The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Scott Baker to take over as Spotsy superintendent
By PAMELA GOULD
Scott Baker has excellent resources at his disposal as he steps into his first superintendency on July 1 in Spotsylvania County.
Baker discusses his first superintendency
He has his father, who served as a superintendent in Virginia school divisions for nearly two decades.
Outgoing Superintendent Shelley K. Redinger has offered her support.
And he will have a mentor during his first year provided by the Virginia Association of School Superintendents.
But Spotsylvania School Board members said they have no concerns about Baker’s abilities to lead the division after serving as Spotsylvania’s assistant superintendent for instruction for the past year.
Baker discusses having a father as a superintendent
“There’s just really no negative to Dr. Baker being our superintendent,” said Amanda Blalock, who co-chaired the superintendent search committee. “He really had proved himself at all levels to our board and we felt extremely blessed to have him.”
In Baker, the board has someone they’ve been able to watch him work, which search committee co-chair Linda Wieland said was an important factor in the decision.
“We’ve been able to see him in action,” she said. “That’s not an advantage you normally have.”
Baker discusses why he went into education
Redinger hired Baker last July, but the lifelong Virginia resident didn’t arrive as a newcomer to the community. Baker spent three years with the division from 1997–2000. Two of those years, he worked at Spotsylvania High School where board member Ray Lora was then teaching.
Lora fondly remembers both Baker and his wife, Dawn, who taught music at other county schools.
Baker discusses his management style.
“I’ve had the opportunity to watch him grow professionally,” said 68-year-old Lora, likening the experience to a father seeing a son develop through his career.
Lora admitted that when he first heard in April that Redinger might be leaving, he was disappointed and not eager to start another superintendent search.
But when the reality set in, he recognized what was before him.
“Immediately, on my own, I said the right person for this is Dr. Baker, but I didn’t share that with anyone,” Lora said. “When [the board] got to serious mode, I realized other board members had the same thought.
“In that sense, it was easy. We all, independently, came to the same conclusion.”
‘A KIND SOUL’
Baker, 43, comes across as quiet and gentle, but board members and his current boss say there’s far more to him than that.
They described the former marathon runner as a man of integrity with a healthy sense of humor.
A father of two, he also is a good listener, a good collaborator, and fair, even when he doesn’t agree with someone, said Wieland, who observed him during Redinger’s cabinet-level meetings.
Board member Jim Meyer has served as acting superintendent in Spotsylvania and was quick to notice Baker’s rapport with staff and his ability to interact well with residents.
“He’s a team builder,” Meyer said, and is ready to carry the division’s instructional goals forward.
Baker spent the past year working with Redinger. During that time, he played a key role in the streamlining plan she crafted for the division and laid out this spring.
That plan cut nearly $1 million in personnel costs, eliminating one assistant superintendent slot and downgrading two others to the executive director level.
“He’s a kind soul and that’s a great quality to have, but when tough decisions had to be made, he didn’t blink an eye,” Blalock said.
“Sometimes I think people miss how tough he is because he’s so approachable.”
Baker said he and Redinger share a “student-centered approach” to education and believe in reaching out to the community.
They not only want to get to know people but also be sure the schools are producing students capable of contributing in the workforce and elsewhere.
“I can’t imagine doing the job any other way,” Baker said in a recent interview with The Free Lance–Star.
Baker, whose career focus has been on instruction, said his goal is to see the division provide a quality education that meets the needs of students, whether they are college bound, headed into a technical field or charting their own course.
The aim is not only to provide students solid core-course instruction, but also to ensure they are allowed to broaden their horizons in areas such as the arts and athletics.
He also said he hopes to encourage more students to choose to challenge themselves in the toughest curriculums such as the Commonwealth Governor’s School, Advanced Placement courses and dual-enrollment classes.
Part of the challenge, Baker said, is helping students see school as “relevant” to their lives.
With that in mind, one of his first goals is to form a business advisory council to help the division stay abreast of the needs of local companies.
“There are so many emerging fields that we need to find out the skill sets needed at all levels of an organization,” he said.
Baker may be moving into a new role in July, but he said it’s one he’s been preparing for since 2003 when he became a middle school principal and began pursuing his doctorate.
He didn’t have a specific timeframe in mind for becoming a superintendent but said when the opportunity arose with Redinger’s departure after a year, he felt ready.
“I thought I could do a good job of continuing to move things forward.”
That opportunity for a “seamless transition” from Redinger’s tenure was a huge plus, board members said.
For Baker, a bonus is getting to assemble his own executive staff.
“One of the things I really enjoy about leadership is the opportunity to build a team to make us strong and united,” he said.
Baker has several challenges ahead, including another tough budget cycle next year, but said he’s approaching his first days as a superintendent with a healthy perspective.
“As the child of a superintendent, I never romanticized it,” he said. “But I knew it could be a great place to make a difference because of my passion for students.”
Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972