Aspen school board renews superintendent’s contract through 2027

Amendment also adds retention incentive in service credits for retirement

Aspen School District Superintendent David Baugh talks during the Aspen High School graduation ceremony on Saturday, June 4, 2022, inside the Benedict Music Tent in Aspen.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

The Aspen School District Board of Education unanimously voted to extend Superintendent David Baugh’s contract through the end of the 2026-27 school year via a contract amendment at a June 13 virtual meeting.

The extension adds four years to Baugh’s contract, which was previously set for a term through July 1, 2023, according to the amendment.

It’s a long runway for a superintendent career at Aspen School District compared to the renewal process for the previous superintendent, John Maloy, whose contract allowed a one-year extension for each successful year in the position.

The amendment to Baugh’s contract also includes provisions for the district to offer a retention bonus in the form of Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA) service credits.

The district will purchase half a year of PERA service credits at the end of the school year in 2023, 2024, 2025 and 2026, plus another year of service credit at the end of 2027, according to the contract. It would allow Baugh to work for seven years in the district but receive retirement benefits that reflect 10 years of service.

“My view of the contract amendment is we want to incentivize you to want to stay with us for another five years, presumably through the end of your career or your next phase in life,” board President Katy Frisch said. “And that was the intention of the amendment: to try to put some pieces in place to make it worthwhile for you to hang out and finish everything that you’ve started.”

At the Monday meeting, Baugh presented a few summary slides from the 360 review of his position that was conducted in April by Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, an independent third-party education consulting firm.

Baugh said it was the first time “anyone could recall” such a process happening in the district and saw it as a “huge and important” tool for accountability but didn’t elaborate much during the meeting on what that process entailed or exactly who offered feedback during the process.

Board Vice President Jonathan Nickell said the 360 evaluation was “not just an evaluation of the board — it’s evaluation of you by your team, by us, and that also includes other community members and other partner organizations.”

The Aspen Times sent an email to the Board of Education, Baugh and several other district officials on Wednesday requesting some additional details about the review but had not received a response by 5 p.m.

A slide on “superintendent strengths” highlighted Baugh’s approachability, community connection, temper, focus on academic performance and his leadership in “unprecedented times” among the merits.

Another slide on “areas for growth” include mentions of the need for improvement on communication, staff retention, interdepartmental relations, support for learners and staff and “culture change” at Aspen Middle School among those growth opportunities.

Conclusions from the evaluation indicated there may have been too many goals set “for such a period of time that fell during a global pandemic,” and that “many of those goals are inherently multi-year goals,” according to the slides Baugh presented.

“I’m excited about the next five years in the district,” Baugh said. “I think great things are really about to start happening.”

The contract still includes provisions for reassessment in the event that the board or the superintendent isn’t satisfied, according to Frisch.

“The contract still has all the pieces in place if either party is unhappy. The concept is to incentivize with bonus compensation that is loaded on the end to keep Dave here for five years; there’s always the ability to renew it further,” Frisch said. “We went with a five-year contract so we don’t need to go through the contract process with the attorney every year but we certainly need to go through the review process every year and the goal-setting, and we will — we will do that.”

Editor’s note and update on June 17: A follow-up story will run early next week in The Aspen Times.