Faced with the sudden resignation of Superintendent Larry Mussoline, made official on March 12, and the shutdown of schools days later in response to the pandemic, the Haddonfield School District and its board of education appeared to have their backs to the wall in addressing the impending power vacuum.
They didn’t need to look too far to fill the void with an educator in tune with the district’s strategic goals.
At its virtual April 30 meeting, the board unanimously approved the hiring of Chuck Klaus — a Haddonfield resident who has spent nearly his entire professional career with the district and is currently assistant superintendent — to succeed Mussoline on July 1, thanks to a three-year contract.
Terms of the deal, pending approval from the Camden County superintendent, include a $180,000 per annum salary for the 2020-’21, 2021-’22 and 2022-’23 academic years.
“We are welcoming Charles Klaus to the district officially as our superintendent,” noted board President Adam Sangillo in formally announcing the move. “We’re very excited to have him on board. It’s befitting his work, and it befits the district.
“This is good for our direction.”
Klaus has served as the district’s assistant superintendent since May of 2019, and prior to that had been the interim assistant superintendent since July 2018.
“I think this is an excellent move by the board. I’ve worked with him, been in foxholes with him,” Mussoline said of Klaus. “My prediction is that Chuck will become one of your cultural icon school leaders. I can’t tell you how happy I am to see an internal guy take the head of his district.”
Klaus joined the district in 1994, after a teaching stint in Maple Shade. He rose to become the assistant principal of Haddonfield Memorial High School in 2008, served as principal for one year at Central Elementary, then came back to become principal at HMHS in 2011.
A wrestler during his days at Boston University, Klaus served as the Haddons’ varsity wrestling coach from 1993 to 2009, winning the most matches of any wrestling coach in school history.
Residing within walking distance of HMHS, Klaus’ commitment to education in the borough includes his three children, all proud graduates of district schools.
“I’m honored and humbled, but mostly, I’m thrilled for this,” he said. “I’ve lived and learned in this community. It really has molded who I am and how I approach life. I have always looked to give back what Haddonfield has given to me.
“I want to be a leader who develops a vision and gets progressive meaning in change,” Klaus added. “We’re not in the same place we were a couple years ago, but it’s a good direction. You’ve got to keep steering things forward, but at the same time honoring who we are and where we came from.”
Klaus cited as the chief factor in Haddonfield’s success and reputation the interpersonal relationships and communication between students, parents and school staff — and how all three must remain intertwined for progress to take root.
“We’re a group of people in this school district who improve every single day,” he said. “I am honored to have this leadership role and I look forward to continuing to grow as an individual, and to help grow the Haddonfield School District and community.”
Sangillo then praised Mussoline for his service. His tenure began as the district dealt with the fallout from an alleged racial incident that eventually forced the cancellation of the boys’ lacrosse season.
During the last two academic years, the longtime Pennsylvania-based educator worked to create a shift in philosophy, which included a new mission statement and three core competencies with which to send graduates into the world.
“We did a lot of work, a ton of work in two years,” Sangillo said of Mussoline. who laid the groundwork for 21st-century learning that Klaus will build upon. “And we picked the right guy to crack the whip and get things going and we appreciate those two years.
“Thank you for your time and all your energy.”
Klaus inherits a district attempting to make strides in terms of safety and security for all students; to progress in its long-range facilities plan for building upgrades; and to tackle issues such as AP course weighting, class rank and policy for unexpected long-term impact events like coronavirus.
The issue of a teacher’s contract — the current pact expires at the end of June — also looms on the horizon.
“Your dedication to the district is evident in your body of work over 26 years,” Sangillo said of Klaus. We’ve been working on pointing the board in a good direction in the last couple of years, and Chuck shares the vision.
“The board congratulates you.”