Time will tell if Curt Barger ever stops going to the principal’s office. If he makes that leap to a superintendent position someday, he’ll be ready.
Barger graduated from A-State’s Ed.S. Education Degree Specialist in Superintendency online program in May 2018.
“I don’t know if I want to get out of building-level administration, but I could see myself possibly being a district-level leader someday,” he said. “If the right opportunity comes along in the future, I want to be prepared for it.”
Barger recently completed his seventh year overall as a principal and his second year at Benton High School, which is rated a ‘Grade-A School’ in Arkansas.
“My father [Carl] was a superintendent in Arkansas for 36 years,” he said. “My mother taught for 32 years. I also have several aunts and uncles who were educators. I guess it gets in your blood. I came by it honest.”
Whether or not Barger follows in his father’s footsteps, the online Ed.S. in Superintendency program is already paying dividends in his current role as a principal.
“With this program, I grew and gained a lot of knowledge that’s going to make me a better building leader, as well as potentially prepare me for a district-level administration position,” he said. “Without it, I don’t know if I’d ever be considered for a superintendent position. Having an education will definitely prepare me to deal with those situations and issues that are going to come with the potential of having that position change.”
The fully online format was the only option for Barger to return to college. He and his wife, Donica, who is a junior high school counselor in Benton School District, have two children — Addison (12) and Jon Curtis (10).
“I looked at a lot of the different programs,” he said. “Having the completely online program was probably the most attractive thing to me about it. As a high school principal, almost every one of my nights is dedicated to something.
“I didn’t want to have to drive and go to class at night or on the weekends because that’s family time and that’s the only time I get to see them. The accessibility and the flexibility of this program was something that was much needed [for me] as a professional with a career and a family.”
Before Barger took the plunge, he got the inside scoop on the online Ed.S. in Superintendency program from his district superintendent, Mike Skelton, a former adjunct professor who taught in the program at A-State.
“It was an adjustment for me, because I had never taken an online course,” Barger said. “However, it was something that I caught onto easily with the support that I received from Arkansas State. The program that they use was easy to understand for somebody who had never taken an online course. As I got better at it and back in the groove, I was able to be more efficient.”
There was one more hurdle Barger had to clear to ensure his success in the program.
“I’m a procrastinator — there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “Most of the time, I waited until Saturday or Sunday to finish my work. Being able to work on assignments during the week and use the time and the resources you have as an educator was big. You have a lot of people willing to help you.”
Although Barger liked each of the courses in the curriculum, ELAD 7073: Schooling in a Pluralistic Society was his favorite.
“The main assignment in that course made me reflect on my school and look at things from a different angle than I ever had before,” he said. “It had a big impact on me in setting goals, being able to plan for a district and implement change for the better and reflect upon that.”
A child of parents who strongly emphasized education, Barger began his career as a teacher in Ashdown, Arkansas where he also coached football and track and field. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in health and physical education from the University of Arkansas at Monticello in 2003.
“When I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, my dad said, ‘As soon as you can, you need to go get your administration. Get your leadership. Get your building level. Get your superintendent certification,'” Barger said.
Six years later, Barger graduated with a Master of Education in Educational Leadership from Harding University. That led to his first principal job at Foreman High School in Southwest Arkansas in 2012. Barger also spent three years as a principal at Benton Junior High School before moving up to Benton High School.
In addition to the knowledge Barger gained in the online Ed.S. in Superintendency program, he improved his skills with meeting a deadline by necessity.
“Time management is the biggest thing in an online program,” Barger said. “Don’t procrastinate. You don’t want to be stuck going up against an 11:59 p.m. deadline and saying, ‘This is going to take three hours, and I only have two.’ That was the toughest thing for me to learn.”
With the Ed.S. in Superintendency wrapped up, Barger plans to enjoy being a principal and indulging in his passion for cooking.
“I like being outside,” he said. “I love to barbecue, but I also like to cook at the house and try new things on my friends and my family. My ideal day is to sit around a smoker, hang out with friends and enjoy being outside.”
Although it took some hard work and time away from family, Barger believes that earning an Ed.S. in Superintendency online was manageable.
“I was always successful in school when I got to know my professors,” he said. “It’s a little tougher to do that in this role, so communicate with your professors as much as you can. You have to manage your time. Don’t get behind. If you get behind, it’s going to be a lot tougher for you. It is attainable to stay on top of it. You have to stay disciplined.”
Now that Barger has followed his father’s advice and earned a superintendency degree, he is excited to see whether his career takes him out of the principal’s office. Either way, he will be an educator for the remainder of his career.
“I like being around kids,” Barger said. “I love being around people. I love interacting with folks and helping them to better themselves. There’s nothing more meaningful than having a career that you enjoy, and I enjoy helping people.”
Learn more about Arkansas State University’s online Ed.S. in Superintendency program.