A “Super” beginning for Dr. Todd Bauer

Meeting+them+at+their+Level%3A+Dr.+Todd+Bauer+engages+with+some+elementary+school+students+during+the+2022-2023+school+year.+

Photo Courtesy of North Penn School and Community Engagement

Meeting them at their Level: Dr. Todd Bauer engages with some elementary school students during the 2022-2023 school year.

The road to the Superintendent’s office 

Being one of the top figures at North Penn can’t be easy, especially with the size of the school, the chaos that occurs every day in each building, and the responsibilities one holds in controlling all of that. When the position of superintendent opened up, however, Dr. Todd Bauer welcomed any obstacle thrown at him with open arms. What makes all the turmoil worth it for him though? The kids. 

In the back half of the 2021-2022 school year, Bauer was striving towards his next role in becoming North Penn’s new superintendent. After being successful in the interview process, he was named as the district’s new Super on June 29th, 2022.

“There’s somewhat of a natural progression there when you’re the assistant superintendent for four years, and your boss retires, and you have the certification to pursue that position,” Bauer explained.  I just felt, and my family felt that I was the best person for the job. My experience being here at the high school and being in the district for eight years, it just felt like it wasn’t a good time to switch to someone brand new from outside of the district.”

Bauer couldn’t have achieved this role without the support of those around him, especially from Dr. Curt Dietrich: former North Penn superintendent.

“I wanted to be a superintendent one day, and I am really honored to be in that position here in North Penn. I am grateful for everything Dr. Dietrich did for me to get me ready, and his encouragement to apply, and the support of those who were in favor of my candidacy,” Bauer said.

Bauer had nothing but great things to say about Dietrich, including all of his admirable traits as a leader, and learned so much from him in their years of working together that helped Bauer to ensure success in the position he has just taken on.

[Dr. Dietrich] is so, so, intelligent, so thoughtful, so kind and caring. He has a very strong faith base, and he is very family oriented… He was so patient, to a fault at times for me, I am impatient, and I learned from him.”

— Dr. Todd Bauer

“[Dr. Dietrich] is so, so, intelligent, so thoughtful, so kind and caring. He has a very strong faith base, and he is very family oriented… He was so patient, to a fault at times for me, I am impatient, and I learned from him; just take your time, try to get all the information, and make the best decision you can, and stand by it.”

Though his roots belong in Souderton, Bauer couldn’t be happier to have had a successful past and a future as an administrator here at North Penn.

“At this point I feel like I’m a member of the North Penn community. I grew up in the Souderton School district, I worked there, my wife teaches there, my kids go there, so I was always Souderton through and through. It was difficult to come to North Penn because they’re rivals,” Bauer elaborated. “I have completely transitioned, and I love it here. I feel like it’s a part of who I am at this point.”

Life has a funny way of getting you where you’re destined to be, and for Bauer, he believes just that…  because it happened to him once before.

Pointing in the Right Direction: Dr. Bauer address students in the NPHS cafeteria during the 2022-2023 school year. (Photo courtesy of NPSD Office of School and Community Engagement )

“I don’t know that I ever would have come to North Penn as the high school principal, had my boss in Central Bucks not encouraged me to apply,” Bauer explained. “I wanted to be a high school principal at the time, and I was waiting for an opportunity in Central Bucks. When Mr. Hynes was retiring here at North Penn, on the last day you could apply, I actually drove my application over at my lunchtime, because I was not [originally] going to apply.”

Even after finding his way to North Penn as a principal, Bauer was unsure of how much further he really wanted to move up. Sometimes, things just play out in one’s favor, and you end up finding your passion along the way.

“Honestly I never, at the start of my career, wanted to be a superintendent. I never wanted to be an administrator- I wanted to be a teacher and a coach,” Bauer started. “

“Life has a strange way of playing out, and as I pursued further opportunities for my education and got more certifications, opportunities presented themselves. It was never necessarily an end goal to be a superintendent or to be a principal, I just believe you seize opportunities as they present themselves, and this is the right place for me.”

 

All in a day’s work 

People think of the superintendent as just the “big man” of the district- which he is- but there is so much more in-depth work that this position entails.

