Ray Huard … Vista High School Principal Anthony Barela said that his biggest challenge is “just managing the sheer volume of things that come up.”
Barela has met the challenge so well that he was named 2017 high school Principal of the Year by the Association of California School Administrators Region 18, which covers San Diego and Imperial counties.
“I was shocked, absolutely shocked,” Barela said. “I’m very honored and humbled, but I think it’s more a reflection of the school.”
His colleagues said that the award was well deserved.
Assistant School Superintendent Donna Caperton said that Barela “is one of the best high school principals I have had the pleasure of working with.”
“He is dedicated to serving his students and making sure his students get what they need,” said Caperton, who was among those who nominated Barela for the award.
“He is innovative in his thinking,” Caperton said. “He rolls with the punches and adjusts as necessary.”
For example, Caperton said that when the bleachers in the high school stadium were found to be unsafe and had to be replaced, Barela came up with a plan that allowed the athletic season to proceed while the old bleachers were removed and new ones constructed.
Under Barela’s leadership, Vista High School also won a $10 million, five-year grant through XQ: The Super School Project to expand the school’s focus on personalized learning, with curriculum and classwork tailored to meet the needs and interests of each student individually.
“It started off as a small school within a school. Now it’s blossomed into this beautiful opportunity with this XQ grant, starting with next year’s classes,” Barela said. “With the personalization of learning, it’s really going to play into students’ strengths and passions. They’ll be standing shoulder to shoulder with their teachers learning, going much deeper than they have in the past.”
Barela figures that winning the XQ grant played a part in his selection as Principal of the Year.
While winning the XQ grant was highlighted in the award nomination from his colleagues, they also wrote that Barela, “Actively promotes the development of flexible learning spaces,” advocating “for the redesign of a model classroom equipped with state-of-the art technology, as well as furniture that easily reconfigures to accommodate different student groupings.”
They praised his ability to collaborate with other administrators, teachers, parents and students.
“Mr. Barela encourages feedback through staff surveys and community focus group meetings,” they wrote.
His advice to other principals is, “Find balance, because this job is a lot.”
“Find time for your family, find time to stay healthy and surround yourself with a good support network, because being surrounded by good people is a great thing,” said Barela, who has two sons and two daughters – Dominic, Michaelis, Gianna, and Jude.
Despite the demands of being a high school principal, Barela is a volunteer at St. Thomas Moore Catholic Church in Oceanside.
Barela has been principal at Vista High School since 2014. Before that, was principal of Roosevelt Middle School in the Vista Unified School District, as well as a principal, assistant principal, and teacher at schools in other districts.
“It’s a lot of work, but in my humble opinion, it’s one of the greatest professions out there,” Barela said.