2016 Boundary Crosser: Dr. Barbara Shirley
Dr. Barbara Shirley has been a resident and community activist in Sarasota County since 1990. While many organizations and projects have benefited from her visionary leadership and involvement, she is most highly recognized for her innovative thinking and pioneering of programs that address challenges in education and synergetic work in our community.
2014 she was honored as the Florida Principal of the Year by the Florida Department of Education. This prestigious award recognized her innovative educational leadership, progressive two-generation programs for children and parents, and collaborative community and parent partnerships. Under her leadership, Alta Vista Elementary School has earned an “A” grade from the Florida Legislative School Recognition Program for twelve years and was also named as one of the top 15 Title I schools in Florida for Exceeding Expectations.
Barbara has been the Principal of Alta Vista Elementary School since 2007. As a diverse Title I school where 93% of the student population is eligible for free and reduced meals, Barbara has created a community-centered school that is strengthening academic achievement levels and providing socio-economic support for at-risk children and parents.
Alta Vista’s Eagle Academy has gained state and national recognition as a two-generation program that is transforming education and providing a model program to other Sarasota County schools and throughout Florida. This summer learning academy provides an early start kindergarten and grade level academic and arts integrated program to better prepare students entering school and to decrease summer learning loss. With the support of many community businesses and organizations, Alta Vista’s Parent University and adult learning programs offer life skill classes and vocational and career training opportunities that educate hundreds of Alta Vista parents annually. Additionally, their Eagles’ Nest Volunteer Center is a model volunteer program bringing together community and parent volunteers to mentor and tutor at-risk children on a weekly basis.
As a passionate educator, Barbara is committed to advocating for the comprehensive educational needs of all children, working closely with parents in providing educational and socio-economic security opportunities, promoting the professional growth of teachers and staff, and developing outreach programs that are enhanced through the support of community resources. Her trailblazing leadership and innovative approach to educational reform, along with her ability to work collaboratively with school and community partners is progressively crossing boundaries and cultivating partnerships throughout Sarasota County and beyond.