Ronald Tibbetts retires after 16 years as head of Henry Barnard School

Ronald Tibbetts
Ronald Tibbetts, principal of the Henry Barnard Laboratory School (HBS) on the RIC campus, is looking forward to a future of writing, traveling and spending time with his grandchildren. His retirement this August will end 16 years at RIC, where he was responsible for the care and education of 290 children each year.

University affiliated laboratory schools, like HBS, have a dual purpose of providing innovative, exceptional quality education to its students and also serving the college, both in the preparation of new teachers and as a research tool for professors.

Tibbetts said one of the most important things he has tried to foster during his time at HBS is involvement with the college and the local community, resolving to make the school better known. He said that he felt he had achieved this.

“When I look back I’m happy about where the school is now,” said Tibbetts. “We have an excellent faculty, our communication with college and community has improved every year. I feel comfortable leaving the school in good hands."

Whether the children of HBS are playing in the playground just off the quad or on a brief excursion out of their classrooms, they are a constant presence on the RIC campus. To the 25 percent of the RIC student body studying as education majors, the children of HBS are an important reminder of their hopes and aspirations to one day become a teacher.

Tibbets, left, and long-time colleague, Haven Starr
Tibbetts’ career in education began 39 years ago as a teacher in Massachusetts. He spent 31 years as an elementary school principal, first in Lincoln, before coming to HBS. While in Lincoln, he received his doctorate of education from Clark University in Massachusetts.

“It’s been nice to be involved with the state, to have had the opportunity to learn things and do studies, but the things I’ll miss the most, will always be the kids and the teachers,” said Tibbetts.

During his time at RIC, Tibbetts has published several academic papers, among varied topics of research. His most recent research project was on the subject of state mandated teacher-to-teacher mentoring, and was undertaken with RIC elementary education professors Patricia Cordeiro and Lisa Owen. Draft results of the study were presented to the dean of the Feinstein School of Education and Human Development this April.

A portrait of Tibbetts by an HBS student.
Tibbetts described his difficulty of adjusting to a new environment and mindset when he first joined the school. “It sounds easy but from experience I know it’s not,” said Tibbetts, who went on to explain that in running a laboratory school you must consider both the well-being of the students, but also the service the college, which adds a new dimension of responsibility to the job of principal.

Haven Starr, assistant principal of HBS and a long-time colleague, said Tibbetts’ skill of working with many different kinds of people and leading change, rather than forcing it, were some of Tibbetts’ greatest strengths.

Tibbetts expressed an interest in pursuing writing about education during his retirement. He has been a long-time editor of the NALS Journal, which is a scholarly publication of articles on laboratory schools and related issues. The publication is produced by the International Association of Laboratory and University Affiliated Schools, of which Tibbetts was recently president.

Tibbetts will be retiring at the same time as his wife, Jane Tibbetts, a special education teacher. “At first we are going to do the grandchildren thing,” said Tibbetts, whose fourth grandchild was born last week.

Tibbetts, who lives in North Attleboro, Mass., also has trips to France, Scotland and Ireland planned. “It will be nice going away and not having to worry about my laptop and checking emails,” said Tibbetts.

Tibbetts indicated that though he has much planned for his retirement, he also said he would like to remain a resource for the school, and help facilitate the transition to the new principal, who will be selected in a few weeks by committee.

Tibbetts(right) at his retirement celebration.