SPARTA, NJ – When the first bell rings for the 2019-2020 school year, Sparta High School students will be greeted by a new principal and “sort of new” vice principal. Ronnie Spring was appointed principal in July. Jamie Barker returns to Sparta after a year in Butler where she served as Supervisor of Humanities at the high school.
Both are excited to be in Sparta.
“It’s a great school,” Spring said. He said he has spent time getting to meet people, teachers, parents and other district staff and learn about the culture of Sparta High School. He held an open house, inviting teachers to drop in to meet. He said he wants to have a great year of brainstorming as much as we can to build on what’s here.”
“Their passion and dedication are remarkable,” Spring said. “It’s rare to see that 100% across the board.”
Having moved from Livingston to Byram where his wife is a teacher and children attend school, Spring said he would not leave South Plainfield (despite the long commute) “unless Sparta opens up because if it’s reputation.”
Barker is a veteran of Sparta. She not only taught English for 12 years but is an alumna as well.
“It’s exciting to be back home,” Barker said. She acknowledged it was good to get some outside experience as well.
Spring said Barker’s “institutional knowledge” is going to be invaluable. Someone who knows not only what and how something is done but also why.
Barker said Spring has the experience and know how to mobilize the strengths we know are here.
They are both looking forward to the new field becoming part of the high school’s identity. Spring said he has been looking in on preseason practices and has been impressed. “I love the kids and seeing the coaches work with the kids. They are really teachers,” Spring said.
The field will become the centerpiece of the community they said.
“To have an all season field is just amazing,” Barker said. “I’m excited for all the teams that will get to use it.” She talked about field hockey and soccer teams being able to excel. “The feel of the ball is so different on turf,” Barker said. “We are hoping to be able to host state events as well.”
Before school dismissed for the final time in June for the graduating seniors, Spring met with some of the students. Spring said he asked for an honest discussion about what was good and what could be better at Sparta High School. He said it was a good and positive discussion. The students most wanted to see more Spartan spirit.
The new structure of the guidance department is important to them as well.
“Danielle [Colte] is awesome. She is dedicated and already made the department cohesive,” Spring said. He said Colte’s personality has really focused on what needs to be focused on with college and career, making it a better experience for students and parents. He and Barker were adamant that parents need to be part of the team.
“Danielle’s vision is spot on; to be sure the stakeholders experience is as good as possible,” Spring said.
Spring comes to Sparta after a search by Tomko, Tomko and Associates. Spring was the principal at South Plainfield High School for four years, having been that school’s vice principal since December 2011.
Spring began his career in education as a history and law teacher on the East Orange High School campus. At East Orange he was also the Mock Trial Law Club. Sparta High School will be starting up a Mock Trial Club this school year as well.
Education is Spring’s second career; he was a practicing attorney for eight years before becoming a teacher. Spring graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Johns Hopkins in International Relations and received his Juris Doctorate from Rutgers Law School in 1996. He earned a master’s degree in education from Montclair University.
He said he wants to have a “great year of brainstorming as much as we can to build on what’s here.”
“The great thing about good schools is that they always want to do better. I couldn’t be more optimistic,” Spring said. “Sparta is a great district and I know we can become even more.”
Barker and Spring, together with the current vice principal Michael Lauricella will be greeting the incoming freshmen on August 27 for an orientation program at the school.