“In general, the superintendent is in charge of all operations of the district, and it is really the conduit between the school system and the school board. Any issues that make their way to the school board, or if our school board members have questions or need to be informed about some things that are going on, I’m the person who communicates with the school board. So, I work with them on a regular basis, but I also support all of our administrators,” Bauer explained. 

Dr. Bauer visits with members of the NPSD community to issue tax rebate check. (Video courtesy of NPTV)

“If there’s a problem, I get involved and provide guidance, but it’s really executive leadership in terms of finances and policies and working with the board.”

There are good and bad sides to being at the top of the chain as a superintendent. Though the positives outweigh the negatives for Bauer, with that comes other issues and situations that can be stressful to handle.

“The higher up you go, the more significant the issues or challenges are that are on your desk. Very very rarely, do I get a phone call where someone is happy… Almost every time I pick up the phone, there’s a problem, and if that problem has made its way to me, it’s usually a pretty big problem,” Bauer elaborated.

Through all of that negativity, however, there is one way that Bauer manages to stay motivated and keep a positive front.

A Helping Hand: Dr. Bauer talks with an elementary school student early on in the 2022-2023 school year. (Photo courtesy of the NPSD Office of School and Community Engagement )

“It’s watching kids do what they love to do, and knowing you played a role in it. I believe I was put in this position for a reason, and as difficult as it can be sometimes, and the challenges with the issues, I just believe that if I didn’t do it, someone else would need to, and I want to be that person for students and their families,” Bauer explained.

 

Staying connected with the kids 

Unfortunately, the one key difference that Bauer struggles with in his new position happens to concern the kids, and the lack of time he has to spend with them. Though being a principal and superintendent have their leadership similarities, this struggle is relevant to how Bauer views his new role.

“Unfortunately, the major drawback has been lack of relationships with kids. When you’re a teacher you can really build relationships with kids. I would say even when I was high school principal here, I knew hundreds of kids, and well. I was able to build their trust, and I think kids recognize, ‘hey, that’s a good person who cares about us and wants to help,” Bauer said. “Now, even if you’re doing a great job as a superintendent and you’re highly visible and people see you all the time, they don’t know me, and I don’t know them, so that trust may not be there… That’s difficult, that’s the hardest part. I wish I knew more students.”

While there is a need for a family feel within the district involving relationships between students and staff, Bauer also works to prioritize his actual family, and still being there for them, while also being there for his North Penn family.

I am going to be a father and a husband, and a brother, and a son. I care deeply about the North Penn School District, but I’m also going to prioritize my family. That was really instilled upon me by Dr. Dietrich”

— Dr. Todd Bauer

“I am here bright and early every day and I’m here awfully late some nights, but there are times where I’m just a dad… I made that perfectly clear through the interview process; I am going to be a father and a husband, and a brother, and a son. I care deeply about the North Penn School District, but I’m also going to prioritize my family. That was really instilled upon me by Dr. Dietrich,” Bauer said.

 

Making adjustments 

In becoming someone at the top of the pyramid, it is not often an easy transition between roles, especially when taking on such an important one like Bauer has. It was a breeze for him though, between working with his support staff and gaining experience along the way.

“The adjustment, believe it or not, was actually pretty seamless. Dr. Dietrich did such a great job in trying to prepare me for the position, and he was handing over responsibilities throughout last year. Certainly, he and I did not know that I would get the job, but he was hopeful, as was I. I knew he was retiring well before it was public, and I was trying to prepare myself as if I was going to take over,” Bauer elaborated. “We just have a great team here in North Penn, from central office into all the schools. It would be completely ignorant for me to say I don’t need help, I do, but I think the transition has been pretty seamless. No overt act prepared me to be ready, it’s been gradual.”

 

What’s in store for NPSD? 

Though he is eager to get North Penn to the best place it can be, Bauer does not believe it would be wise for him to make drastic changes right off the bat. Instead, he is taking things slow, and is really looking to personalize with those in the district to ultimately link them into a family.

“I really want to get to know folks, I really need to invest a lot of time at the elementary level, because my entire career has been secondary. I really want to get to know that side of the operation well, but building relationships with people is my primary goal this year, not just within the organization but in the community,” Bauer emphasized.

 

Future of NPHS and 9th grade 

Most of us in the district have heard the circulating rumors concerning moving the ninth grades to a new section in the high school. These “rumors” are true, and Bauer and his team are working tirelessly to ensure this transition is smooth, whenever this may happen in the coming years.

