Everybody seems to complain that there is too much bad news being reported. Nevertheless, there isn’t a week that goes by when there is not a report of a heroic act or a heroic person. So, in order to give recognition to some of these heroes I am announcing my Mississippi Hero of the Week every Friday here on this blog. My heroes are those who are “…of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.” They can be from any field of endeavor and any age. If you read a story about a Mississippi hero I’d love to hear from you. And now for my first Mississippi Hero of the Week.
Dr. Janice Barton, who has been Principal at Oak Grove Elementary for the past five years and will be the new Director of Elementary Education for DeSoto County Schools, has been named as Mississippi Principal of the Year by the National Association of Elementary School Principals. Her heroic act? She “…took over a rundown school with an unfriendly atmosphere and low teacher morale,” and turned it into one of the top-performing schools in the state. The school went from a Level 3 to a Level 5. Oh, I neglected to mention that she is deaf.
“It was a 24/7 job to start with,” Barton said during an interview Wednesday. “I put in some long hours. I would get to school at 6:15 a.m. and it would be 8 p.m., 9 p.m. and sometimes 10 o’clock when I got home. It just took a long time to sift through a lot of what I had to do. I thought I had to get it all done that night.”
Oak Grove Central underwent “school improvement” status her first year on the job.
Two private school enrichment programs, “America’s Choice” and “The Excellence Project” were enlisted to help get test scores up and improve teaching methods.
“Bringing technology to Oak Grove helped the school step up to the plate,” Barton said.
Behind it all stood Barton.
Under her tenure, Oak Grove students continually outshine their counterparts in statewide chess competition and other gifted education programs.
A reading garden was established during her watch, as well as an outdoor chess garden.
The Cockrum native said she always wanted to become a teacher, and later a principal.
When she was about eight, she began to permanently lose her hearing.
“I had red measles and chicken pox in the second grade and that’s when it started happening.”
Despite her hearing impairment, Barton never gave up on that dream.
“God helped me do it,” Barton said. “I prayed to him all the time. Back when I was younger, it (hearing impairment) bothered me a lot. When I was in college, I really, really struggled. People sometimes want to hide their disabilities. I remember the first day of college, I marched up to the professor and I told him I was deaf and that I read lips. So if he grew a beard or something, I would be out of luck.”
Barton sat on the front row of her classes so she wouldn’t miss a word. She received her doctorate in education in much the same manner. (DeSoto Times Tribune, Feb. 21, 2008)