Carol Lark: Douglas position an educator's dream

Carol Lark said her new job is a professional educator's dream come true.

Lark's previous job was as assistant superintendent in charge of 61 schools in the Clark County School District where there are 317 schools in five regions in Las Vegas.

"Now it's 13 schools and 7,000 students - that's manageable," said Lark, who became Douglas County's superintendent of schools after John Soderman retired June 30.

She spent the first hours at work looking at the most recent test data which she said is important, but meeting the people she works with is the first order of business.

"The most important thing is getting to know the people here - starting with the school district office," Lark said. "I'm going to have a one-on-one with every human being in the building."

Lark plans to check out the summer school in session and visit with the staff.

"Then when instruction begins, I will be able to concentrate on school site personnel - teachers and support staff," she said. "Every person is critically important to our success because all support teachers in the classroom.

"The bottom line is - what they do benefits children."

In Las Vegas since 1989, Lark had risen from fourth-grade teacher to principal to an assistant superintendent in the Clark County School District.

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.

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.

"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 won Douglas County's superintendent search in February, wrapped up business in Clark County and moved to Carson Valley with her husband Bill Lark a few weeks ago.

Part of the reason for the move was to be closer to her son's family in Boise, Idaho, and part of the reason was to be able to make a difference in a school district.

"Las Vegas is short over 600 teachers for the upcoming school year," Lark said. "I was used to being 200 short. My heart goes out to them."

While Douglas County doesn't have the problems connected with an exploding student population as there is in Las Vegas, there are still issues for the new superintendent to tackle.

"An ongoing challenge is that the consolidation (of Lake Tahoe schools) is done in an equitable and fair manner," Lark said. "It's important to meet the needs of children as we close and reconfigure.

"I've already met with three groups. They advocate well for their children and I advocate well for all children so together we'll come up with a beneficial plan for the kids.

"I look forward to that," she said. "The community is a well-educated community on the whole and they rightfully hold us accountable for student achievement."

Lark has been working with the school board since she was hired in February.

"It's been a pleasure working with the school board," she said. "They are very open and visible and John Soderman has made the transition flawless. He's kept me in the loop for the past four months. I'm very thankful. He's very committed to the community."

Lark and her husband spent the weekend before her first day at work taking in their new town. She found it auspicious that her tenure began at the time of Minden's centennial celebration.

"Bill and I went to the 100th anniversary celebration and listened to the speakers and did the walking tour of the town - it was just fascinating," she said.

"Then we went to Genoa and I did some book shopping and found three old readers," she said about adding to the collection of old school books she's installed in her school district office in Minden's former grammar school.

The Baldwin's and Appleton's readers, circa 1873-1883, are in the old Minden Grammar School, circa 1918, where they may have been in a previous life.


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