Saturday, October 21, 2000

Schools lose stalwart

Haas winds up 24-year service on Campbell board

By Lori Hayes
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COLD SPRING — Carol Haas has spent nearly half her life in Campbell County schools.

        If you've attended a ball game, a graduation or an open house in the district in the past 2 1/2 decades, odds are she was there. As three-time chairwoman of the Campbell County school board, she's also been to more meetings than she can count.

[photo] More than one generation has been educated at Campbell County schools in the 24 years Carol Haas has been on the board. She's in the hall at Cline Elementary in Cold Spring.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
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        But after 24 years, Mrs. Haas is handing over the reins. Among the top 20 longest-serving school board members in Kentucky, Mrs. Haas is not seeking re-election this fall.

        “She will be sorely missed,” said Bill Voelker, the district's operations director who has worked with Mrs. Haas during her entire tenure on the board. “She's always been a strong advocate of what is the right thing for kids.”

        While she says her heart will always be with the school district, it wasn't a tough decision to leave.

        “I just had the feeling that I had other things to do, and it was time to go.”

        At the top of the list is spending time with her four grandchildren, the oldest of whom is a kindergarten student at Alexandria Elementary.

        When Mrs. Haas first ran for the school board in 1976, the older two of her three daughters were just starting at Cold Spring Elementary. She was active in the school's parent-teacher organization but wasn't too happy with her district's leadership.

        “There was not a woman on the school board, and the voice of a woman and a mother needed to be heard,” she said.

        Representing District 2, Mrs. Haas has campaigned six times. This fall, newcomers Kim Fender and Steve Morris are vying for the seat.

        Of the nearly 90 Kentucky school board members who are stepping down this year, Mrs. Haas is one of the top two retiring with the most experience. (Lynn Dawson of Logan County will also leave office after 24 years.)

        In a time when just finding candidates for school boards can be a struggle, the number of longtime members is dwindling.

        “It's often a thankless job,” said David Keller, director of the Kentucky School Boards Association. “It requires a great deal of emotional and intellectual energy at the same time.”

        One of the biggest challenges has been keeping up with rapidly changing education laws and district policies, Mrs. Haas said.

        “She researches everything,” Mr. Voelker said. “Carol really does pay attention to what is going on.”

        A Cincinnati native, Mrs. Haas has lived in Cold Spring for 31 years. She works at Hasco Tag Co., a family-owned business in Dayton that makes animal tags.

        Mrs. Haas' daughters — one is a fourth-grade teacher at Newport's Mildred Dean Elementary — all graduated from Campbell County. The most memorable part of the 24 years, she said, was handing her daughters their diplomas.

        The most significant change during her tenure was the 1990 Kentucky Education Reform Act. The biggest difference was the creation of school councils, she said.

        Designed to involve teachers and parents in school decisions, the councils were given control over most curriculum, budget and personnel decisions for their schools. That limited the power of school boards, something that's been hard for voters to understand.

        “It's disheartening when you have to tell people who elect you that you can't solve their problem,” Mrs. Haas said.

        Mrs. Haas' tenure has not been without controversy.

        Her toughest decision came in 1979. The district was on shaky financial ground so it fired several teachers. “That was a nightmare,” she said.

        Another nightmare came in the mid-'80s, Mrs. Haas said, when she was on the short end of a 3-2 vote to not renew former superintendent Dan Sullivan's contract. At the same meeting, the board voted to hire his replacement.

        But Mrs. Haas looks back on most of her 24 years fondly. She said the district's biggest achievement came in the mid-1990s, when it built a new high school.

        “She gets excited about the children learning, and you can see that enthusiasm,” said Cline Ele mentary Principal Linda Klembara. “When we have an activity going on, she'll be the first one here.”

        This week, Mrs. Haas received the Community Leadership Award from the Northern Kentucky Phi Delta Kappa chapter, an international educators group. The award is given to someone who is not an educator but has made significant contributions to education.

        While the award means a lot to her, the past 24 years haven't been about recognition, she said.

        “You do it because you believe in the district.”


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