Beloved educator Barrett remembered for the lives she touched

SOUTH DEERFIELD – Every year, the graduating girls from Frontier Regional School would cross the street to join principal Martha “Marti” Barrett for a traditional tea at her home.

“She used to invite the graduating girls to her house for what we called ‘senior tea’, where she taught them the traditions of an old tea time – I don’t know what you would call it,” recalls current Frontier and Union 38 Superintendent Darius Modestow laughing. “They were going out there with their big hats and blouses and having fun with an old custom.”

Barrett, longtime principal of Sunderland Primary School and Frontier Regional School, as well as superintendent of Frontier, died on January 4 of complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pneumonia. She was 71 years old.

In the wake of her death, tributes poured in from across the community and school district for someone who impacted countless students passing through her schools, which, according to Steve Barrett, her husband of 46 years, made things easier. .

“I spent four hours listening to people tell me stories about my wife that I had never heard before. It’s quite heartwarming to hear about the lives she touched,” Barrett said last week after a morning service for his wife. “It made a very difficult time a little bit easier. She’s done a lot for this community, and the community has returned that favor in spades over the past few days.

After working as assistant director of admissions for five years at the University of Suffolk, Barrett began her Frontier and Union 38 career as a substitute teacher at Deerfield Elementary School in 1986. She served as acting director there for a year from 1988 to 1989 before serving in the same role at Sunderland Primary School, according to his obituary.

After spending a few years in Sunderland, Barrett worked in private business before returning to education as headmaster of Newton School in Greenfield. She then returned to Sunderland and took on a co-manager role at Frontier in 2002. She was later appointed manager after the retirement of Don Skroski and she held that position until 2013 when she became superintendent of Frontier and Union 38. She served as superintendent until her retirement in 2016, capping off what Steve Barrett called a “pretty sweet career arc”.

Throughout her career, Marti Barrett has been dedicated to ensuring that her school staff did their best to educate students. Alison Walters, chair of the social studies department who has worked at Frontier since 1998, said Barrett “changed the environment” of Frontier when she came on board in 2002 by creating a “supportive and caring community for staff and students”.

In addition to creating a positive school culture, Walters said Barrett has brought out the best in all of her staff. “She meant the world,” Walters said. “She’s a friend and I wouldn’t be the teacher that I am without her in my life.”

Despite all her accomplishments, Steve Barrett said, Marti never did it for herself. “She was never one to brag about herself and she never cared who got the credit,” Steve Barrett said. “She never cared who drove the bus, as long as the bus took them where they needed to go.”

Modestow said Marti Barrett was a mentor to him and many other directors throughout his years as assistant manager and director.

“He was just an amazing person who always looked after the kids,” Modestow said before a moment of silence at last week’s school committee meeting, adding that she set the tone for her schools as being the “children’s building”. It was always about that.

“She was an administrator who immersed herself in the school community and in the lives of the students,” Modestow added in a follow-up interview. “She would be seen at every school event, from art productions to sporting events. I don’t think she ever missed a football game.

In her own words, Barrett said her presence in the school and the students’ lives was natural.

“I called it leadership by walking around. And I didn’t think it was groundbreaking,” Barrett said in a 2016 Greenfield Recorder article about his retirement. “But it was. None (superintendent) ever walked around.

Steve Barrett said senior tea time was a tradition that kind of started a year ago and eventually turned into a beloved celebration for senior girls.

“They were getting dressed and sitting around the house. … It was a riot,” Steve Barrett recalled. “I coached tennis at Frontier, so I would see all of the tennis kids in a different light. And, of course, she put me to work.

At a recent select committee meeting in Sunderland, longtime member Tom Fydenkevez shared stories of teacher contract negotiations and how easily they went with Barrett at the helm due to his dedication to making sure his students – his children – were the top priority.

“What was good about Marti? She always put her kids first,” Fydenkevez said. “We all knew that, so it was very easy to have a contract negotiation when Marti Barrett was here. .”

Fydenkevez, like many in the Frontier and Union 38 community, offered her condolences for Barrett and reflected on “her legacy she left for our children and our towns.”

“Marti had an impact on all of us who got to know her. … She was teaching me life lessons when I was in my 50s,” Fydenkevez said. things that matter so much every day.”

Marti and Steve Barrett had been together for 48 years and married for 46. They have four children and 14 grandchildren.

“I’m a remarkably lucky person to have spent 48 years between knowing her and marrying her,” Steve Barrett said. “Not many people get that gift in life and that’s really what I felt I had with her.”

Donations in Barrett’s memory may be made to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, the Stephen and Martha Scholarship at Frontier, or a charity of her choice.

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