Barrington 220’s new Superintendent of Schools, Dr Robert Hunt, says he’s excited to bring his family and his experience to Barrington when he moves to the area in the coming months. The Barrington 220 Board of Education approved Dr. Hunt’s contract last week during their January 12th meeting. He will officially begin his duties on July 1, 2021, succeeding Dr. Brian Harris, who is retiring on June 30 after 34 years in public education.
Dr. Hunt brings significant experience and leadership in education, most recently as the Superintendent of Schools for Chagrin Falls Exempted Village School District where he has served since 2012. Chagrin Falls Exempted Village School District is a top rated, public school district located in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. It has 2,000 students in grades PK-12. In addition to numerous awards and achievements in education, Dr. Hunt was named “Ohio Superintendent of the Year” in October of 2020 by the AASA (American Association of School Administrators).
We recently caught up with Dr. Hunt to learn more about his experience, his family and his decision to take the job as Barrington 220’s new Superintendent of Schools.
Dr. Hunt says his wife, Shannon, has a doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction and is a High School English & AP teacher. His four children include his daughter, Ashton, who is a Sophomore at University of Dayton, his oldest son, Brayden, who is a junior in High School. They also have a first grade daughter, Emerson, and youngest son, Hawken, who will be in kindergarten next year. Dr. Hunt says, while the move to Barrington was a big decision, it’s a new chapter they’re looking forward to as a family.
365: What is it about the Barrington 220 School District that feels like the right fit for you?
Dr. Hunt: “The quality of the Barrington 220 School District, the academic achievement, innovative programs and certainly the size are appealing to me. It’s kind of a next step in terms of an organizational challenge with leading a larger district so those are probably all of the things from the outside. But then, as I dug deeper, I talked about Barrington with some of the school board members. My wife and I visited Barrington, walked around the community, went to restaurants that were open and just asked people about Barrington schools.”
“And I know it’s been a very divisive and emotional time. It’s that way everywhere right now with COVID. But I really felt like, by and large, there’s a tremendous amount of respect and support in the community for what Barrington 220 is. I feel like the district is a central hub for the community and kind of at the foundation of community and that is really a lot like what I have experienced in Chagrin Falls. I know the power in engaging that community and bringing them in. I think it’s a critical component and I think it separates a lot of districts so, to have that kind of opportunity in a larger district that has had such great success felt like something I should strongly consider. I am very happy to be joining the Barrington community.”
365: What approach has your current school district taken to distance learning throughout the pandemic and how has that worked?
Dr. Hunt: “We began the school year with all students in a hybrid model while offering a virtual academy for those parents that were not comfortable sending their children. This hybrid split the community geographically and students attended AM or PM. We felt that having students in for a portion of every day better provided continuity with learning and relationship development. In 4-12 students connected into classrooms virtually when not at school and K-3 provided asynchronous learning activities. The first week of November we transitioned all students K-6 back to school five days a week while continuing to offer a virtual option for parents concerned about COVID. 7-12 remained hybrid until just this week on January 19th. On Tuesday morning, we had all students in our 7-12 report to school full day 4 days a week with one remote day. The end result is all students k-12 are in school and we continue to provide the virtual option.”
365: What have you learned through that process and how will you apply that here in Barrington? Will you plan for a return to in-school learning this fall?
Dr Hunt: “These decisions have been extremely difficult for everyone across our nation and have unfortunately become divisive. We have learned throughout this process that the best determining factor in a successful return is understanding your local data as schools quickly become a reflection of what is happening in the community. The return to school in the fall will be made in conjunction with local health officials and the board of education.”
365: How will you assess and address any student learning loss and/or social-emotional repercussions from this past year of distance learning in Barrington 220?
Dr. Hunt: “In preliminary converstaions with the district, I believe the district is currently monitoring both the academic and social / emotional impact of COVID-19. The district is currently monitoring student achievement and progress with appropriate benchmarking assessments. I am confident that this data in conjunction with the input from staff as they interact with students throughout the spring will drive appropriate next steps as I transition into the district. Additionally, there are methods to assess the social emotional health of students and tiers of intervention for any at risk behaviors.”
365: How has your experience prepared you to prioritize student safety overall and what are your plans for keeping Barrington schools safe now & in the future?
Dr. Hunt: “Safety of students and staff must remain a top priority for our schools. This has been an area of interest of mine for many years and relates to my doctoral dissertation topic. We currently have a district safety committee, formed threat assessment teams and continue to upgrade facilities to provide a safe environment. Safety is as much about school culture, ability to identify and intervene as it is about modifications of buildings.”
365: What are your priorities with regard to the $147Million B220 school bond referendum approved by voters in March of 2020?
Dr. Hunt: “I have started the process of reviewing the detailed work of the Barrington 220 school facility committee and will continue to educate myself throughout transition. It will be critical that we deliver upon the projects that were promised to our community and we will work diligently to stretch these dollars as far as possible making decisions that not only improve the educational environment but allow our buildings to run more efficiently.”
365: Do you foresee any challenges with adapting to a school district the size of Barrington 220?
Dr. Hunt: “This is is a great question. A former superintendent in Chagrin left to lead a district of 15,000 students. I actually reached out to him to discuss this opportunity. His feedback was there are many benefits in first leading a smaller district. You have a high level of exposure and involvement in every aspect of the organization. This has prepared me to be able to understand each area at a deeper level, ask the right questions and monitor and evaluate the systems we have in place for making decisions.”
365: How would you describe your leadership style? What tone will you set for our school district?
“I very much believe that the development of relationships and trust are at the foundation of success for me as a leader. Being visible in our school district and community is important. I value engagement and feedback but also understand the decisions that must be made by me as the superintendent.”
365: Why did you choose to become and educator and what do you love about your job?
Dr Hunt: “There are a few teachers and coaches that had a significant impact on me as I progressed through school. They motivated, guided and helped me believe in myself. To have that type of impact on young people is what motivated me to pursue education. There are many things I love about being a superintendent. The ability to work with others to continuously improve the educational experience is what I love most.”
365: Any lasting thoughts and/or favorite words to live by? From whom and why?
Dr. Hunt: “Probably more than you want but this has always hung in my office…. Theodore Roosevelt who said, ‘The credit belongs to those who are actually in the arena, who strive valiantly; who know the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spend themselves in a worthy cause; who at the best, know the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if they fail, fail while daring greatly, so that their place shall never be with those cole and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.’ Why? I take the responsibility of educating and devloping young people very seriously. It is my passion to continuously develop and improve the experience of our students.”
* Hunt Family Photo by Cady Meloy Photography
About the Barrington 220 School District
Barrington 220 is a nationally recognized school district which educates nearly 9,000 students in grades preK-12. Our district is located in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, serving students in Lake, Cook, McHenry and Kane Counties. We have one high school, two middle schools, eight elementary schools and one early learning center. Our schools have earned a total of 11 National Blue Ribbon Awards and nearly 90% of our teachers have earned a master’s degree or higher. In 2020 Barrington 220 was named one of the “Best Communities for Music Education” by the NAMM Foundation and a “Top Workplace in Chicagoland” by the Chicago Tribune. Learn more at Barrington220.org.