Comings and Goings

By Glenn Cook

John Baraniak had worked for 35 years in the Somerset Area School District when he started thinking about retirement in 2002. But with the district embroiled in a bitter teacher contract dispute, one that eventually became the longest in Pennsylvania’s history, the superintendent knew he couldn’t just walk away.

“I didn’t think it was ethically appropriate during the negotiations that I leave,” Baraniak says. “I didn’t think it was the right thing for the chief school executive to do.”

After three teacher strikes, the five-year contract battle finally ended last summer. Then, following a lengthy search that -- by all accounts -- helped salve Somerset’s wounds, the board hired a new assistant superintendent in the 2,650-student district. Those two developments, Baraniak says, led to his decision to retire when the 2005-06 school year ends.

“I love what I do, and I’m leaving at the top of my game,” he says. “Since this strike is over, we’ve gone through a real honeymoon period where we have great cooperation between the faculty and staff in trying to move the district ahead. It’s a good time to go.”

It’s a good time for Baraniak, but what’s ahead for Somerset? That answer is less certain. 

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