Association recognizes leadership

Barlow receives top award

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Melissa Barlow, Yukon High School Principal, has been named as the Oklahoma High School Principal of the Year. (Photo provided)

From Staff Reports

Melissa Barlow, Yukon High School Principal, has been named the Oklahoma High School Principal of the Year by the Oklahoma Association of Secondary School Principals, a professional association of the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration.

“I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this honor,” said Dr. Jason Simeroth, superintendent of Yukon Public Schools. “Melissa has worked so hard to build a culture of collaboration and success for Yukon students. During the COVID-19 situation, she never wavered from her commitment to provide the best for the kids at every turn. From graduation in July to providing instructional leadership that while difficult was still relevant during the spring of 2020, she has done a tremendous job of holding her staff, students and the high school community together. We are so proud to have Melissa as our high school principal and now representing the state and hopefully the nation.”

Dr. Pam Deering, CCOSA executive director said, “Melissa Barlow is clearly focused on preparing students for life after high school. Because of her work, students are flourishing academically and are ready to face their college and career endeavors. I congratulate her for this well-deserved honor as the OASSP High School Principal of the Year.”

As principal of Yukon High School the past eight years, Barlow has lead efforts in creating a sense of belonging for all students and adults. Not only has she continued this momentum during the difficult days of hybrid and in-person offerings, but also her longtime efforts have molded one of Oklahoma’s largest high schools (with more than 2,400 students) into smaller, supportive groups. Students are placed with teams of administrators and counselors to create a culture of community, providing students and families with a single connection to the school.

Senior student Rebecca George appreciates the innovative ways Barlow has also improved the opportunities for academic growth. “During my freshman year, Barlow started a new program at our high school called Rethink,” George said. “Rethink was a designated time for students to be able to meet with teachers and catch up on work or get extra help. Every Wednesday, we have an adjusted schedule so that we can spend an extra period at Rethink. I really enjoyed having Rethink, because if I ever needed help with something, I could easily just sign up for that class’s Rethink and ask my teacher. I also found it helpful, because I had to miss class sometimes for student council events; I was able to make up assignments or tests during Rethink.”

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At Yukon High School, assistant principal and counselor teams meet weekly to discuss individual students who are at-risk academically, emotionally, and any other areas. Barlow also initiated the addition of an At-Risk Counselor position. Together these teams are able to determine resources that may match the needs of students. The school’s commitment to trauma-informed strategies also enables students to form connections with caring adults during the entirety of their secondary educational experience.

Michelle Terry, a Yukon High School parent, explains, “Principal Barlow has shaped the culture to foster well-being and safety at Yukon High School by being present and interacting with students each day in the school, at school events and in the community outside of school hours. She has been involved in establishing and enforcing the COVID standards that are in place at the school on top of her usual role which is extensive to start. She does this with grace and compassion in these unprecedented times. When situations arise that require swift immediate action, she is always calm, rational and fair. Students, parents and peers like and respect her.”

“I am humbled by this announcement and honored that I have been selected by my colleagues to represent our outstanding school, district, and state,” Barlow said.

“I am blessed to work with a dedicated staff at YHS that has built innovative, supportive programs that focus on individual student success. The recognition of our work is a true honor, and I am extremely grateful to be recognized.”

Barlow will be recognized as the Oklahoma High School Principal of the Year by CCOSA and OASSP at the CCOSA Summer Leadership Conference in June 2021. She will also be recognized by the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) at the NASSP State Principal Award Ceremony in November 2021. She is eligible to become one of three finalists to be named as contenders for the National Principal of the Year award. A judging panel will choose finalists based on their written applications, data provided and letters of recommendation, according to the National Association for Secondary School Principals.

“This year, more than ever, school communities have looked to principals for leadership. The role of the principal is pivotal in cultivating healthy learning environments,” said William Parker, OASSP executive director. “Melissa Barlow is an example of the hard work, dedication, and innovation principals across the state are providing to their schools. We are proud to recognize her for her service to his school community and as a role model for all Oklahoma school leaders.