Wednesday, November 24, 1999

Southgate superintendent wins Ky. honor

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        SOUTHGATE — A Southgate first-grader once described Superintendent Bernard Sandfoss as the man who fixes the air conditioner. The label is apt.

        As the leader of Northern Kentucky's smallest district, Mr. Sandfoss is a diversified, hands-in-every-pot educator who serves on numerous regional and state education and community committees.

        In short, his peers say, Mr. Sandfoss does it all.

        For his dedication, Mr. Sandfoss was named the 2000 Kentucky Superintendent of the Year by the Kentucky Association of School Administrators.

        “People just do not know the kind of time he spends, particularly in lobbying efforts for education,” said Roland Haun, executive secretary of the association. “We're very proud of him.”

        Mr. Sandfoss, 55, and other state winners will be recognized in March at the American Association of School Administrators National Conference on Education in San Francisco. A National Superintendent of the Year will be named then.

        The state recognition

        comes during Mr. Sandfoss' 25th year as a superintendent, making him one of the state's longest-serving.

        “Every decision he makes is based on what's in the best interest of children,” said Walton-Verona Superintendent Robert Storer, who nominated Mr. Sandfoss for the award.

        “It's really a neat perspective to have. If he thinks a program is best for kids, he fully supports it whether or not his school benefits.”

        Mr. Storer, the 1999 Kentucky honoree, said he considers Mr. Sandfoss a mentor.

        Nearly 32 years after his first teaching job, Mr. Sandfoss remains deeply involved in education. He has served on state committees that improved teacher education and helped schools construct buildings.

        He was named to the Education Commissioner's Advisory Council in 1997. He is the vice president of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents.

        Mr. Sandfoss was the driving force in creating the Phoenix Program, an alternative school in Cold Spring for emotionally disturbed students.

        He is called upon regularly by other superintendents for advice.

        “I find this kind of involvement to be a payback,” Mr. Sandfoss said. “We all owe something to our profession. We need to take time to pay back where we are so someone who follows us has enhanced and improved opportunities.”

        Mr. Sandfoss' career started with his father, Bernard. The senior Mr. Sandfoss was a public works superintendent in Newport and later was Campbell County sheriff. Mr. Sandfoss saw his father's public service as another form of being an educator.

        “That was the lead-in to education for me,” Mr. Sandfoss said.

        Both parents encouraged Mr. Sandfoss and his brothers to finish high school and get a college degree. Mr. Sandfoss became one of the first in his family to do so, graduating from the University of Kentucky and later Xavier University.

        He student-taught at Covington's Holmes High School. He took his first teaching job in 1968 in Silver Grove Schools, where he also served as principal and superintendent.

        “Silver Grove has always had a warm place in my heart,” Mr. Sandfoss said. “I met my wife there.”

        Myra Sandfoss was a teacher. The couple has been married nearly 30 years. They live in Fort Thomas and have a 25-year-old son, Bryan.

        Mr. Sandfoss later became Newport Schools superintendent. He taught social studies at Dayton High School for a year.

        He took the Southgate job in 1991.

        Leading the 228-student, K-8 district is a challenge Mr. Sandfoss loves. His office is inside the district's only building. He can see the impact of new programs and lessons.

        He interacts with students every day, often eating lunch with first-graders at 11 a.m. to “charge his batteries.”

        “Sometimes the challenge is what to do for each individual child,” Mr. Sandfoss said. “It's our responsibility to provide those opportunities for them.”

        It's obvious what Mr. Sandfoss likes most about his job are the endless opportunities to learn how best to serve children.

        His involvement in committees and his interactions with other superintendents and educators always give him something — a new idea, a new lesson — to try at Southgate.

        Mr. Sandfoss' colleagues say what makes him special is a willingness to share.

        Jim Molley, Erlanger-Elsmere superintendent, said Mr. Sandfoss simply knows more than other superintendents because he has to do more. For example, as a small-district leader, Mr. Sandfoss handles the payroll. Most larger districts hire payroll administrators.

        “Bernie has a great understanding in a lot of areas that some of us don't,” Mr. Molley said. “Regardless of his role, when Bernie speaks, other people listen because we always learn something from him.”


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