“Where did the time go,” mused Barbara Wagner, who has been at Marlborough School for 25 years.
The 61-year-old head of school, who hails from a small town in Michigan, graduated from Michigan State with a degree in music. She taught music at a public school there for three years before moving to the University of Colorado to complete her master of music education degree.
Following a teaching stint at the university, Wagner served as a music teacher, chair of the fine arts department, middle school director, assistant head and interim head at a school in Denver before coming to Marlborough as director of upper school in 1989. She was appointed head of Marlborough the following year, and lives in a house on Arden Blvd. owned by the school.
There’s a lot going on at the Rossmore Avenue campus of the school that was founded in 1889.
“We’re working on our strategic plan, we’re about to start our accreditation process, and we’re moving forward with the Arden project,” said Wagner. The 10-year strategic plan was established by the board of trustees in 2010 following a process that included surveying students, parents, alumnae and employees to assess and identify the school’s strengths as well as areas of improvement for the future. The plan includes four goals “that we are always working to achieve,” said Wagner. They are preparing students for the future; growing, developing and sustaining the school; leading Marlborough today and tomorrow; and engaging locally, leading globally.
“We’re trying to look at big picture issues,” said Wagner. “With a long-range plan, you’re trying to phase things in. You try something, and it may or may not work,” she added.
“We want our girls to become more global citizens,” said Wagner. “We’re in a terrific location. There are so many different languages that are spoken, and so many issues that exist right near our school. “We are all in favor of having our students travel, but we think we can address global issues here in our own city,” she added.
“For instance, this week we’re hosting a group of students from China, and we’ll think about the impact they’ll have on families, students, the faculty and how much we can learn from that. That’s another way to expand our students’ horizons without even leaving L.A.”
Another goal addresses student leadership. “We want to make sure that every girl who attends the school form leadership skills, not just the ones that gravitate toward leadership positions.”
The accreditation process is all about school improvement and continuing to be self-reflective, said Wagner. “We are accredited by two different agencies, which is typical of independent schools. It’s a very healthy process, and one we look forward to.”
The Arden project, Wagner says, has been underway at the school for many years. The school owned a number of houses on the street in the late 1990s, which were taken down to create an athletic field and parking lot. After acquiring the remaining Arden houses, the plan now is to expand parking, install a garden and larger swimming pool and redo the tennis courts. “We’ve worked on it for many years with the neighbors,” said Wagner. “I think they feel like it’s been an iterative process and has worked out well. It’s a good situation for everyone.”
Leading Marlborough keeps her busy, but in Wagner’s free time, “music remains a passion… from attending concerts, accompanying our students in their concerts and performing with friends.” She also likes to read, travel, spend time with friends and walk on the beach.
After so many years at the school, Wagner says she continues to find much that is rewarding about her work, including strategic planning, working and planning with colleagues and Marlborough’s many volunteers, and most of all, spending time with the students. “It’s incredibly rewarding to come to work every day, knowing your input might make a difference in a young person’s life.”