WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — After 35 years, Patricia LaBarr is saying goodbye to the Watertown City School District.

LaBarr announced her retirement earlier this year. Throughout her career in education, she has been a teacher, assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent and superintendent, with all but one of those years in the Watertown district.

“I’ve seen this district through so many different lenses, that it’s been a great experience,” LaBarr expressed.

When she first took over the district five years ago, she was named the first female superintendent in Watertown’s history.

This came with its own set of challenges, she said, but nothing could have prepared her for what was ahead. LaBarr led the district through weather emergencies, community tragedies and most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There are a lot of things that have happened here that had never happened before,” she explained. “Even being in the District for quite a long time, those are things that I had any first-hand knowledge of.”

LaBarr went on to share that she was challenged to find new ways to overcome obstacles.

“I would say my biggest success is that just because we’ve always done something a certain way, if it’s not best for students, then we have to rethink it,” she shared.

A superintendent, but also a mom of two. LaBarr said she ultimately made the decision to retire based on the needs of her family.

“Having both of my children start kindergarten and graduate from this district, somewhere I love, has just been wonderful for our entire family,” LaBarr stated. “But now it’s time for me to give my family, what I’ve given the district.”

Looking ahead to her final days in her role, she took a moment to remind the community of the true priority in education: The students.

“Now is really a tough time in education for a lot of different reasons,” she shared. “I think it’s time for people to start to pull together, and start to realize that kindness does matter. We’re here for kids, we’re here for education, and all those other things are a bonus.”

She concluded by saying: “Our district mission statement if we could all live by that caring culture, I think that’s where it should start.”

Patricia LaBarr’s retirement from the Watertown City School District will take effect on August 31, 2022.