Arlington Dan Redding, 42, was named the new principal on July 1 of Barrett Elementary, one of the most diverse schools in North Arlington, originally built in 1939.
Its projected enrollment for September is 559 students and about 100 staff. Of that, some 202 students are identified for ESOL/HILT services and 52.2 percent receive free or reduced-price lunch. The ethnic breakdown is: Asian-American 6.2 percent, Black/African-American: 9.6 percent, Hispanic: 43.5 percent, White: 36.7 percent, and Multiple/Other: 4.0 percent.
“You have a real mixture of cross-ethnic backgrounds and economic backgrounds,” said Redding. “I find it very exciting because the kids can share and learn from each other. It’s a much more diverse world than the one I grew up in.”
Redding strives to learn each and everyone’s name. He can be found out front greeting students and wishing them well as they arrive in the mornings. He also spends extra time with the Pre-K and Kindergarten classes to get to know the youngsters early on. “The more time I get to know them, the better I’ll be,” he said.
“He really tries to get to know the families and to know the children,” said Corina Coronel, principal at Carlin Springs, where Redding was assistant principal. “He’s very supportive of doing what is right for the children.”
“I think his ability to form partnerships and relationships with families is his strength,“ said Erin Wales-Smith, coordinator of recruitment for APS. “I think he is child-focused, which is very important for a leader of an elementary school.”
Redding tries to challenge everyone at their level, all day, every day — the average students as well as those struggling with English as a second language.
Barrett Elementary is a Title One Focus school, which means it has been identified by the state that it needs to improve its test scores. To accomplish that goal, the school has many Spanish-speaking staff. Children in grades K-1 get part of their instruction in Spanish. And Spanish is taught twice a week for 45 minutes — like art, music and P.E. The native Spanish speakers are separated and taught at a higher level.
“We want them to understand their conceptual background in science, social studies and math,” said Redding.
The school has a partnership with the Lubber Run Rec Center’s summer camp program. He plans to continue that and the monthly library night where families read together and a visiting author shares work. “It’s a time to have fun with reading outside the school day,” he said.
Redding is known to “ham it up” with his students. He once dressed up as the Cookie Monster when the Carlin Springs’ PTA sold cookie dough. Another time he got “abducted” by Zero the Hero as a lesson on numbers. “Things like that are fun. It gets the kids’ attention; it motivates them. It makes them enjoy their elementary years.”
Born in Essex Junction, Vt., his family moved to Centreville, Va., in 1985. He graduated from Chantilly High School, and he finished UVA in 1993 with a bachelor’s in history and a master’s in elementary education.
He began his career at Abington Elementary, teaching grades 3-5 in reading and math. From there, he went to Oak Ridge and taught grades 3-4 in the immersion program. Then he became a school technology coordinator for Barcroft, Glencarlyn, Jamestown and Gunston. In 2002, he became assistant principal at Kenmore for five years. Then he worked in the APS Central Office as director of employee relations. Afterwards, he became assistant principal of Carlin Springs for three years.