POWELL — Liberty Middle School will be under new guidance this school year as Brian Baker has been tabbed to replace Nichole Crothers, who has transitioned to the role of assistant director of professional development in the district.
Baker was approved by the Olentangy Schools Board of Education in May and comes to the district after having spent the last two school years as the principal at Buckeye Valley High School. He brings a total of 16 years of experience in education to the role, having also held elementary and middle school principal roles with the Buckeye Valley Local School District, among others.
“I am proud to be joining the One Olentangy team, where maximizing learning for every student is the gold standard,” Baker said in May. “I feel honored to join Liberty Middle School’s outstanding staff in serving our students for many years to come, both as principal and resident of Olentangy.”
Prior to his career in education, Baker graduated with a degree in business from Otterbein University and worked as a banker. Once he realized his true calling was in education, Baker started down that path as a third-grade teacher in Southwest Licking Schools. It was as a teacher and coach that he got involved with the school district and building leadership teams, leading him to ultimately decide to pursue a principal role.
Baker told The Gazette the ability to listen and evaluate the many different viewpoints of a community is important as the leader of a building.
“I think the key is to be a good listener and always look at different viewpoints,” he said. “As a principal, you are working with many stakeholder groups — parents, students, staff, administrators — and you have to find ways to balance interests in providing the best education for our students.”
Asked about the type of culture he hopes to promote at Liberty Middle School, Baker said, “I would like to partner with staff and parents to balance a continuous improvement mindset while constantly celebrating the large and small accomplishments made by our students and school.”
Baker emphasized the importance of building relationships with all stakeholders in the building, including parents, so that all parties can work together to make the 2022-23 school year a great experience.
He went on to say, “Liberty Middle School will continue to be an extension of the district vision of efficiency and high performance. I am thankful for the opportunity to be a principal in the district in which I live and have my own children attend.”
Tartt takes over at Shanahan
Baker won’t be the only new principal walking the halls of an OLSD middle school this year. With longtime Shanahan Middle School Principal Josh McDaniels now serving as the assistant director of human resources in the district, Steven Tartt has assumed the principal role at Shanahan.
Tartt, who was also approved by the district in May, wrapped up his third year as the Gahanna Middle School West principal this spring and brings a total of 28 years of experience in education to the district. Previously, he served in administrative roles as assistant principal in both Gahanna and Reynoldsburg and has also coached three sports at the high school level.
“I am truly honored to join Olentangy Schools, a district I have always admired from afar and one that I consider to be a destination district,” Tartt said in a press release. “I am excited to partner with the students, staff, and families at Shanahan Middle School in a collective effort to exude and inspire sustained excellence.”
OLSD Superintendent Mark Raiff said of the Baker and Tartt hirings, “We had an excellent pool of candidates for both roles and were very impressed with the caliber of our finalists. We found both Mr. Tartt and Mr. Baker to have excellent experience and be collaborative leaders that will serve the students at Shanahan and Liberty middle schools well.”