Arlington Colette Bounet, 42, often receives comparisons to Barack Obama, as the daughter of a white mother from France and a black father from the U.S. Virgin Islands. A single woman, she runs 10-milers, speaks fluent Spanish, French and a local Moroccan dialect, and is a frequent flyer around the world.
On July 1, Bounet was named the principal of Barcroft Elementary School in Arlington. With 542 students projected for August, the school population is 52 percent Hispanic, 10 percent black, 9 percent Asian, 23 percent white, and 4.6 percent multiple races.
“She’s the perfect match for the Barcroft community,” said Kenwyn Schaffner, principal of Jamestown Elementary, where Bounet served as assistant principal. “She’s absolutely wonderful.”
With Arlington’s melting pot of cultures, Bounet has a lot to offer the school: “What I really want to do is tie in a piece of the ‘international-ness’ of this area and of Arlington,” she said. “As we think of all of the diversity around us, we learn more from being global citizens and worldly than just in a bubble.”
To that end, Barcroft offers Spanish language classes in grades K-5. It has a first language support program, which teaches content in Spanish, mostly in social studies and science classes.
Bounet’s goal as principal is to reach out to everybody and make sure their voices are being heard. She plans to get to know her students, parents, and staff, and establish new relationships.
“She values her staff and students; she makes a connection with the students,” said Nancy Kauffunger, reading specialist at Jamestown Elementary, who worked with Bounet 10 years ago at Claremont Early Childhood Center and again at Jamestown Elementary.
For goals, Bounet plans to continue Barcroft’s modified school calendar, which reorganizes the school year to provide more continuous learning by dividing the summer vacation into shorter breaks. The new school year begins on Aug. 1 instead of September; no other school in Arlington County has it.
“The idea is that students don’t regress how much they’ve learned in their academic achievements,” said Bounet. “You are able to see more of a continuous growth in learning.”
She wants to continue the DaVinci Project, which is tied to Leonardo DaVinci’s emphasis on creative thinking and innovation. The U.S. Marine Corps also sends reading buddies to Barcroft, which she’ll nurture. The school has a rich history with Dr. John Barcroft, whose land became present day Lake Barcroft and beyond. The Barcroft School was built in 1925 and expanded through the years. Bounet would like to use the community’s history as a tool for children to learn.
Down the road, she hopes to collect data, analyze and tweak some programs. “But I need to know what’s working well, and what’s not working well,” she said.
Following the example of her former principal at RAS in Morocco, Bounet plans to teach a group of students needing help. “Each year, I’ve taken a group of students who have needed some support and enrichment, and worked with them for eight weeks,” she said. “I never let go of what it’s like to be a teacher.”
Born in Manhattan, Bounet moved to Morocco at age 8 where her father worked for Westinghouse Corp. She was the first student from RAS School to attend Harvard, and got her master’s in early childhood special education from GWU. She got another master’s of education in educational administration and supervision from GMU.
Bounet started teaching grades K-1 at Claremont Early Childhood Center in 1997. From there, she moved to Lima, Peru, where she taught ESOL and HILT for two years at the American school. She returned to Arlington and worked at Patrick Henry Elementary where she taught third grade special education. She moved to Claremont Immersion School and taught special education and was lead instructional teacher for four years. Then it was off to Gunston Middle School where she taught ESOL. She moved to Carlin Springs Elementary and taught special education in K-2 and 3. In 2011, she began as assistant principal at Jamestown Elementary before moving to Barcroft.
Bounet’s car license plate is 2LVLVLF, which means To Live, Love, Laugh. “That’s one of my mottos,” she said. “You have to enjoy what you’re doing. You have to be passionate about it.”