Local News Archive
Print Issue: February 4, 1999
From Pius Homecoming Queen To St. Jude's Principal
By Erika Anderson
SANDY SPRINGS--The year was 1959.
Barbara McCusker, 15, walked onto the football field of St. Pius X High School in a beige dress with the other members of the homecoming court, representing the sophomore class. She was shocked when her name was announced as the new queen.
"It was a mistake really," she said. "The boys didn't know that they weren't supposed to elect a sophomore. I think the senior girls were pretty upset with me."
The following year, McCusker met Bill Poole, captain of the football team and future president of the senior class, at a youth group function at St. Thomas More Church in Decatur.
"He was very smart and very nice and I liked the fact that he was responsible," Barbara said about Bill. "The fact that he played football didn't even matter because I didn't understand it anyway."
On their first date, Bill told her that he was going to marry her. He was right.
After going to separate colleges, she to St. Mary's College in Notre Dame, Ind., and he to the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., McCusker and Poole were married on July 9, 1966, at St. John the Baptist Cathedral in Savannah.
After 32 years of marriage and the birth of two daughters, Barbara Poole, now principal at St. Jude the Apostle School in Sandy Springs, said she is told that her face still lights up when her husband walks into the room. Like all couples, they've had their ups and downs, but Poole believes that their faith has brought them this far.
"God is a reason you get through a lot of things in life," she said. "I feel blessed that we have a shared background and especially a shared faith. We really grew up together."
Both also grew up in Catholic education. Members of the first freshman class at St. Pius in 1958, Poole and her husband were among the first students to complete four years at the new school. Barbara was also in the first first-grade class at St. Thomas More School and represented the student body at the groundbreaking of the church's rectory. The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, who taught at St. Thomas More, had such an influence on the young Barbara that until she met her husband, she thought she had a vocation to join the order. There is one thing, though, that has always been certain in her life.
"I have always wanted to teach," she said. "I've always known that I would be an educator."
This is Poole's 25th year in education for the Archdiocese of Atlanta. After graduating in 1966 with a degree in elementary education from St. Mary's College, and living in Berlin, Germany, where her husband was stationed, Poole substituted at St. Joseph's School in Athens while Bill attended law school at the University of Georgia.
The Pooles moved back to Atlanta in 1973, when she began teaching at Immaculate Heart of Mary School. She taught there for four years, and then began earning her master's degree in guidance and counseling from Georgia State University. While earning her master's degree, Poole served as the director of elementary education for St. Thomas More School and then returned to IHM.
Two years later, in August 1981, Poole was hired as the full-time guidance counselor for all 13 elementary schools in the archdiocese, a position she held for eight years before arriving at St. Jude's.
"I served as a confidante and advisor to the principals and during that time I learned a lot about teachers and schools and kids," she said. "Each one of those schools was special and each one was a unique reflection of its community. I could have made a list of good things about every single school and they all would have been different."
In 1989, Poole became the assistant principal and guidance counselor at St. Jude's. In 1993, she was named principal.
"I love St. Jude's," she said. "It's a special place. The parish is very involved in the school and we really work as a team."
Poole said she feels "very blessed to have had all these years in Catholic schools as a student and as a teacher and as a guidance counselor."
"I think we talk a lot about educating the whole child, and in Catholic schools we really are educating the whole child. Spirituality is not off limits," she said. "We create small faith communities that are caring and nurturing, where kids can learn from experiences and from teachers and vice versa. I also think we do a good job in recognizing that the parents are the first educators and we work in cooperation with them."
Poole said that she has grown a lot spiritually as a result of her years in Catholic education.
"It has certainly helped my faith," she said. "It's also made me a more patient and respectful person."
Poole, the oldest of nine children, said that her faith came from three main sources.
"I got a bunch from my mom, a bunch from my dad, and then from the nuns at St. Thomas More," she said.
Poole hopes that her students will get as much out of their Catholic education as she has.
"I want them to make a difference when they grow up," she said. "That's the way we're educated in Catholic schools."
As for her status as the first and only sophomore to be elected homecoming queen at St. Pius X High School, Poole went back to the school in 1998, along with other past queens, for a homecoming celebration. Her husband, Bill, is quick to tell people that he was the one who had come up with St. Pius X's mascot, The Golden Lions, in an essay contest he won his freshman year. His wife, however, was a little hesitant about telling her students that she was once the homecoming queen of the school from which many of them will later graduate.
"I decided to tell them, though. I figured it might break some of the stereotypes of homecoming queens," she said. "It will probably break some of the principal ones too."
QUEEN OF HIS HEART -- Barbara and Bill Pooles relationship
as high school sweethearts transformed to one of husband and wife, which has
now lasted for 32 years. Barbara has worked in education for the Archdiocese of
Atlanta for 25 years, six as principal at St. Jude the Apostle School,