David Baugh, Superintendent of Schools, Centennial School District, Warminster, Pa., and Richard Sniscak, Superintendent, Parkland School District, Allentown, Pa.
Pennsylvania: Leaders Matter
Nominated By: Mark DiRocco, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators
Dr. David Baugh, Superintendent of Schools, Centennial School District, Warminster, Pa.
The story of Centennial School District learning is one of disrupting an alarming, district-wide trend while changing how people think about their work and deliver instruction.
David Baugh (https://www.centennialsd.org/domain/9) believes that excellence on state tests is a by-product of a world class education. To that end, his district has embraced a growth mindset approach grounded in the work of Carol Dweck. The district implemented Genius Hour to make school more meaningful and relevant to students with authentic problem-based learning.
An additional innovative piece was partnering with Khan Academy around custom learning and interventions to close identified learning gaps. These steps are helping Centennial become one of the more innovative and effective districts in the region. The goal is to increase student opportunities, not just test scores.
Prior to his arrival in Centennial, the district experienced 10 years of inconsistent leadership at the district and building level. Baugh is the longest serving superintendent in a decade at nearly three years.
Upon his arrival in October 2015, an initial assessment of the district’s performance and capacity for growth yielded a focused plan of action to address academic achievement. The findings were shared with the Board and the public through a televised Board meeting. The case for healthy change was made. The district’s curriculum was quickly aligned to the PA Common Core, and in one year, the school system revised the K-12 curriculum in math, RELA, science and social studies to align to the standards. There were no district-wide assessment protocols in place to monitor student achievement throughout the school year.
In 2017, the district integrated MAP assessments in Grades 3-11. Along with the MAP assessments, the administrative team developed student achievement plans with the teacher leaders where they analyzed the data from curriculum-based assessment data, district-wide assessment data and state assessment data, and began changing practice in the classroom with a student-centered focus.
For Centennial School District, evidence of student academic growth is based on what has been achieved in two school years with available assessment data. Focusing on the PA Growth Measure, Centennial has demonstrated a combined increase of 7.61% in the School Performance Profile scores from 2015-16 to 2016-17. Four of the six schools have evidence of meeting the standard for PA Academic Growth. It is important to note that prior to Baugh’s arrival, five of six schools were in a downward spiral.
Another measure of student academic growth is the grade level cohorts’ overall proficiency rates on the PSSA and Keystone Exams. The average increase in proficiency rates on the PSSAs between 2015-16 and 2016-17 was 4.86% in Math and 5.67% in ELA. Notably, the increase in the proficiency rate on the Grade 3 ELA PSSA was 12.56%, which was one of the indicators for the School Performance Profile scores.
The district-wide PVAAS projected growth measures indicate significant changes from 2016 to 2017 for the Biology Keystone Exam and Math PSSA in Grades 4-8. In 2017, the projection for academic growth on the PSSA Math in Grades 4-8 and the Biology Keystone Exam has significant evidence that the district has exceeded the standard. Five of the seven measured assessments increased in the projected academic growth for the students.
Exemplars of Leadership:
- Embraced problem-based learning and implemented it in district programs.
- Provided instructional leadership to reverse downward spiral of several schools with impressive results.
- Provided leadership and discipline in adopting sound instructional design across all grades.
Mr. Richard Sniscak, Superintendent, Parkland School District, Allentown, Pa.
Richard T. Sniscak (https://www.parklandsd.org/departments/superintendents-office) is entering his eight year as superintendent of the Parkland School District, serving 9,300 students in Allentown, Pa. He refined his craft and is often asked for guidance and advice from other superintendents from around the region and state. He is a passionate advocate for public education and is unwavering in his commitment to children, learning and continuous improvement.
Sniscak has spent 34 years in public education and is in his 24th year at Parkland where he fulfilled the roles of athletic director, high school principal and assistant superintendent, before becoming superintendent in 2011.
