The next Eastern Carver County school superintendent is a longtime administrator with a knack for making community connections.
When James Bauck takes over this summer as the new head of the Eastern Carver County Schools, he'll bring with him nearly two decades of experience as a superintendent in three other Minnesota school districts.
That's quite a résumé for a guy who got into teaching never dreaming of becoming an administrator, much less a superintendent.
"I enjoyed teaching and I never had those aspirations," said Bauck, 54, whose first job was in the Prior Lake School District, where he taught health, P.E. and biology to high school students.
His experience at every level in assorted school districts -- from Mounds View to Owatonna to Lakeville and, most recently, Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose -- is one of the reasons the Eastern Carver County school board chose him last week to become the district's next superintendent.
"He has a passion for education and that clearly comes across," school board Chairman Rod Franks said. "He expressed a deep caring for students and for learners and a lot of respect for educators."
Bauck has accepted the board's offer to become superintendent on July 1, subject to final contract negotiations. Thus ends the district's four-month-long superintendent search that began last fall when David Jennings, the current superintendent, said he would retire from school administration at the end of the school year.
Charlie Kyte, executive director of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators, called Bauck a solid leader and administrator.
His leadership style could help repair relationships with staff, frayed by contentious contract negotiations, and with the Chaska area public, stressed by the district's growing pains in recent years, Kyte added.
"He'll connect well with the community there," Kyte said.
A changing district
For the past three years, the Eastern Carver County School District has experienced tremendous change.
A growth spurt, which began a few years earlier during the housing boom, prompted school leaders to look at either expanding the existing high school or building a new one. Under Jennings' leadership, the board chose to build a new high school -- Chanhassen High -- which opened last fall.
Last spring, talk of freezing salaries for all employees, including teachers, provoked an outcry. And though it seems that option is no longer being pursued by district leaders in their negotiations with teachers for a new contract, the union leaders and the school board still haven't reached an agreement after months of talks.
Of the need to strengthen ties with the staff and the greater Chaska area community, Bauck acknowledged he'll have some work to do.
"It's going to take time," he said, ticking off some of the changes the district has made recently, including building the new high school and changing school boundaries. "Those are some fairly significant decisions, and that brings out emotions."
For that reason, he said he plans to spend his first six months on the job listening to people and learning about the district.
More challenges ahead
One of the biggest challenges District 112 faces is continued loss of state funding, Bauck said.
To continue to offer quality programs and balance the budget, he said, school leaders will need to consider a mix of strategies. Those could include spending more out of the district's fund balance, making further cuts, or asking voters to approve a local property tax increase.
"We may have to ask the local community to support us," Bauck said.
Franks said he was impressed with the priority Bauck has placed on communicating with his staff and the public and the innovative ways he has used to do that. In the Buffalo-Montrose-Hanover School District, Bauck started a "superintendent podcast" and made regular visits to school buildings to meet with staff, Franks said.
For Bauck, the Eastern Carver County schools job is a promising one.
He said he's drawn to the high value the community places on education, the district's long history of stability, and its drive to create something even better.
"It's this idea that they're not going to rest on their laurels," Bauck said. "That's a good work environment to walk into."
Allie Shah • 612-673-4488