BARNSTEAD – Entering his 16th and final year at Barnstead Elementary School, Principal Tim Rice views his school building as much like the town it serves.
“The school is reflective of the community, where people say what they mean,” Rice said. “People in Barnstead work hard, and they want what’s best for their kids. Parents want their kids to be safe, and get the best education they can.”
Inside Barnstead Elementary, Principal Rice encourages staff and students, and listens when they have differing opinions or viewpoints.
“But,” he adds, “job one is the kids.”
Principal Rice entered education as a teacher and Dean of Students at both private and public high schools in Connecticut. He moved to New Hampshire with his family in 1997, serving as a principal at a school in Laconia, then as an assistant principal in the Hillsboro-Deering Middle School.
In each of those jobs, one core responsibility was preparing students to transition grades and buildings. In middle school roles, he became interested in elementary education.
“I love this age group, the littles and the middles,” Principal Rice said.
The school serves students in pre-K through Grade 8. The wide age gap creates challenges with such a broad range of developmental stages. Teachers and staff now spend more time on students’ social emotional well-being.
The main hallway includes multiple brightly-colored games – a “bear crawl,” wall push-ups, hopscotch – so that students can spend a few minutes burning off energy and return to class ready to focus.
Asked about accomplishments, Principal Rice points to standardizing curriculum across each grade, so that all Barnstead students receive the same quality of education. He notes that the District has had to retrofit an older building with modern technology — Barnstead Elementary was built in 1957.
Modular classrooms have been added to accommodate an increase in student population, which tops 500 this school year.
With challenges come rewards. On a particularly tough day, Rice will find joy in visiting lower grades and engaging with the youngest students. (He has stopped wearing ties because they have not quite mastered napkins.)
Evidence of a signature school initiative, the Artist-in-Residence Program, are everywhere. The unique sign on the façade above the school entrance is the result of an art project. Walls in the main hallway bear student-created art.
In the last school year, Art teacher Gabriela Defregger led the effort to create a garden in an underutilized space between the main building and modular classrooms. The garden features a birdbath with students’ handprints, a picnic bench and Adirondack chairs.
Principal Rice will be retiring at the end of the 2021-2022 school year.
“The kids are getting a great education, regardless of where the student comes in,” he said. “I think we’ve done a quality job.”
“It has been my pleasure to do this job,” he said. “I wouldn’t change a thing, the good things or the bad things.”