Following the sudden and unfortunate loss of District 88 Superintendent Dr. Scott Helton in 2020, the DuPage 88 District School Board has promoted Dr. Jean Barbanente to fill the shoes of an incredible Superintendent.
Previously working as Helton’s Assistant Superintendent, Dr. Barbanente has been working in the education system since her graduation from college, and has been serving in an interim role as the leader of the district since Dr. Helton’s absence. Now, the Board has made this promotion permanent by naming her the new superintendent.
Graduating with a teaching degree, Dr. Barbanente started student teaching but in the midst of her work, a job opportunity at Addison Trail opened up. Working as a Spanish and Italian teacher, Barbanente fell in love with working with kids. Eight years later, she also completed a counseling degree. Working as the Guidance Director at Addison Trail, Barbanente worked closely within the Latino community and further developed the college preparation resources during her four years of service. In 2006, Dr. Barbanente received a position in the District Office where she learned much more on the programs and services District 88 has to offer such as the ACHIEVE program.
Honored to pursue one of her closest friends’ position, Dr. Babarnente has already and will continue to push towards a brighter future for the students of District 88. One of the most important aspects of her work and one she will continue to make a priority is ensuring that students walk out the door successfully.
“To do that we need to do things from what we call a culturally responsive lens. We have to know who our kids are, who their families are, and be able to connect with them. That means valuing second languages, valuing people’s ethnicity, race, religion, sexual identity and overall making sure students are feeling comfortable,” said Dr. Barbanente.
Working through the pandemic, Barbanente and administration have already established the CARE team which is a group of teachers and staff that undergo various training such as trauma informed practices and relationship building through an equity lens. As the new Superintendent, Barbanente’s goal for the next coming years is to expand on this work by creating affinity groups that connect with people who identify with different races or different cultures.
Already established for next year, Barbanente is also putting focus and emphasis on biliteracy as she and her team have appointed a Director of Biliteracy position. Working alongside the elementary schools, the new Director of Biliteracy will work on building literacy in both English and second languages for kids K-12.
“I am excited that Dr. Barbanente is the first Superintendent that District 88 has had that can speak several foreign languages. Given the fact that we are the 2nd most diverse district in the district, I believe that it is important to have a Superintendent that can relate to our parents and students. I am also excited that she is the first Superintendent of District 88 that is a woman. I know that one of her top priorities is equity for all students and to expand opportunities,” said President of the School Board Mrs. Donna Cain.
Being appointed as the new Superintendent during times of such uncertainty and civil unrest, Barbanente has found it difficult to process both the death of her close friend Dr. Helton while transitioning into this position. Like most things this year, the pandemic has had its toll on Barbanente but despite her struggles, she strides forward each and every day, and her efforts have not gone unnoticed. Many of her colleagues applaud Barbanente, admire her for her compassion, and are extremely excited to see where she’ll go in the upcoming years.
“I am excited about the future of Addison Trail and District 88. She is incredibly qualified and is a proven leader in District 88, the county and state. She is just what District 88 needs to continue our success and create new opportunities and traditions for our families,” said Principal Mr. Michael Bolden.