of this interview will appear in the Oct. 11 edition of the Town Crier.