Michael Barber is in his second year serving as principal for Irving Primary School in Peoria Public School District 150. Barber has been in the Peoria schools for the past 16 years, serving in some of their most challenging environments. The students of Irving Primary face challenges that many in the community can only imagine. Barber knows each student and creates a place where children can feel safe while maintaining firm discipline and holding students accountable for their actions.

Barber communicates the joys and challenges of leading a high-poverty (98%) school to a wide range of audiences: community groups, churches and television stations. In his first month on the job, Barber had a stop sign installed in front of the school. He also started a daycare program and created and expanded bilingual programs to respond to the growing Hispanic population. Barber betters students’ attitudes by rewarding those with perfect attendance and improves teachers’ days by rewarding them for their service with duty-free lunches, utilizing volunteers to supervise lunch and recess.

Barber has an incredible work ethic and high expectations of himself. He has the qualities of an effective leader, including love and concern for the children and families of those he serves, the ability to remain calm in stressful situations, enthusiasm and energy, a professional manner, a positive and motivating nature, and a personal confidence that makes those with whom he works feel safe, comfortable and valued. Barber has created podcasts—“From the Principal’s Office”—which have been well-received by staff.

His Glen Oak School Behavior Team was chosen to implement a new positive behavior program which has now been expanded across the district. District 150 recognizes Barber’s leadership and collaborative skills by selecting him to serve on several district-wide committees. He is a Can Do 4:13 Scholarship Team Leader, March Madness volunteer, high school basketball referee, community speaker, Morton Square Park soccer volunteer and member and volunteer at Bethany Baptist Church. iBi