Tosha Robinson Baugh has served as the principal of Franklin’s Johnson Elementary School since 2011 and has spent the last 24 years of her life in education, a path that has allowed her to share her love and passions with the next generation.
Baugh says that she has always been inspired by the many educators in her life, and as she played teacher as a child it was no surprise that she would end up in her current role.
“I grew up in a church with a lot of educators, they were my teachers, they were my church-family, my Sunday school teachers and I just watched them growing up and I played around being a teacher and everything like that, so just remembering how those educators before me were well-respected in the community and found these ways to help children, so I just remember that,” Baugh says.
Baugh attended Johnson Elementary as a third and fourth grade student. She later returned to the school as a student teacher and then become a full-time teacher, then became an assistant principal for five years. She now leads the school in her current role as principal.
That history has served Baugh well as she says that the personal connection to the community has helped her and the Johnson Elementary staff to continue to foster an environment that believes in building relationships and ultimately partnerships between educators, students and parents.
“It’s fascinating because I get to see some of these kids coming in who I either went to school with their parents or I know someone who they are related to, so I can build a relationship with the students,” Baugh says. “I love that when I can say, ‘Oh, I went to school with your mom and dad and we used to do this,’ and the kids, they love that.”
“We’re still a close-knit family in Franklin,” Baugh adds..
Baugh is only the fifth principal in the school’s history, which dates back to 1958 when it served Franklin’s African American children in first grade through eight grade until the school was fully integrated in 1971.
That history is even more personal and relevant for Baugh, who is a descendant of Harvey McLemore, a formerly enslaved man who started the historic Hard Bargain neighborhood that it serves.
The McLemore House, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1998, sits just across the street from Johnson Elementary School, and was the home of Baugh’s great-great-aunt Maggie Matthews where she remembers playing with her two best childhood friends, who lived in the neighborhood along with her grandmother.
The McLemore House has since transitioned from a living home to a staple of living history, becoming the The McLemore House Museum following its first renovation.
And just as Harvey McLemore shaped generations with his settlement and creation of a family and community in Franklin, his great-great-great-granddaughter is now helping to shape the lives of the children of Franklin.
“I love being a leader, I love being the biggest cheerleader for the students at my school, and I hope that a child can see that they can do great things,” Baugh says. “I didn’t have everything growing up, but I hope that they see that I work hard and have achieved a lot to get to this position.”
That support does not just apply for students, with Baugh explaining that the community within Johnson Elementary is one that aims to help everyone be their best version and to rally around each other in times of need. She hopes this attitude will continue long past her tenure.
“I pray and hope that I’m encouraging the ones that come up after me that they too can be an inspiration to others,” Baugh says.
“Mrs. Baugh’s quiet leadership style has helped lead the school to tremendous academic achievement,” FSSD Director of Schools Dr. David Snowden says of Baugh on the school’s website.
“Education is important, and we know that, and we want to make sure that our students are rising to their ability, but we want to make sure that everyone is taken care of and has their basic needs met,” Baugh says. “It goes beyond the education part, our love and support of our community, and our staff goes beyond in all directions for everyone.”