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Northport school administrator wins national award

Dr. Catherine Hunt (left) displays her award from Gradient Learning with Superintendent Don Baribault.
Courtesy of Gradient Learning
Dr. Catherine Hunt displays her award from Gradient Learning with her superintendent, Don Baribault.

An educational non-profit organization has named the principal of Northport School in northeast Washington as one of its three national school leaders of the year.

Catherine Hunt oversees the K-12 school in the small town just seven miles south of the Canadian border.

Superintendent Don Baribault says the award comes from Gradient Learning, the company that developed the educational platform used at Northport.

“It’s a non-profit, has some ties to some tech companies in California. They started as a way to jump start recovery from the pandemic," he said.

Baribault says Hunt began work at Northport around the time the pandemic restrictions took full effect, when people were required to wear masks at school. Though she’s been an educator for years, Baribault says it’s Hunt’s first stint as a principal.

“To take over your first appointment with masks on and pandemic and trying to get lunches to kids on school buses and homework packets and lack of internet up here, it was quite a feat. And we came through it, actually our tests up here last year were pretty good," he said.

“It was really strange because I didn’t know what the kids looked like for the first year-and-a-half. I just knew their eyes," Hunt said.

"It made it not only challenging but it made it an interesting time because I actually could actually see their eyeballs. It was almost like I knew the real them before I could recognize them. And when the masks came off, I would look at them and say, ‘Ok, wait. Let me see your eyes,'" she said.

“She’s just terrific. Her personality’s great. Everybody loves her. I don’t know how many hugs and fist bumps she gives the kids every day, but it’s in the hundreds probably," Baribault said.

“I guess you’ve figured out by now I have a really hard time with this because it’s not me. It’s the kids and the teachers. They’ve bought into what I’m selling which is that everyone is special and everyone deserves an education. That’s what we do," Hunt said.

The Alabama native says she loves living in her new hometown because it’s a place she says she can be herself.

Doug Nadvornick has spent most of his 30+-year radio career at Spokane Public Radio and filled a variety of positions. He is currently the program director and news director. Through the years, he has also been the local Morning Edition and All Things Considered host (not at the same time). He served as the Inland Northwest correspondent for the Northwest News Network, based in Coeur d’Alene. He created the original program grid for KSFC. He has also served for several years as a board member for Public Media Journalists Association. During his years away from SPR, he worked at The Pacific Northwest Inlander, Washington State University in Spokane and KXLY Radio.