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Christopher Barnes
Wednesday April 10, 2013

DAWSON RASPUZZI

Staff Writer

ARLINGTON -- Arlington Memorial Middle and High School's next principal has been selected from a field of more than 100 applicants.

Christopher Barnes, who has been assistant principal of Mount Greylock Regional School in Williamstown, Mass., since 2011, will begin in Arlington this summer following the retirement of longtime principal Kerry Csizmesia.

The school board agreed to offer Barnes an $85,000 contract at its meeting last week.

Barnes, 44, has spent most of his career as a teacher and administrator in and around Baltimore, Md. This will be his first job as a principal, which he said has always been a dream of his.

Christopher Barnes
Christopher Barnes (Submitted photo)

Arlington School Board Chairman Todd Wilkins said the search committee -- which included school board members, teachers and administrators -- interviewed eight candidates and did follow-up interviews with three. In addition to Barnes' qualifications, Wilkins said it was his demeanor that made Wilkins feel he would be a good fit in Arlington.

"I knew we would find someone qualified. We needed to make sure we would find someone who was the right fit for us," Wilkins said. "Kerry's done a very good job of creating a safe environment in Arlington and we want someone who will continue with that and keep the discipline levels where they are ... and someone who's going to lead our school in a good direction -- lead both our students and our teachers."

Barnes was largely unfamiliar with Arlington before interviewing for the position, but by the time he left he felt comfortable and excited about the opportunity.

"As much as they are interviewing me, I feel that I am interviewing them as well," Barnes said. "Our ideas were gelling and we had a common understanding about ways things should be done, common expectations for students, teachers and the community, and I do believe there was a meeting of the minds in those areas."

In addition to sharing educational philosophies, Barnes said he appreciated the "intangible" things about the school that are of importance but do not come up in an interview -- such as the comfortable feel in Arlington and the personal connections he made.

"There was a connection made through the interview process and I'm very excited to be the principal of Arlington," Barnes said.

Barnes will not come into the position with any specific ideas in mind for improvement. Instead, he plans to get to know the faculty, students, and community, hear the ideas others have and then make decisions.

"I'm not the guy who comes in with five ideas and says, ‘this is what we're going to do now,'" he said.

Barnes' official start date is July 1, however he expects to have an opportunity to work alongside Csizmesia a day or two prior to the end of this school year to ensure a smooth transition.

Before moving to Williamstown, Barnes spent two years as assistant principal of the Baltimore (Md.) County Public Schools. He has also worked as a coordinator at Loyola University in Maryland and as an elementary teacher and instructional leader at Baltimore City Public School.

Wilkins said the search committee viewed dozens of resumes Battenkill Valley Supervisory Union Superintendent Karen Gallese selected from more than 100 she received. The process of narrowing down candidates was considerable, but Wilkins said it proved valuable.

"The board and this committee worked very hard in finding this candidate. We're very excited about Chris."

Contact Dawson Raspuzzi at draspuzzi@benningtonbanner.com or follow on Twitter @DawsonRaspuzzi