“This is one of the largest high schools in the state, and we’re talking about making it bigger.” Bauer started. “With that, comes huge responsibility: financially and fiscally, but in terms of staffing and transition plans; if ninth grade comes to this campus, which teachers come? Is it all the ninth grade teachers from all the middle schools? Athletic fields; how’s that going to work? What’s the vision of this building?” he questioned. “All those decisions have to be made, I don’t believe they have to be made right now, because it’s going to take ten, twelve years to complete everything, but the high school is definitely going to be the next project.”

This drastic change, something North Penn hasn’t even thought of until recently, may cause some stress to not only administrators and staff, but other people in the community who are not familiar with this style of high school learning. I mean- we are making a massive high school even bigger… this is a chaotic plan. Bauer, however, is calm, cool, and collected when thinking about his plans for the future, plans that will ensure this runs smoothly.

Change is hard, no matter how old you are. It is not in our nature to enjoy change. We assimilate things in our minds with what we’re familiar with, and so a change is going to be hard…It can be done, it can be done well, it can be done safely”

— Dr. Todd Bauer

“Change is hard, no matter how old you are. It is not in our nature to enjoy change. We assimilate things in our minds with what we’re familiar with, and so a change is going to be hard…It can be done, it can be done well, it can be done safely,” Bauer began. “While everybody thinks North Penn is a huge monstrosity of a school, there are schools around the country that are way bigger… That all said, I think everybody will be fine, it’s just going to take time.”

Aside from dealing with the district as a whole, Bauer has a few goals of his own, as well as hopes of future collaborations that could help improve his personal position as a superintendent, and the effect he has on the North Penn community, specifically the kids. 

“I believe I need to be willing to go a bit more beyond the waters of the district… Leaning on colleagues who have more experience; I think that will really help me be successful, but also I want to make sure that I stay true to the kids. I want to be that person in every meeting, where the adults are making decisions and talking about things, and I force everyone to take a step back and say ‘well what do the kids want,’ because this is supposed to be about them,” Bauer emphasized. “It’s very easy to get wrapped up in adults making decisions that impact children, and sometimes the best advice you can get is you just talk to kids.”

 

A hopeful return to normalcy 

As far as learning goes, this is our first “normal” year in what feels like forever. There have been various signs through the first couple of months of this school year that really make you want to sit back and take a deep breath, because we are finally back to how we used to be. 

“The signs of normalcy include; seeing kids smiles, and all the activities coming back…Yes learning is incredibly important, but kids are motivated to come to school when they have other reasons, whether it’s athletics or activities, or just events you’re doing in school and the relationships you develop along the way. That’s what is most important to me at this point, is seeing the things beyond the classroom,” Bauer elaborated.

The signs of normalcy include; seeing kids smiles, and all the activities coming back…Yes learning is incredibly important, but kids are motivated to come to school when they have other reasons, whether it’s athletics or activities”

— Dr. Todd Bauer

On the negative, the pandemic has altered our education style so dramatically and so fast, it seems that the effects haven’t completely hit us yet. Bauer recognizes us, and hopes to address this before the weight comes crashing down on all of the students, all at once.

“Education, unfortunately, is a slow field to evolve, and we really evolved quickly in terms of online learning and virtual meetings out of necessity,” Bauer stated. “Social emotional health and behavior and mental health of our students and our staff is also a huge priority. I don’t believe we’ve yet seen the impact of the pandemic entirely on mental health; kids being in their homes for years and not socializing and not getting the support they need, people not getting the health care they needed because they’re afraid to go out. I think that the effects and the ripples from all of that, it will be years until we know all of that… I hope we can get to a more flexible learning environment that is representative of the skills that are required to be successful.” Bauer described.

There are more problems our district is facing as a result of the pandemic, but this time on an academic level. This has grown into one of the larger problems facing our schools today. Bauer chooses not to sweat over this though, and has visions of plans to get back to where we used to be.

“Aside from the high school and the financial impact of renovating this building, other challenges continue to be the learning loss from the pandemic. Our PSSA scores and those around the state dropped significantly. We’re not going to hide behind that, what we’re going to do is set up improvement plans and strive to return to greatness,” Bauer explained.

