The Hula Hooping Principal

Richard Barter: The Hula Hooping Principal

Here’s a guy after my own heart…

Principal Richard Barter makes it his business to know the names of all 750 students at Oak Street Elementary School in Inglewood, California. When Barter steps onto the playground, he’s welcomed by rousing choruses of “Hi, Mr. Barter!” Smiling warmly under his bushy moustache, he replies, “Hi, Chris. Hi, Anthony. Hi, Fatima.” He often joins the students outside for recess, during which he emerges wielding a boom box, hula hoops and jump ropes. On a recent morning, children ran toward Barter as he threw a yellow hoop over his head and began swirling to the music. “I realized when I first became principal that I could not say, ‘Hey, you in the blue shirt.’ The children wouldn’t turn around,” said Barter, who recently began grading tests in his free time to get to know the students even better. “It gives me a personal connection with the child. Because then I can say, ‘Hey, you passed the division test. I’m really proud of you.’” Barter’s involvement would be appreciated at any school. But in the Inglewood Unified School District, which has experienced declining enrollment in part due to the increased presence of local charter schools, Barter’s good reputation has helped retain current students and recruit new ones. “Mr. Barter is a one-of-a-kind principal,” said Xol Isaiah Gonzales, a fourth-grade student who transferred to Oak Street Elementary this year. “I never met any principal who has fun like that.” Full story: The South Los Angeles Report

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