Starts position July 1
Michael Baumann is officially hired as District 194 superintendent after the School Board unanimously approved his 3-year contract at its May 23 meeting.
A former lieutenant colonel in the Army, Baumann promises a new kind of leadership style in the district when he starts July 1.
Baumann said he is not planning to come in with major changes, but is working on a detailed transition plan but plans to address any changes as a team.
“There’s nothing I see that requires radical adjustment,” Baumann said. “There’s things I see within staff operations that need to maybe change a little bit. We’ll do those things, but we’ll do it as a team.”
Baumann said he also wants to begin building a stronger, more effective partnership with district principals.
“I place a very high value on who they are and what they do,” Baumann said. “So, how I interact with them is probably going to be very different than any superintendent I’ve ever seen do it, because we’re a district of the right size and our principals are outstanding to a person, and I intend to leverage their abilities.”
He said principals will have “a lot more say” in how the district functions, and instead of forming a committee, Baumann plans to join the teams of principals that already exist at each level to work with them to develop ideas and directions.
“They know where things need to go,” Baumann said.
He is also planning to listen to stakeholders throughout the district and community to hear their ideas and gain input.
“I have ideas, others have ideas, and we need to be a little more organic in our processes for developing those ideas,” Baumann said. “So, less top-down, more bottom-up, and to do that you have to take time and work with different people, different ideas and try go bring the best ones forward.”
Baumann said ideas have to be evaluated in light of other logistics that include finance, staffing and planning design to make them “live and work and sustain.”
He said many times, he has seen great ideas fall apart because there was no logistical scaffolding applied to the ideas.
Baumann said he leads through example, and has already begun cutting time from his day to work side-by-side with district staff members to learn first-hand what they experience.
Baumann recently worked with district food service workers and maintenance teams.
“I know the primary function of the superintendent is not to do those jobs, but those are our teammates too, those are our people too, and it’s just fun to do some good, honest hard work and appreciate people who do that,” Baumann said. “Let them be the boss for a while. I can do all kinds of things and always have.”
He said he will seek to set specific goals in the district rather than broad statements to help set clear, cohesive direction.
Those goals will include his job performance standards which he and School Board members will meet to define in July.
He said the performance standards will be made well-known so he can be held accountable to the public and help shape the district’s direction.
“All of the leadership that shapes the organization knows what I”m being evaluated on, so they can asses how they’re going to support that process,” Baumann said.
By his request, Baumann’s contract does not include performance pay as part of his review.
He said he supports performance pay in the private sector, but does not see the utility of it in the public sector.
Baumann described his 198,000 salary as competitive and said he is driven to meet expectations and earn it without requiring additional performance pay.
“I am going to earn my pay,” Baumann said. “In the military that’s how it is. You don’t get extra, and you accomplish the mission.”
Baumann said in negotiating his contract, he wanted to set an example of less entitlement in the district, noting that although he could have doubled-up benefits he receives as a retired military member, he does not believe in doing so.
His contract includes one percent annual pay increases, an amount Baumann said he wanted because he did not want more than the lowest possible increase others working in the district may receive.
“I don’t believe people need to point at me and say well he’s getting all of this and we’re behind him,” Baumann said. “No, I’ll be the last. You be the first and that’s again my personal values and how I believe leadership is. The leader puts everything else first and yourself, you need to subordinate to whatever others are doing.”
Baumann’s contract includes vacation and sick pay with $17,000 paid annually into his retirement account.
It does not include a major severance package, a feature the district eliminated when Lisa Snyder was hired in 2012.
During the meeting, School Board Michelle Volk said Lisa Snyder also set the groundwork for a contract much different from others when she was hired six years ago, calling it “precedent setting.”
Her contract eliminated big severance payouts at a time when many superintendents were receiving packages worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
School Board Member Bob Erickson said Snyder’s contract served as a “standard-bearer” that many other districts in the state replicated.
During the meeting, Keliher thanked Baumann for “the professionalism and fairness that he brought to the table,” describing his contract as different from ones most districts are signing with their superintendents.
“We are very thankful and grateful for Mr. Baumann to step up and fill this position,” Keliher said.
Baumann said he is grateful for the opportunity, and hopes to bring a different kind of thinking to public education.
“It’s not about me,” Baumann said. “It’s about all of us, and so I should set the example.”
He said he feels very blessed for the opportunity to serve the district and wants to be as fair as he can be to others.
“This district is a huge part of our community, and just having the opportunity to work with this team, to work with our students in this community that I love is an incredible reward and I will give it my very, very best,” Baumann said.