New principal hopes to build community, support students at Turners Falls middle, high school


Staff Writer

Published: 08-25-2021 3:54 PM

TURNERS FALLS — Christopher Barnes, the new principal of Turners Falls High School and Great Falls Middle School, hopes his breadth of experience can serve as the foundation for a long-lasting relationship with the local school district.

After beginning his educational career as a teacher in Baltimore, Barnes became principal at Arlington Memorial Middle and High School in Arlington, Vt. He also served as an assistant principal at schools in both Vermont and his current hometown of Williamstown.

Barnes said that, especially as an out-of-towner, it’s imperative that his first order of business be to observe and keep open ears. Since joining the Gill-Montague Regional School District on Aug. 2, he’s appreciated being introduced into a “healthy community with a great building.” He said making drastic changes upon arrival is not on his agenda.

“If I were to come in and not listen, then I’d be tearing down the culture,” he said.

Barnes said he brings to the table a passion and experience working with children that enhances this culture. He outlined two primary goals: building community and supporting students.

“We need to be paying really close attention to how we’re supporting kids socially and emotionally,” Barnes said. “I want the kids to feel the energy and the passion here.”

Barnes said an important part of his community-building responsibility is having to work with people with varying perspectives. Having begun his career in Baltimore in an environment saturated with people of color, he joins new Assistant Principal Joey Kotright in a “very personal” commitment to embrace the diversity in Turners Falls.

“Working in Baltimore City was an incredibly rich and rewarding experience,” Barnes said. “For me, that’s sort of where I started. The kids didn’t look like me, but it’s all about what they brought and what I learned from them.”

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While Barnes said the skills and experience he’s gained strongly equip him to play his part, he also said he’s come prepared for a challenge.

“It’s my dream, that’s what it comes down to,” Barnes said. “Nobody said it was going to be easy, but it’s worthwhile, that’s for sure.”

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or