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Paul Scanlon, Principal

Barton Open School is Minneapolis magnet school serving over 750 students in kindergarten through the eighth grade. Built around the philosophy of open education, Barton’s practices are grounded in belief systems about children as capable learners, teachers as curriculum decision makers, the classroom and school as a microcosm of democracy in action, and the importance of adults and children engaging in authentic learning experiences, i.e., being readers, writers, artists, scientists, mathematicians and engaged thinkers exploring the world together.

My own perspectives about education are strongly influenced by my father.  He was a principal in New York and Wisconsin during the 1970’s and 80’s and is now retired.  Growing up, he continually encouraged me to build a sense of wonder, creativity, and inquiry about the world.  When I became a teacher and eventually a father, he reminded me to nurture these traits, and build opportunities for my students and children.   His life path inspired me to become a principal.  I imagined a school where I would have the opportunity to support these qualities of wonder, creativity, and inquiry by nurturing teachers who impart these traits in their students.

Barton continues to provide such opportunities for our students, our staff, and me.
When I began my experience at Barton just over six months ago by holding listening sessions with the community, there arose one implicit question that resonated with participants: What does Barton mean to you? And while the conversations that I had with parents reiterated the ideas presented above, the personal stories that parents and teachers shared provided important qualities that I needed to be aware of and support as principal:

  • Love of Learning
  • Social Justice
  • Deep Relationships
  • Personal Attention
  • Community
  • Emotional Development
  • Caring Teachers
  • Involved Parents
  • Amazing Teachers

While these sessions were just the first of a number of opportunities that I’ve had to hear from and respond to you, these sessions to provided me with the first of many opportunities that we have had to reflect on and affirm the value of Barton openly to other members of our community. And, they provided new parents with personal testimonials and insights into Barton’s history and future opportunities. 

Our ongoing Coffee with the Principal sessions, Leadership Council meetings, and school tours have provided additional opportunities for our extended community to reflect upon a number of opportunities to reflect upon our shared practice of Open and Progressive education

These past six months, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a school community that lives up to this kind of mission for students.  I’ve had the help and support of Barton’s caring and amazing teachers.  I’ve benefitted from the insight and compassion of involved parents. 

I am humbled and privileged to work with Barton’s dedicated, diverse learning community.   The staff, students and parents are committed to continuously improving our school.   Barton is a great place to work and learn.