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Principal leaving Towson High after 19 years

SchoolsMemorial DayPerry Hall High School

Just after the last of the buses with horns blaring and frantically waving students inside pulled out of Towson High on the last day of school Friday, principal Jane Barranger, save for a small tiara she wore, showed no sign that she just waved goodbye to students for the last time.

Perhaps knowing the stir her retirement after 19 years at the school would cause, Barranger had kept the news under wraps.

She decided to retire after 37 years with Baltimore County Public Schools on Memorial Day and sent her papers in just before leaving school to attend a countywide retirement party for outgoing Baltimore County Public School teachers and staff on Friday, June 7. Barranger didn't even let on at the party that she planned to retire. Her staff found out at a faculty meeting the following Monday.

"That's the kind of class that she exudes," Traci Mathena, assistant principal, said. "That might sound weird, but instead of making everything about her, she doesn't do that. It's all about the school, what is good for the school, and she understands that you have to put your whole heart into the things you care about."

That school will open next year with a new leader is unremarkable to Barranger, who chose now to retire precisely because the school's success and stability meant the transition couldn't be easier.

"I had planned to go a couple more years, but you know when it's the right time," said Barranger, whose last day at Towson will be June 28. "I have three outstanding assistant principals and my chairmen are all in place. It was a year of little transition, and that's the best time to go."

Barranger, who came to Towson High as an assistant principal after stops at Johnnycake Junior High, Pikesville Middle, Pine Grove Middle and Perry Hall High, has been principal at Towson High for 12 years.

Of nearly two decades of proud memories, few top the school being named a Maryland and National Blue Ribbon School in 2011. On her last day with students, Barranger wore a pendant and watch bearing the Blue Ribbon School logo.

"It's faculty, students and parents who really, really understood that kids are capable of reaching high expectations, and they certainly have supported me allowing us to make a schedule to give kids opportunities in a variety of ways," she said.

BCPS Superintendent Dallas Dance said he told Barranger her retirement was a "huge loss for the county," but that he understood the decision.

Dance said Barranger was one of the first high school principals he got to know upon his appointment last year.

"As I worked with her throughout this year, I saw somebody who really had a passion for doing what's right for kids," Dance said. "When you have someone that strong at the helm, it's no wonder why the school is Blue Ribbon, why parents flock to have their kids there ... She has a legacy at that school that's truly a foundation for someone to build on and come and take it to the next level."

On Friday, Barranger's husband, Richard — a former BCPS administrator himself — came for a salad lunch with his wife and her assistant principals, Joslyn Travis, Traci Mathena and John Stevens.

During last period, the administrators paraded through Towson High to say farewell to the school's retiring teachers.

"How you holdin' up, girl?" one staff member asked Barranger. She quickly gave an, aw-shucks, "Oh, I'm fine," before turning the conversation back to that staff member's preparations for the summer.

"The thing I'm going to miss most of all is her as a person every day, her sense of humor, her calmness, her ease," Travis said.

"But as a leader, I'm going to miss her willingness to move. She truly is the epitome of a team player, too. She wants everyone to be involved in every aspect, too, because she always anticipated this day and she never wanted it to be a rocky situation. She always wanted everyone to know every aspect so she could simply fade to the back and it wouldn't even matter."

Towson High parents are invited to a meeting on Wednesday, June 19 at 6 p.m. in the high school's library to discuss what they want in her replacement with BCPS officials.

Travis said that it was during a staff meeting last week when Barranger's leaving was mentioned that she'd seen grown men cry.

"That was truly emotional, because basically, I think the way to sum it up is a clone of Jane Barranger," Travis said.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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