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david eckhoff headshot

Dave Eckhoff - Principal

Mr. Dave Eckhoff has served the Barnwell community as principal since 2006.  Prior to becoming principal, he served for nine years as an assistant principal at both Francis Howell North and Barnwell.  Before venturing into the world of school administration, he taught mathematics for nine years in the Maplewood-Richmond Heights School District at A.B. Green Middle School.  While teaching there, the school was recognized at the state and national level as both a Gold Star and Blue Ribbon School.  While working in M-RH, Mr. Eckhoff served as the assistant to the principal and also taught elementary and high school students in a variety of enrichment programs.

Mr. Eckhoff and his wife, Julie, who teaches special education at Henderson have five sons, all of whom graduated from Francis Howell Central High School.  Julie and Dave are also proud grandparents to Piper and Beau.  In his spare time, Mr. Eckhoff likes to play guitar and bass and can be seen playing with various bands in St. Charles.

When asked what he loves most about being the principal at Barnwell, he said “This school is an amazing place to work because of the students, parents, and staff and I am honored to serve as the principal.” 

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Derek Lay - Assistant Principal

Mr. Lay has been an assistant principal at Barnwell since 2006.  Prior to coming to Barnwell, he served the district as a Speech and Drama Teacher at Saeger and Bryan Middle Schools.  Before teaching in Francis Howell, Mr. Lay was a High School English, Speech, Drama and Debate teacher at Oak Grove High School.  In addition to teaching, he directed high school and middle school theatre productions, coached high school speech and debate and sponsored numerous student activities.  Mr. Lay holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Arts Education, Master’s Degree in Educational Administration as well as an Educational Specialist Degree in Educational Administration.
Mr. Lay attended schools in Francis Howell from Kindergarten through high school graduation, including as a middle school student at Barnwell.  Attending school at Barnwell and joining the leadership team years later has given him a unique perspective on creating a student centered environment that focuses on student belonging, well-being and academic excellence.  As a special education administrator for the building, a passion of his is to ensure that all students have equal access to curriculum, extracurricular activities and supports necessary to succeed in all settings. 
Mr. Lay and his wife have two daughters.  Their oldest is a student at Francis Howell Central, and youngest is a student at Zion Lutheran School.  Outside of school, he follows his daughter’s athletic events, Notre Dame Football, St. Louis sports teams and is occasionally involved in directing and acting in community theatre events.  If he’s not doing that, he’s probably outside biking, cooking something on his smoker or thinking about the next thing he wants to cook on his smoker.  

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Dr. Erin Thurston - Assistant Principal

Dr. Erin Thurston is honored to be part of the Barnwell Middle School community. Since becoming assistant principal in 2019, she always look forward to meeting our new students and building lasting relationships so that she can support them in every way possible. She also embraces the opportunity to partner with families to provide our students with a rigorous, engaging and memorable middle school experience.

Prior to coming to Barnwell, she served the district as the secondary English language arts and social studies content leader for six years where she worked with teachers to develop and implement curriculum. Prior to that, she taught high school English at Francis Howell Central High School for eight years. During that time, she earned my Master of Arts degree in Education Administration at Lindenwood University and her Doctoral degree in Educational Leadership from Maryville University.

On a personal note, Dr. Thurston has two children who attend schools within the district as she resides in the FHSD community. She takes pride in treating all students the way she would treat her own children and works hard every day to make Barnwell a home away from home for our students. To that end, she is always available for a phone call, email or stop in to discuss any concerns, suggestions or ideas to help make this year the best year yet!

Dr. Thurston is proud to be a Bulldog and loves to get to work with these students every day.