South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Mehlville School District’s new superintendent excited for future

Mehlville superintendent excited about community support of district
Mehlville Superintendent Jeff Haug

The Mehlville School Distirct welcomed its new superintendent this month.

Dr. Jeff Haug officially started with the district July 3. He takes the helm from former Superintendent Chris Gaines, who retired from the position at the end of June to take a position with the nonprofit EducationPlus.

Haug was the former chief operations officer for Special School District. Before SSD, he worked as the chief financial officer for the Meramec Valley R-III School District, assistant superintendent for instruction in the Hazelwood School District and as a middle school principal.

He started his education career as a social studies teacher at St. Dominic High School and also taught at McCluer North High in the Ferguson-Florissant School District.

Haug, a St. Charles native, got his undergraduate degree from Truman State University and his master’s and doctorate degrees from Lindenwood University. He did not start out in education – in fact his first few positions out of undergrad were in business roles. It was during this time that him and his wife, Robyn, realized they both wanted to pursue a career in education and went on to get their teaching degrees while living in Phoenix. 

“We both really realized we loved kids, loved that coaching and teaching aspect and we wanted to be apart of it,” Haug said. “It was really re-affirmed that this is how it was supposed to be when we were walking past a middle school baseball game and both just kind of stopped … and without saying anything, we both just kind of watched and said, ‘Okay, this is why we’re doing it.’ We tried the business world but we were both like nope, education is where our heart is.”

While it wasn’t the path he initially pursued, he does have family ties in education.

“Both my parents are educators so it was one of those things that I thought I really wouldn’t go into education because mom and dad are, but you end up in education,” he said. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Haug was selected for the superintendent position in March but he is no stranger to the administrative side. He knew from the beginning when he got his start in education that he wanted to be in administration.

“I was drawn to that from the very beginning. I love kids, I love staff, I love what you can do with buildings. I knew that I could influence many more people and many more kids’ lives by getting into that,” Haug said. “I loved teaching. … And just those discussions that you can have with kids on a daily basis is just amazing but I always knew that the path I wanted to pursue was to get in and become a building principal.”

Haug is eager to continue capitalizing on the success of his predecessor. He joins the district after it recently passed Proposition E, a 31-cent tax levy increase to fund competitive salaries, and in the midst of construction for 2021’s Proposition S, the $35-million bond issue to address facilities and safety improvements at district buildings.

“I have a great deal of respect for Dr. Gaines, both professionally and him as a person. I knew that coming here, there would not be an education program that had not been thought completely through or be in the best interest of kids. As I come here, I’m excited about continuing what this community and this district has started,” Haug said. “Continuing that personalized education, expanding that through the middle school and high school. … Really just immersing myself in the community.”

The district’s Board of Education recently approved a resolution allowing the district to be part of the Success Ready Student Network Demonstration Project – the SRSN is a group of educators and stakeholders that “connects the … public school community” to personalize learning for students so they are “high school, college, career and workplace ready,” the group’s website states.

The demonstration project includes a state standardized testing waiver request.

Haug said the he feels the SRSN is a good opportunity for Mehlville and gives the district a chance to expand its personalized learning opportunities for students.

“We want to be able to capture a picture of a whole school district. We do so many things that are so good for kids and so good for families that you don’t want to tie it to just one or two metrics,” Haug said. “So by being apart of this (SRSN) we can really be leaders in the state to direct that where it goes.”

Haug added that despite the waiver, there were no plans to “overlook” current student growth.

“When we talk about personalized learning … we have very good teachers, and we have great teachers in our classrooms and our schools,” Haug said. “So we get to build on that. Teaching to the test — we’re going to look at data. We’re going to look at data from our MAP scores … from our formative assessments. … That will tell us where we’re at and where our kids can grow. … That’s the great part about education is that you take these themes and concepts, but you still leave that ability for a teacher to understand where they need to be but it gives them freedom to teach. … Our teachers are so smart, they’re so clever, they’re so creative.”

He is excited about the future of the district and its strategic plan, which is in its third year of its five-year iteration.

“It really is a nice spot to come into because I don’t have to come in and change it right away,” Haug said. “But we would never move forward without community engagement. … So as we move forward, as we go into next year … as we think about how we engage the community, I imagine it will be around academics … student growth and access to programs for our students, and support for our families.”

Overall, Haug said he wants to continue building on that community support for the district.

“I could not be more thankful for how supportive the community has been,” Haug said. “I think they (the community) really set a tone about what they want for their students and their kids with the passage of Prop E. The recruitment and retention of teachers that that will allow us to do will really help us to move forward to continue providing an education. … I’m coming in incredibly thankful.” 

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