There were hugs all around in an atmosphere appropriate for Valentine's Day when Carol Lark was named the Douglas County's new superintendent of schools.
"I can't imagine a better Valentine's Day present," said Lark on Tuesday. "It will be an honor and a pleasure to lead a district with so many accomplishments already."
Jim Huge, from Huge, Hager & Associates, the firm hired by the school district in the superintendent search, thanked the members of the school board for their cooperation in a smoothly-run search.
"There's no question Carol Lark matches what you were looking for and what the teachers and community were looking for," said Huge. "The kids will benefit."
Lark will start her new job after John Soderman retires June 30. According to her three-year contract negotiated in Tuesday's school board meeting, Lark will make $120,000 a year.
Lark said she is excited to move to Carson Valley but has to wrap things up in her current job as assistant superintendent of the Southeast Region of the Clark County School District in Las Vegas.
"We hope to move in June," said Lark. "I have lots of vacation days but I have to get things wound up in this position. I have to have closure."
Lark, 60, grew up in Kansas and moved to Bozeman, Mont., where she and her husband, Bill Lark, raised two sons. The family moved to Las Vegas where, since 1989, Lark has risen from fourth-grade teacher to principal to assistant superintendent.
Lark's accomplishments include being Nevada's National Distinguished Principal in 2003 and for being recognized by Gov. Kenny Guinn in his 2005 State of the State speech as an outstanding educator.
But Lark said her most rewarding accomplishments were being in the Peace Corps and being a principal at an at-risk elementary school in Las Vegas.
Lark became fluent in Spanish as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador when she was just out of high school. The time spent in South America influenced her years later when she was a principal at a school in a new, more prosperous neighborhood and requested to be moved to an at-risk Hispanic school.
"C.P. Squires Elementary School was the most rewarding experience," said Lark. "The first two years were extremely hard. The pleasure came from building a team and enjoying each other's company."
Lark and her team brought the 86 percent Hispanic and 91 percent free/reduced lunch school from being in need of improvement to a National Distinguished Title 1 school.
"Humor is important," she said. "I've found that when the staff is not under stress they do their best work.
"You don't have the incredible growth here as in Las Vegas," she said. "We won't have to be constantly worrying about staffing. My entire 17 years in Las Vegas was about growth. We opened 10-14 new schools every year. I feel like we'd never catch up.
"There's a different situation here. There's a declining student population. The lowest kindergarten enrollment in years, someone told me. Carson Valley also has an increasing retirement community which also has implications for schools," she said.
"I won't be starting off by going for a bond levy. I will be content on working on student achievement and not raising money. But I do welcome working with the legislature. When we work together, great things happen," Lark said.
Lark's husband, Bill Lark, taught eighth-grade science at Hyde Park Junior High School, a math and science magnet school in Las Vegas. He retired two years ago.
"Moving to Douglas County is going to be great," said Bill Lark. "You have the prettiest part of Nevada. Who could go wrong with that? We're looking forward to the different pace of life and the scenery. We both wanted this move - it's a great fit."
"I feel honored for the opportunity to serve the Douglas County community," said Carol Lark. "I see school as an extension of the community - that we have the same goal. In a community of parents, grandparents or even of people who have no children, we should agree that the children are our future - that we should give them many choices in their education."