David Barker will be principal at Maine East High School in Park Ridge beginning July 1, taking the helm at the school where he started his well-established expertise in teaching foreign languages and English to immigrants.

And the Des Plaines resident follows in good footsteps: his father, Robert Barker, was principal at Maine East and Maine South.

Initially, he didn’t want the job. Then he realized it was made for him.

“People asked me, ‘Are you following in your dad’s footsteps?’ ” David Barker said. “I said, ‘No, and I have no desire to sit in that principal’s chair. It’s the most challenging place to be in secondary education.’ “

But Barker has a greatly needed skill for a diverse school: the ability to relate to people of different cultures. At Maine East, 73 percent of students speak a language other than English at home.

“I began to think about what is important to me and I realized I have been preparing for this job 10 years and did not even know it,” Barker said. “It is a challenge for many parents to understand what happens here and their possible helpful role because they are not experienced with American secondary education.”

Another challenge in the road ahead is replacing the significant number of teachers planning to retire. Many school districts are preparing for a spate of retirements as teachers take state pension incentives.

“I look forward to being able to improve our work. My view is education is a three-legged stool with the student, the school/teachers and the home/community. Unless a school is operating with all three of those legs firm, it does not stand up,” Barker said.

Current Maine East Principal Carol Grenier announced her retirement in November. She has been principal there for 13 years.

Barker, 53, is chairman of the English as a second language/bilingual education department at Maine East and has been teaching Russian and German at the school since 1967. He also teaches graduate courses in linguistics and ESL at campuses of National-Louis University and his alma mater, Northern Illinois University.

Barker worked extensively with statewide committees studying language issues, including three Illinois State Board of Education committees on student testing.

And for those who say that you have to move around to finally get your dream job, consider this: His entire 32-year career has been at Maine East.

“I have only had one job, but my involvement in things outside has made the difference,” he said.

Pupils in top hats: Fifth graders from Sanborn Elementary School in Palatine headed to the Hyatt Hotel in Schaumburg on Tuesday to learn how to be chefs, bellhops and other hospitality industry professionals.

Students headed to Hyatt Hotel Corp. hotels all over the country as part of the eighth annual event. The kids from Palatine Township Elementary District 15 got to shadow doormen, bellhops, housekeepers, front desk clerks and general managers–and got to dress the part.

“It is fun, and the kids of today are our future,” said Gianna Farago, a Hyatt spokeswoman.

A new medium: Well-known Park Ridge artist Beverly Ellstrand won an award for an eight-minute retrospective of her watercolor paintings she produced at Oakton Community College in order to market her work to local galleries.

The award was given by the Community College Association for Instruction Technology.

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