Beyond The Classroom
Penelope Barton is not your typical CEO. Her journey to the driving seat of Crimson Global Academy (CGA) has been one marked by a passion for education, a deep understanding of technology, and an unwavering commitment to unlocking students' limitless potential. In an insightful interview, Penelope Barton shares her background, vision for CGA, and how the school addresses a longing for social interaction and how online education is meeting that need.
With over 15 years of experience in various industries, including government and banking, Penelope has a rich professional background. However, it's her extensive involvement in global technology companies that has defined her career path. She recalls, "For the last 15 years, I've worked in a mixture of industries including government and banking, and then for the last 10 have found myself in fast growing global technology startups. I was fortunate in the early days to be part of Xero and Vend, New Zealand success stories on the technology stage, and then joined Crimson Education back in 2017”.
Penelope's experience at Crimson Education was particularly significant, as she played a pivotal role in the company's journey from those early days to where it is today, noting, "As Crimson Education was just starting out, I joined when the team was around 40 people and 3 markets and really grew with them through to when we were around 550 employees and 28 markets, acquiring new businesses, being part of the founding team of Crimson Global Academy and worked closely with the executive team through that huge journey of growth."
In addition to her time at Crimson Education her diverse experiences span various industries and roles, which, in her own words, are "a mixture of industries and role types, they've spanned Executive roles in People and Culture and Operation alongside Board Governance and Advisory roles”.
Throughout her career, one common thread has been her engagement with global companies experiencing rapid expansion. This shared experience across different industries and roles has uniquely equipped her to understand the dynamics and demands of a fast-evolving global workspace.
Penelope's passion for education is palpable. "The impact that our students can have if we give them the right support, the right resources, and build that confidence in them, is something that always fascinated me." she says.
Her journey with Crimson Education began when the company was primarily focused on admissions and tutoring. She witnessed students progress through the education system, eventually entering prestigious universities and achieving remarkable career success. She recalls two students who have really stuck in her mind, “Soumil Singh who got into Harvard and has since launched his own startup in the US supported by Y Combinator, and Sam Taylor (Te Ara Kupe Beaton Scholar) who also got accepted into Harvard University.” Penelope's passion for education was further ignited by these firsthand experiences.
Penelope sees CGA evolving into a school that seamlessly integrates online learning with competency-based education, creating an educational ecosystem that truly unlocks students' limitless potential. She envisions a future where AI technology plays a pivotal role in enhancing the learning experience. Penelope's vision is to make CGA a global leader in education, offering students an extraordinary educational journey that prepares them for an ever-changing world. "We're moving at that kind of pace where every year is more exciting, and students are a part of that journey with us."
Penelope's leadership style is rooted in servant leadership. She believes in supporting her team, removing obstacles, and fostering a collaborative environment where everyone works together to achieve the school's vision. She notes, "My job is to support the team, remove blockers, and ensure we have a really clear vision. We're all working together as a team”.
Outside of her professional life, Penelope has a passion for food and she loves to travel, a hobby that aligns with her role at CGA, where she interacts with teams and students globally. However, her most cherished time is spent with her five-year-old son, Hunter, who is about to embark on his primary school journey. She values family and understands the importance of a balanced life.
In 2023, Penelope Barton took on the role of CEO at CGA. Her decision to lead CGA into the future was driven by a desire to create a global educational community that transcends the boundaries of traditional learning.
She shares her vision: "I want us to be the best private school in the world, offering all the same things that a physical bricks and mortar school does, but with greater flexibility, personalization, and accessibility." Her goal is to align the school's vision closely with students and parents, fostering a collaborative educational environment.
One common concern parents have about online education is the social aspect. Penelope Barton is keenly aware of this apprehension and offers insights into how CGA addresses it. She emphasizes that the traditional notion of physical presence should not be confused with community building.
Penelope emphasizes, "I think the reality right now is we're sort of confusing physical presence with community. Just because students are close to someone in physical proximity doesn't necessarily mean they have a sense of community.”
"In reality, students may have completely different interests. They might have nothing in common with those around them, and as a result, they don't actually feel that sense of community."
Penelope highlights that at CGA, the emphasis is on helping students find like-minded peers with shared interests and extracurricular activities. She adds, "Because we have students from all around the world, there's such a large group of different diverse perspectives that students can connect with. They have the opportunity to find those people who share their passions, rather than relying solely on physical proximity."
It is often found that strong bonds are not formed until students are in university or their careers when you are surrounded by individuals who share similar interests. However, at CGA, our focus is on creating a supportive and diverse community right from the start. This allows students to connect with like-minded peers globally, fostering these significant connections early in their academic journey.
Moreover, Penelope explains that CGA's shorter school day provides more time for extracurricular activities, saying, "Our students have the flexibility to engage in hobbies and interests they are passionate about, such as horse riding, scouting, or chess, without compromising their academic commitments. This approach not only encourages students to pursue their passions but also fosters connections among those who share similar interests, creating a thriving and supportive community within the school."
For families considering CGA, Penelope's advice centers on envisioning the transformative impact the school can have on their child's education. She encourages them to think about the future and how our online education can provide the flexibility, personalized learning, and supportive community that will help their child thrive. CGA is not just an online school but a place where students discover their passions, achieve their goals, and become global citizens.
Under Penelope Barton's visionary leadership, CGA is poised to redefine online education. Her commitment to collaboration, innovation, and a strong educational community will undoubtedly shape the school's success in the years to come.
Penelope Barton, in her own words, describes CGA as a school that’s "unlocking students’ limitless potential, together, for extraordinary futures." Her journey, experiences, and vision epitomize the spirit of CGA, making her a true visionary in the world of online education.