After moving to the Verde Valley in December of 2005, Barbara sought employment within the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District. While raising a young family, she held various support positions within the district where she gained a broad understanding of the public school system. In the last 6 years of her 13-year career, she was given a dual position of Health Insurance Benefit Coordinator to support the HR Department along with the role of district McKinney Vento & Foster Care Family Liaison. This required obtaining an in-depth understanding of the federal guidelines that allow accessibility to free public education for students and families experiencing homelessness or students that may have been placed in foster care. Implementation of a McKinney Vento program with procedures in place to easily identify students dealing with this hardship, allowed for the state-required identification of students increasing by over 106%. This qualified for additional competitive state grant funding to be awarded to the district. Careful management of these funds provided additional support to students in the form of clothing & school uniforms, supplies, along with afterschool tutoring and in-depth training experiences that aided administration in the understanding of the challenges of homelessness and its potentially traumatic effects which may inhibit learning. One of the proudest moments of her career was to travel to Washington, DC in November of 2019 and meet with a Senior Staff member of Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s office along with two district administrators and a group of Arizona liaisons from varying districts and discuss the alignment of McKinney Vento rights with HUD qualifications. Advocating for basic human rights is a very important purpose Barbara feels strongly about supporting.
Being able to understand and empathize with such personal hardships and keep highly confidential information in both roles convinced her of the importance of building strong trusting relationships with the population she served. A skill she is excited to utilize with Steps to Recovery clients whenever possible. “I have seen a strong correlation with a variety of substance abuse issues when working with families that are also experiencing homelessness. Being part of a support system that allows anyone the ability to succeed despite the odds is an amazing gift we give and a gift we receive.”
Barbara also managed private grant funding through The James & Gloria Henderson Foundation for the district which provided extra-curricular programs in the areas of art instruction, music, agriculture, woodworking & a culinary program on 3 district campuses, one of which she provided after school instruction. Barbara also taught a summer culinary program in connection with Juvenile Probation & The Youth Step Program.
This is Barbara’s first experience serving on the Board of a non-profit organization and is excited to assist Steps to Recovery in its growth and development.