In 2016, Sniscak won the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association’s Superintendent of the Year Award. In 2016 and 2018, he earned the Top Leader Award in the Morning Call’s Top Workplace Campaign. For 2015-16, he was named by the National School Public Relations Association as a Superintendent to Watch for his dynamic leadership with a strong emphasis on communication. In 2018, he was the recipient of the Lehigh University School Study Council’s Cooperative Leadership Award, recognizing his exemplary efforts to establish relationships with other educational agencies.
Sniscak communicates regularly with legislators who represent the Parkland School District about topics germane to their budget and educational programming. This included visits to legislative offices and presentations to legislators at the Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit #21. He also coordinated several mailings with legislators, including Board Resolutions and meetings with the Lehigh County President Judge to discuss the increasing need for mental health services in Lehigh County and our Commonwealth.
Mr. Sniscak serves on the Board of the Lehigh County Children’s Roundtable, meets regularly with Western Lehigh Chamber of Commerce and has a great relationship with the three police departments that cover Parkland School District: South Whitehall Township Police, Upper Macungie Township Police and State Police as well the District Attorney’s office in Allentown.
Parkland School District, for the last 12 years, hosts three community-wide Emergency Responder meetings annually. Parkland had record attendance at these meetings as school safety and security were top of mind in the wake of the tragedy in Parkland, Fla. Last December, Parkland had a situation that required the district to expel a student for making a threat to the high school. Sniscak was asked to lead a discussion about how social media and school threats affected public communication with the district attorney this year, and he invited all school districts in the region to attend. Snisscak and his team jointly presented to school districts, addressing lessons learned from a tough situation.
In October 2018, as the result of a partnership formed with the former editor of The Morning Call, the Lehigh Valley’s major daily newspaper, Parkland High School hosted an educational program focused on the First Amendment in partnership with the Pennsylvania Bar Association, the Freedom Forum Institute, Muhlenberg College, a Harrisburg Law Firm, the Pennsylvania News Media Association and PBS TV39. The program included a survey that examines all 800 Parkland seniors’ views and knowledge about the First Amendment, which focuses on the freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly and petition. The televised forum included a presentation of original research by the First Amendment Center on Americans’ awareness of the First Amendment, analysis of the students’ survey results and a question and answer session. “No one at the Pennsylvania Bar Association has done a one-time educational program on this scale,” said Craig J. Staudenmaier, former Bar/Press Committee chair. We’re celebrating the 230th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution and the 50th anniversary of the Pennsylvania Constitution. This program helped students understand this cornerstone of our democracy.
Another area that Sniscak has shown exemplary leadership in has been school security. School Safety is a team effort and the School Board has been tremendously supportive and proactive in boosting school security efforts. For example, Parkland installed stop-arm cameras on school buses which catch oncoming traffic violators and has helped us improve safety at and around our bus stops. Violations are sent to local police and violators are ticketed for infractions. Silent alarms have been installed in key areas throughout all of our buildings, allowing alerts to be sent directly to the Lehigh County Emergency Response Center. Maps for the 911 system have been reviewed and updated to allow emergency responders to pinpoint precise locations of 911 calls.
Additionally, the district has enabled its phone system to allow the superintendent or any building principal the ability to pick up any District phone and broadcast emergency messages within the District or buildings. An upgrade to security camera software system was performed to include artificial intelligence that allows administrators to search footage using descriptors (e.g. find all males wearing blue pants and a black shirt). This enhanced capability will greatly improve speed and accuracy in searching video footage within the District’s fleet of more than 1,000 cameras. At the start of the 2018-19 school year, the entire staff of 1,350 employees went through state police training on how to respond to an assailant. It includes options for staff to use their judgement to run, hide or fight in order to remain safe in any situation, and the training model has been nationally endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Exemplars of Leadership:
- Demonstrated extraordinary leadership in the community and region garnering many awards and media appearances.
- Provided leadership in legislative setting.
- Demonstrated leadership in school safety matters.
To learn more about the superintendents profiled in AASA’s Leaders Matter campaign, visit https://aasacentral.org/leadersmatter/. To join the conversation via Twitter, please access #LeadersMatter.