Aspen Times Editorial: Kudos to Aspen School Board for job well done on superintendent hiring process

Aspen Times Editorial Board

The Aspen School District Board of Education deserves glowing marks for a national superintendent search that demonstrated it had the community in mind through a process that was exhaustive, swift and transparent.

Superintendent hire David Baugh takes the ASD’s reins July 1 — whether he will be in Aspen then or will virtually lead the district from his current home in Pennsylvania because of the health crisis is another question.

Either way, the community should feel good about Baugh. He will join Tharyn Mulberry, who is relinquishing his principal seat at Aspen High to take the assistant superintendent role.

The board rightfully expects Baugh and Mulberry to be a guiding, positive force for the ASD administration, faculty, staff and students.

They also will be expected to improve staff morale and communications, fill key position openings at the district, and tackle the ever-changing academic challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic.

Baugh looks excellent on paper. His colleagues named him Pennsylvania’s superintendent of the year for 2020 for his work at the 5,900-student, six-building Centennial School District, which is part of greater Philadelphia.

During the public interviews hosted by the BOE and its search firm, Baugh displayed an easygoing yet professional demeanor and made no qualms about how eager he was to move to Aspen and immerse himself in both its educational community and outdoor lifestyle.

Mulberry, one of four finalists for the post, will bring to the position a boots-on-the-ground approach he took as principal. Unfortunately, the high school will be losing an excellent leader who brought stability to its building, but Mulberry no doubt will continue to have a positive presence there and at the administrative level.

Appreciation is owed to the five-member Board of Education, all elected officers who went out of their way to make sure the community’s voice was heard in the process.

Using feedback and information gleaned from group meetings in person and online, the board, along with Chicago search firm Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, created a leadership profile for the next superintendent.

The inclusivity of the process was demonstrated by the BOE’s invitation to students, parents, teachers and community members to join an advisory committee.

The community also got a chance to meet the four finalists when they visited Aspen in early March — before the health crisis hit the United States.

The board no doubt realized it had to conduct such an open process to regain the trust of a public and staff whose confidence was shaken based on a findings from a climate and culture study conducted in 2019. The open process was proof of that.

They are to be commended, as is Tom Heald, a former assistant superintendent who has served as ASD interim superintendent for the 2019-20 year.

Heald has gracefully and professionally managed his position during a time that has been as challenging as it has been unsettling.

We appreciate his commitment to Aspen schools this year, and the community should feel confident in the district’s new leadership team as it navigates what will be choppy waters for weeks and months to come.

The Aspen Times editorial board consists of publisher Samantha Johnston, editor David Krause and reporters Rick Carroll, Scott Condon and Carolyn Sackariason.