David Baugh named superintendent of Aspen School District
An educator who was named 2020 superintendent of the year in Pennsylvania will be taking the top post at the Aspen School District, while a more familiar name in local circles will be working alongside him.
The Board of Education announced Tuesday that it has reached an agreement with David Baugh to be its new superintendent and Aspen High School Principal Tharyn Mulberry to be its assistant superintendent.
Baugh, 58, will leave behind his current job as superintendent of the 5,900-student Centennial School District with three elementary schools, two middle schools, and one high school in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
The five-member board made its announcement during a video conference over the Zoom platform, where as many as 154 people — including board members — tuned in at once.
“I am just thrilled to be sitting here in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, with all you folks in Aspen,” Baugh said during the video chat. “What a fantastic age we are in. I’m also incredibly thrilled to have run this gauntlet, as it were, and to emerge on the other side.”
With Mulberry as Baugh’s lieutenant, the school district will have institutional knowledge in the superintendent’s office, while showing that it is allowing “careers to grow with us, not away from us,” board member Dwayne Romero said.
“Tharyn, you round this out as a one-two punch with Dave,” Romero said.
Mulberry said he’s ready for the next step.
“I look so forward to learning from (Baugh) because I know he has so much to offer the Aspen School District,” Mulberry said. “And I know that we’ll go far with his expertise, and I could definitely be the boots on the ground here in Aspen.”
The Zoom conference wasn’t how the Board of Education originally envisioned making its announcement, but the world has seen a seismic shift in how business is done with the coronavirus pandemic.
In fact, Baugh has a clause in his contract saying he will remain superintendent in the event that he is unable to relocate to Aspen because it is unsafe to travel due to the coronavirus.
Baugh and Mulberry are scheduled to begin their new positions July 1.
“I’m probably the first COVID-19 clause contract in any contract imaginable, at least for superintendent,” said Baugh, who has been the superintendent of the Centennial School District, which is part of the greater Philadelphia area, since September 2015.
He previously served as acting superintendent of Neshaminy School District and superintendent of Bensalem Township schools, both in Pennsylvania.
Baugh, whose teaching experience spans from the elementary to collegiate level, received a doctorate in educational leadership from Seton Hall, a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a master’s of humanities from Aberdeen University in Scotland.
He also was recognized by his peers, the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators, as the state’s superintendent of 2020.
“We just saw so many of the leadership qualities that we were looking for in Dave,” said Board President Susan Marolt. “We are just thrilled and excited to have him be our next superintendent.”
The board selected Baugh over finalists Mulberry as well as Tammy Clementi, national director of planning and analytics for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; and Ann Schultz, executive director of Cherry Creek Academy in Englewood.
His hiring was the outcome of a superintendent search dating back to October when the BOE hired Chicago firm Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates to head the search.
Together, the BOE and HYA starting in December held focus group meetings in person and online about what the community wanted in a future superintendent. A leadership profile was created, while an advisory group of students, teachers, parents and community members formed to provide feedback to the BOE. Candidates were given three questions demanding essay-length answers, and they also met community members the first week of March.
Baugh will take over a district that had more than 1,700 students enrolled this spring semester and has five schools that include the preschool and Aspen Community School in Woody Creek.
“You know, it’s education, it’s learning, it’s truly thought work and this is just an exciting opportunity to be part of and to get to it and get out there. It’s a dream come true for me,” Baugh said.
He also dive into the district’s strategic plan that outgoing interim Superintendent Tom Heald started last summer.
Baugh will live in district-owned housing and draw a salary of $198,000, according to Marolt. Baugh has entered into a three-year rolling contract with the school district, as well.
Baugh has a daughter, 24, who lives in the Vail area. They plan to visit regularly when he lives here, he said.
Board member Frisch said she was impressed by Baugh’s immersing himself in the community when he was here.
“He was out and about and meeting people and really showed an affinity for the mountain lifestyle and our kind of mountain community,” she said. “And in addition to having years and years of executive experience in school districts, he also has some very interesting hobbies — from training his therapy dog, to his art that he does, and beyond that, even working the Birds of Prey course in Vail for the World Cup. I think he really showed us he’s an experienced superintendent who also has a lot of attributes that are going to serve him well in this community, so I’m very excited about him moving here as soon as he’s able to move.”
Online instruction at the Aspen School District starts Wednesday after a coronavirus-closure that bled into spring break from March 23 to March 30.
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