After a nearly two month long search and just in time for the start of the 2017-2018 school year, the Chester-Upland School District (CUSD) announced its new superintendent at last Thursday’s monthly meeting.
From a total of 20 applicants, some as far as New Mexico, who were interviewed over the course of the roughly 45-day search, CUSD decided to keep a familiar face, interim Superintendent Dr. Juan Baughn.
However, making it a full-time, permanent gig, for a second time since 1999, wasn’t initially part of the plan, Baughn told The Spirit. The educator was set to be relieved from his duties before this month’s end, but he said while temporarily serving as superintendent, he saw “a need.” After some prayer, Baughn said, he made the decision to apply.
At previous meetings, CUSD school board members and residents praised Baughn for his work completed in such a short period of time.
“(Baughn) had a six month interview,” CUSD Receiver Peter Barsz joked, but added that Baughn beat out the remaining competition with high marks in the interview rounds.
Baughn, a Media native, said he felt “so privileged” to return to his “second home” for a fifth time, crediting much of his career experience to the city and its school district.
“So much of everything I’ve been able to accomplish… a significant amount of what I learned about this business of education, happened right here, right here in this city,” Baughn publicly said at the meeting. “I’m here to payback and I believe I owe you and I’m going to work as hard as I can to pay you back for all that this city has given to me and my family.”
Baughn previously manned four positions throughout the district that range from administrative to athletics. Positions such as the dean of students, coach for both the basketball and cross-country teams at Chester High School, and served as on the Control Board for the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
In 1972, during his tenure as coach, the basketball team played in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) finals. Baughn is also member of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame.
Baughn’s administrative experiences reach as far as Washington D.C., other school districts in eastern PA and he’s been a lecturer at Lehigh University’s College of Education.
According to 2014-2015 statistics from US News and World Report, Chester High School had a total of 937 students enrolled, but a 44 percent graduation rate. Additionally, student performance on state exit exams reveal that many of the students have a poor performance in Mathematics and English at four percent and 12 percent, respectively, ranking Chester High a few percentages below the entire district’s proficiency in these subjects. These percentages were matched against the state’s recorded proficiencies of 60 percent in Mathematics and 70 percent in English.
Baughn also expressed that many students currently are not adequately prepared for college because “too many youngsters are getting C’s and D’s.”
“I expect to have a focus on student learning,” Baughn said. “We must make sure that our students are college and career ready, but the difference for me is that I want them to be college and career ready without remediation.”
His “big, big push” for being prepared for higher education and careers, as Baughn described it, is to prevent graduating students from having to take high-school level, pre-freshman coursework to be considered for college admission.
Baughn said he will conduct more research to create an “action plan,” outlining his goals for the future of academics in the district. It will be presented to the public at an announced date.