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David Douglas administrator selected 2021 Oregon Elementary Principal of the Year

SALEM, Ore. – Kate Barker, Principal of Cherry Park Elementary School in the David Douglas School District, has been named Oregon’s 2021 National Distinguished Principal, also known as Oregon Elementary Principal of the Year.  Barker was selected by her peers in the Oregon Elementary School Principals Association (OESPA), and is now one of 50 finalists for the National Association of Elementary School Principals’ (NAESP) 2021 National Distinguished Principal award.

Barker is completing her 30th year in David Douglas, including the past 11 years as principal at Cherry Park.  During her tenure as principal, Cherry Park has experienced strong academic growth, achievement and engagement – making significant gains on state assessments, kindergarten literacy measures, and attendance measures. 

“Kate Barker is an amazing educational leader who is a true asset to Cherry Park, the David Douglas School District, and the education profession. Put simply, Kate is a champion for students. She motivates, she inspires, she leads, she cares for and she always has a focus on what is best for students. The relationships she has built with her teachers, her families, and the Cherry Park community are unmatched,” said David Douglas superintendent Ken Richardson.  “Kate is a leader who continually goes above and beyond, and is a true servant leader. From student achievement to family engagement, Kate has developed amazing systems to serve and support her community, and through it all Kate leads with a big heart and a passion for her students. Kate is an excellent and deserving selection for the 2021 Oregon Elementary Principal of the Year.”

"Kate’s positive influence at Cherry Park is simply unmatched,” said Andy Long, the District’s Director of Education. “Not only does she know the name of almost all of her students, Kate can even tell you the student’s teacher, their academic progress, and she never fails to add a special comment unique to that student. Students beam when they see her in the hallways and in virtual classrooms. With all that said, what truly sets Kate apart is when you have the opportunity to observe her interact with every person that walks through the doors of her school. Whether it’s a preschool student or a volunteer grandparent, she greets them with a warm smile, by name, and with genuine excitement – 100 percent of the time.  I could not be more thrilled that Kate Barker is the 2021 Oregon Elementary Principal of The Year."

A two-time president of OESPA, Barker is recognized statewide for the support, mentoring and professional development she has provided to colleagues throughout Oregon.  For the past year, she has helped to moderate a regular online “Let’s Chat” support and professional learning session for Oregon elementary principals.  Along with two colleagues, she also published her first book this year, titled “PrincipalED.”  The book has a five-star rating on  Kate and her colleagues are leading a book study for principals in Oregon.

“Kate Barker is a remarkable educator, leader, and fantastic human being.  Never have I observed such an effective leader who also possesses the personable characteristics that exude compassion and genuine interest in every person she meets,” said Gerry Flock, a Medford elementary principal who is the current president of OESPA.  “Kate is a gentle leader that people clamor to follow.  You want to work alongside her.  I consider it a privilege to call her my friend and colleague in the most important occupation in the world – growing young children.”

“It is an honor to be able to recognize Kate Barker as our Oregon Elementary Principal of the Year.  She is an incredible leader and mentor to many within her own district, state, and nation,” said Rachael George, COSA President-Elect and Oregon’s state representative to NAESP.  “Kate has spent her entire career dedicated to supporting and learning from her community, which serves a diverse and vibrant area within Oregon.  Her belief that everything starts with a genuine relationship and connections, as well as high expectations, are at the core of community and her success.” 

Barker will be honored at the COSA Annual Conference in Seaside in June, at the NAESP Annual Conference in Chicago in July, and at the Oregon Principals Conference in October. 


About COSA and OESPA

The Coalition of Oregon School Administrators (COSA) serves and represents more than 2,500 school administrators, managers and executives.  COSA was founded in 1974 to give Oregon's education leaders a united voice in helping to shape public policy, advocate for schools and speak on behalf of students. In addition to advocacy, COSA supports and develops educational leaders with professional learning opportunities -- including statewide conferences, regional seminars and workshops, and much more -- and a number of exclusive member services. Areas of focus include school finance and legislative services. A member-driven umbrella organization, COSA is governed by an elected Board of Directors that represents the organization's four Departments: the Oregon Association of School Executives (OASE), the Oregon Association of Secondary School Administrators (OASSA), the Oregon Elementary School Principals Association (OESPA) and the Oregon Association of Central Office Administrators (OACOA).  For more information, visit