We lost a great one. A hero for all chil­dren.

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - Com­mu­nity Voice From: CARL ROBERTS Per­ryville

Awilda Bar­bara Wheeler passed away on Sept. 6. Fu­neral ser­vices were held for her at the St. Ed­wards Church in Bal­ti­more on Sept. 22.

This name may not im­me­di­ately stir one’s mem­o­ries be­cause in Ce­cil County we knew her as Dr. Bar­bara Wheeler, as­so­ciate su­per­in­ten­dent for ed­u­ca­tion ser­vices, Ce­cil County Pub­lic Schools.

Bar­bara was an out­stand­ing ed­u­ca­tor, a great leader and an amaz­ing hu­man be­ing. Born and raised in Bal­ti­more in a home with min­i­mal means, she and her four sib­lings all grew up to earn ad­vanced higher ed­u­ca­tion de­grees and served in prom­i­nent po­si­tions in ed­u­ca­tion or the pri­vate sec­tors. From this ex­pe­ri­ence, Bar­bara un­der­stood that ed­u­ca­tion was the only true equal­izer that would free those from the grips of poverty. She wore this in her pro­fes­sional and per­sonal lives as a badge of courage and pur­pose through­out her long, ded­i­cated and suc­cess­ful ca­reer.

She served as an ed­u­ca­tor in Bal­ti­more City, Har­ford County, Ce­cil County and Kent County. She started out as an ele­men­tary teacher and served in nu­mer­ous lead­er­ship roles, cul­mi­nat­ing as su­per­in­ten­dent of the Kent County Pub­lic Schools. What I wish to share in the rest of this epis­tle is her work and many ac­com­plish­ments in Ce­cil County.

I was for­tu­nate to be se­lected as su­per­in­ten­dent of schools for Ce­cil County in July 1996. In the first six months, I be­came acutely aware that there was a lack of in­struc­tional and learn­ing knowl­edge at the lead­er­ship level. Teach­ers were work­ing ex­tremely hard, but with­out the con­tent and ped­a­gogy re­quired as we were pre­par­ing our young cit­i­zens to en­ter the 21st cen­tury.

I had worked with Bar­bara for the pre­vi­ous five years as a mem­ber of the lead­er­ship cab­i­net for the Har­ford County Pub­lic Schools. I asked and she ac­cepted the top ed­u­ca­tion po­si­tion in CCPS, as­so­ciate su­per­in­ten­dent for ed­u­ca­tion ser­vices. Over the next nine years, what was ac­com­plished un­der her lead­er­ship was sim­ply an amaz­ing trans­for­ma­tion.

Dr. Wheeler did not just be­lieve that all stu­dents can learn. She un­der­stood and was de­ter­mined that all stu­dents would learn.

Un­der her di­rec­tion lead­er­ship, Bar­bara:

Se­lected and built a team that was fo­cused on re­sults, achiev­ing suc­cess for ev­ery stu­dent.

Cre­ated cur­ricu­lum and a train­ing com­po­nent for all con­tent ar­eas, grades K-12 in a mat­ter of a few years. For those of you who know the busi­ness, think of that. She did it through the hu­man re­sources from within. CCPS in­struc­tion folks, in­clud­ing teach­ers, se­lected and trained com­pleted this task un­der her lead­er­ship.

She built a com­mu­nity of learn­ers. As Doris Kerns Good­win states in her new book “Lead­er­ship,” lead­ers and build teams that be­lieve in the cause. Bar­bara’s cause — all stu­dents must learn.

A new in­struc­tional de­liv­ery sys­tem es­tab­lished an “in­struc­tional sup­port teacher” in ev­ery ele­men­tary and mid­dle school re­spon­si­ble to work un­der the di­rec­tion of the school prin­ci­pal to as­sist in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the cur­ricu­lum and ef­fec­tive in­struc­tional strate­gies.

Bar­bara worked to build a school im­prove­ment process in ev­ery school build­ing that demon­strated that true change, an en­vi­ron­ment where all stu­dents will learn, must come from the class­room up, not from the cen­tral of­fice down. Real and last­ing change only oc­curs when those who de­liver it, own it and are com­mit­ted to achieve the de­sired re­sults. Our job was to sup­port, to en­sure that teach­ers and ad­min­is­tra­tors had the re­sources nec­es­sary to achieve suc­cess.

Bar­bara started an in-house lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment pro­gram, Tremen­dous Nat­u­ral Tal­ent (TNT), for any­one who wanted to hone their lead­er­ship knowl­edge and skills. Many who com­pleted this pro­gram went on to fill lead­er­ship po­si­tions within the school sys­tem.

She along with other lead­ers in the sys­tem adopted and prac­ticed a sys­tems think­ing process to iden­tify and solve ob­sta­cles in an ef­fi­cient and ef­fec­tive man­ner.

She ac­cepted the chal­lenge of ini­ti­at­ing the in­clu­sion of spe­cial needs chil­dren into the reg­u­lar class­room set­ting. Not an easy change in school cul­ture but she was not de­terred.

In her nine years in CCPS. much was ac­com­plished di­rectly re­lated to her un­wa­ver­ing de­ter­mi­na­tion that we would not fail our chil­dren. But over and above the test scores and the demon­strated mas­tery of knowl­edge by stu­dents and those charged to de­liver on a daily based, was the emer­gence of pride that was ex­hib­ited by those who worked in the schools each day and those out­side the schools who were re­spon­si­ble to de­liver re­sources and sup­port to en­sure that teach­ers were well pre­pared.

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