New Tempe Union High School District Superintendent Kenneth Baca has some big shoes to fill following the departure of Steve Adolph. But Baca is certain he can continue the high standards set forth by his predecessor.

In the last week before the 2011-12 school year starts, Baca and other TUHSD administrators are making their rounds to every school in the district, getting to know teachers and getting everyone on the same page for the coming school year. Also last week the district hosted a leadership summit that involved discussions about how to improve.

"We got together to discuss the strengths of our district and where we could possibly innovate and improve," Baca said. "We talked about what our vision is and how that relates to our strategic plan."

The current five-year strategic plan, which sets goals for the district, like improving student achievement, is set to expire at the end of the 2012-13 school year. Baca said they are in position to further those goals in the coming school year.

"We met 34 of the 37 areas of the AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress), which makes us one of the top four performing school districts in Maricopa County," he said. "We are very appreciative of what our staff does and it shows the hard work our students put forth."

Another aspect that has set TUHSD apart is its pursuit of a sustainability program that encompasses all district school as well as the district offices.

Last school year, a plan was laid out to make the district more environmentally friendly and energy efficient. Baca said they will continue the effort and will be laying out further plans at a governing board meeting in August.

"We are definitely moving forward in sustainability," he said. "The students play an extremely important role in the program and it is our goal to prepare them for the workforce in areas like conservation and sustainability."

Baca was selected from a field of applicants to replace outgoing Superintendent Steve Adolph, who retired after more than 30 years of experience in education. He signed his contract on July 1 and has spent the past month preparing, which included meeting with Adolph, administrators and teachers.

"The transition period was very productive," Baca said. "The time was spent getting up to speed on policies and procedures and being able to spend a good amount of time with Mr. Adolph was very positive."

Previously, Baca worked as assistant superintendent for business services for the Phoenix Elementary School District.

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