By: Carter Caldwell
It was the late 1980s, and a man with a permed mullet, caterpillar mustache, and tinted glasses strolled into Bellbrook High School, careful not to scuff his cowboy boots on the way in. He walked down the halls, greeting students with an eagerness and enthusiasm that continued to shine through three decades later.
Next year, Bellbrook High School students will have to stroll the halls without the man who has given so much to our community: Mr. Chris Baker. From being a social studies teacher, to athletic director, to principal, Mr. Baker’s presence in our school has been a source of constant reassurance in the face of adversity. In 2012, when Bellbrook High School was struck with the tragedy of losing three students, Mrs. Klepacz remembers Mr. Baker’s strong leadership and warm heart, as well as his constant resilience. No matter the circumstance, Mr. Baker has always been excellent at being there for us as a community.
Mr. Baker’s presence is not always of note in times of tragedy though: Coach Jenkins recalls meeting Mr. Baker in the sixth grade at football camp. As Jenkins came into high school, he appreciated Mr. Baker’s willingness to run routes with him and his teammates on Sunday nights, despite the fact that was no longer the head football coach. Flash forward twenty years, and Coach Jenkins is given the opportunity to work with and discuss the game of football with the man who taught him to love the game.
Indeed, many have had the opportunity to talk with Mr. Baker about football, or history, or anything: he simply has about him an air of appreciation and approachability that makes him prone to striking up conversations. Mr. O’Dell admires Mr. Baker’s seemingly laidback leadership that still manages to keep everyone in line, with no one slipping through the cracks. Year after year, the atmosphere of acceptance and self-worth that Mr. Baker contributes to pushes our high school to be ranked as one of the best in the nation.
Perhaps the most defining characteristic of Mr. Baker is one that the students don’t see: his dedication to all students at Bellbrook High School, regardless of their academic or athletic achievement. Mr. Erwin cannot count the number of times he has heard Mr. Baker say that one can never know when something will click for a kid, nor what that kid will be capable of some day. Mr. Hartley echoes this sentiment, noting our principal’s willingness to hear his students and staff out, and help them in any way possible. As he often has to be connected to discipline, students often do not get to see the caring side of their principal, despite its undeniable presence.
Another hidden side of Mr. Baker is his fun-loving nature. Mr. Fromm recalls a pep rally in the early 1990s when Mr. Baker, then the head football coach, traded uniforms with marching band director Mr. Spitzer. Decked out in a Trojan war helmet and all the trappings of that year’s marching band, Mr. Baker and Mr. Spitzer–who himself had donned a football uniform, pads and all–gave the entire student body a laugh and rallied school spirit at their own expense. Never one to be selfish, Mr. Baker showed Bellbrook High School that he was willing to put community ahead of himself, and he has continued to stick to that promise each and every day: from his early support of the student art show (Mrs. Fogarty and Mrs. Hensley appreciate it!) to his daily well-wishes and happy birthdays on the announcements, Mr. Baker has been an exemplary member of the team at Bellbrook High School from his first day. Things will certainly be different without his leadership in our building.