 

Change and growth for the better 

On the positive side of things, Bauer has recognized that, through all that we’ve faced regarding the changing education styles in past years, the district has grown together and strengthened as a unit.

“First and foremost, I’m proud of the people. On a daily basis, I see magic in motion from the kids doing what they do, to the teachers performing miracles in their classrooms. I’m proud of our support staff, and the ways in which they conduct themselves, the professionals that they are, how hard they work, and the fact that they’re willing to do whatever they can for kids,” Bauer said.

North Penn is a unique district on so many levels, especially pertaining to our size and what we are able to do with the numerous resources available, in order to cover any needs that any kid may have.

Dr. Bauer leads the NPSD staff in a district wide Phillies cheer at an inservice day meeting on Monday, October 24, 2022. (Video courtesy of NPTV)

“With our size, and when you have a school district this large, you have a lot more resources than some other districts, so we’re able to do some things that other districts just can’t do. We have technology advantages that other districts don’t have, and we have staffing advantages. We have coaches and professional development opportunities for the staff, we have higher education courses,” Bauer elaborated.

Aside from an educational standpoint, North Penn is lucky enough to be able to celebrate all of the differences prevalent throughout kids in each school. Bauer has noted that this is one of the greatest things that makes North Penn such a special place to be.

“Without question, every time you talk to students, they talk about how much they celebrate the diversity in North Penn. We have 80 different languages spoken in the district- that’s incredible- and people, kids in particular, are so accepting of one another. They don’t care what your race, your gender, your sexual orientation is, kids care about human beings, first and foremost, and they want everyone to feel comfortable and accepted, so those are the things that really just make me happy to be a part of it,” Bauer emphasized.

 

Family First 

As if his life couldn’t already be busy enough, Bauer and his wife have a strong history in sports, obviously leading his kids on the same route, and playing a big part in their day to day activities.

One of the most unique parts about Bauer’s family though, is his and his wife’s backstory.

My wife and I have been together since we were fifteen. We started dating when we were in tenth grade, but we’ve known each other since we were seven. We’ve been friends since we were little”

— Dr. Todd Bauer

“My wife and I have been together since we were fifteen. We started dating when we were in tenth grade, but we’ve known each other since we were seven. We’ve been friends since we were little,” Bauer said.

Now, with two very active kids of their own, they are not only happily married, but also quite busy. 

“We were both scholarship athletes in college, and our kids are very involved in athletics. They’re on a million different teams: travel teams, rec ball teams, all those things. We both coach a ton, so we’re going a hundred different directions because of that… Right now it just feels like chaos. Controlled chaos,” Bauer explained. “The other Sunday I ran from church, to lacrosse, to basketball, for my daughter, to basketball for my son; it’s just all the time. If I’m not here, that’s what I’m doing.”

Though Bauer has so much going on in his life, he is still a normal guy with a family and interests, one of those being his vacation spot in Vermont.

“We have a place in Vermont… We spend a lot of time up there skiing, hiking, and kayaking. We just like to be outdoors in the mountains. We don’t get up there as much as we’d like because of all the kids’ activities… but we love to ski and love to be up there,” Bauer described.

 

All roads lead to home 

It is no coincidence that Bauer ended up close to home working at North Penn. They say you always find your way back to your roots, and Bauer did just that by returning to his alma mater, Souderton, to take on a career as an educator- one of his careers before administering.

“It was always a dream of mine to teach math and coach swimming where I went to high school. That was what I wanted to do, and then things changed, and I pursued my masters degree, and I got my principal certification, and I decided, you know what, I want to be an assistant principal… What has kept us here is our school communities I would say, and family of course,” Bauer explained.

Through it all, Bauer wants nothing more but to continue to do good for the district, and show that he is there for the long haul, and is putting everything into this role.

“There will be times where people disagree with my decisions, there will be crises in the district where things happen, and there’s all kinds of social media outrage, and I’ll make mistakes… I hope that in the long run people know that I’m a good person who really cares and am doing my best,” Bauer emphasized.

Bauer has discovered that through every good and bad experience in this district, there is nowhere else he’d rather be.

“I can’t see myself working anywhere else. I love it here, I love the role. There are days where I don’t, there are days that are very very hard, and the hours are very long, but I just feel really fortunate to be here,” Bauer concluded.