Today's profile is the fourth of a six-part series celebrating Women's History Month. Each woman brings something different and unique to the community in which she works and lives.
Greetings, good people.
The first word that comes to mind when I think of Barbara C. Shorter is genteel. Shorter displays the soft-spoken refinement and polish indicative of Southern women of old.
"I have always believed that it is necessary to keep a good attitude," Shorter said. "When I decided I wanted to become a high school principal, I got little or no encouragement from others in administration. In fact, I was told that there really wasn't anything available in the senior high arena and that I might be better off if I tried for an elementary school. Since elementary school wasn't my bag, I just kept plugging away at my goals. I've been principal of Gibbs High for the last six years."
Shorter, who was born and raised in St. Petersburg, has been a teacher or administrator at one time or another at some of the very schools she once attended, including Gibbs.
In January she was invited by Education Commissioner Frank Brogan to attend Gov. Lawton Chiles' Summit on Education. Only 12 principals from around the state were asked to participate. "I was asked to come and share my experiences on how our school was able to overcome so many challenges and increase student achievement," she said. "It was an honor to talk about the dedication and hard work that the teachers and staff have contributed to Gibbs."
She has recently been contacted about attending a similar conference sponsored by President Clinton. It will be held in Philadelphia.
Doug Gregory, the assistant principal in charge of curriculum, is her second in command. "Mrs. Shorter is a very straightforward person who will let you know just where you stand and what she expects from you," he said. "That allows you to go out and do your job, and she in turn supports you wholeheartedly. It's been a pleasure to serve on her team."
One would think that running a high school with more than 1,700 students and 150 employees would be enough to keep a person busy, but Shorter is also an active member in the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, Florida A&M University Alumni Association, Ebony Scholars Committee, NAACP, Pinellas County High School Principals Association, Pinellas County Association of Black School Educators and its national counterpart. She is also listed in the 1996-97 International Who's Who of Professionals and the 1994-95 Marquis Who's Who Among Women in America.
"I have a good career and have enjoyed my work, but dearest to my heart of hearts has always been my family," she said. "I got divorced when my youngest daughter was still in high school. It was a struggle, but all of my four children have graduated from college. I am at my best and happiest when we are all together." She also loves to cook from scratch and grow flowers.
"I am so busy that sometimes my head doesn't feel as though it is screwed on straight, but I believe everyone should do as much as he or she can to the best of their abilities. Our young people need all of us."
I have always heard that hard work and dedication, along with a good education, pay off, and Barbara Shorter is a prime example that it really does.
The Cradle of Wisdom: A sense of respect for others and for themselves is one of the best gifts we can give our children.