Gregory Baker, the deputy superintendent of the Portland Public Schools in Oregon, will be the new superintendent of the Bellingham School District.
The Bellingham School Board unanimously approved the hiring at a special meeting Wednesday, March 31.
“I’m feeling humbled and grateful and very excited but I know there’s great expectations and great work ahead,” Baker said in a phone interview while looking at photos of Bellingham with his wife and three kids. “I’m excited to come up and work with a group of great people and a great community to make sure we have a world class education for all our kids.”
Baker, 41, will likely start July 1, however his contract is still being negotiated and may include some transition time for him to work with staff.
The school board has been searching for a new superintendent since Ken Vedra left the position to be the director of schools for the Emirates National School in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Sherrie Brown, the deputy superintendent while Vedra was in the district, has been the acting superintendent since October 1.
Baker’s salary has not been set, however Vedra’s annual salary was $171,500.
The school board reviewed public input about Baker, most of which was positive. However, some people were disappointed they only had one candidate to consider.
A national search, using consulting firm Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, resulted in 33 applications for the position. The applications were narrowed to six semi-finalists, who then went through two-hour interviews with the school board. Three finalists were selected, with one person pulling out of consideration before being named. Steven Herzog, a finalist from Colorado who was supposed to visit the day after Baker, dropped out after taking a superintendent position in the greater San Francisco area.
One of the things the board was looking for was someone who would be in the position for at least five years, something Baker and his family are planning on.
“We are very anxious to get the whole family there and settle down into a community that seems like a great place to raise a family and is commited to quality education,” he said. “We look forward to staying there long time.”
During the meeting, board members shared how pleased and impressed they were with Baker from the beginning.
“He quickly, for me, become on of the candidates I knew we would want,” said boardmember Steve Smith, adding that after he observed Baker interacting with students and staff, “that sealed the deal.”
During his four years with Portland schools, Baker has developed the Portland Leadership Collaborative, a partnership among the school district, Nike and the University of Washington Center for Educational Leadership.
Before working in Portland, Baker served as an intern and special assistant to the superintendent of Boston Public Schools, as part of the Urban Superintendents Program at Harvard University. He’s also worked in Spokane and Alaska and been a teacher, principal and coach.
Baker will receive his doctorate in education from the Harvard program this May. He also has a master’s in administration, planning and social policy from Harvard, a master’s in secondary education from Western Washington University, and a bachelor’s from Gonzaga University.