Douglas school trustee Sharla Hales reflects on 12 years of service
From budget cuts to revision of an evaluation system for all employees, Sharla Hales experienced many flashbacks earlier this month during her final meeting after 12 years of service on the Douglas County School District Board of Trustees.
Hales, 54, who reached the end of the three-term limit allowed by state law for state and local public offices, was recognized by the board during its regularly scheduled meeting Dec. 9 at Douglas High School.
“It was challenging and rewarding,” she said. “I don’t think there is any more important work as a community that we can do than educate our kids and help them to be ready to be adults. The highlights would be watching the superintendent, the principals, teachers and classified employees all putting their heart into educating our kids. They do really wonderful work and they’re the reason why Douglas is really a top-notch school district.”
Hales and her colleagues were recognized last month by the Nevada Association of School Boards as its Board of the Year. Trustee Neal Freitas was also recognized as New Board Member of the Year.
“Because I’ve been involved with the Nevada Association of School Boards, I’ve seen other boards work and I think our award is well deserved,” Hales said. “We are a highly functional board. We work together, we’re respectful and we have great diversity. But that diversity works to our strength because we’ve built on each other’s knowledge and passions, rather than divide based on our differences.”
Jim Hales spoke to trustees and the audience about some of the policies that were implemented during his wife’s time on the board. Among those she advocated were ASPIRE Academy High School, creation of the Junior ROTC program at Douglas High School, drug and alcohol testing for extracurricular activities, a revised evaluation system for the superintendent’s evaluation, moving the ninth grade back to the high school and individual counseling for eighth grade students to help them prepare for high school and even college.
“Many of these seem like no-brainers now, but at the time they were presented, many were highly controversial,” Jim Hales added. “These accomplishments were made only through the collective work of all of the members of the board.”
Hales received her bachelor and law degrees from Brigham Young University before the family moved to Carson Valley in 1989.
“From the time I first met Sharla, I knew she was interested in education at the primary and secondary level,” Jim Hales said. “When she went to law school, she took classes that were unique to education because she knew she wanted to be involved with education law.
“I know what it’s like when she determines that a particular decision is clearly the better way. Once she makes that determination, it becomes almost impossible to stop her.”
Board President Thomas Moore described recalled at the school board meeting how he was approached to fill an opening after Connie Wennhold died in March 2007. He described the time since then as a roller coaster ride, but that the majority of that ride has definitely been on the upside.
“I viewed that as two years I was committed to,” Moore said. “During those two years, I became an admirer in the way Sharla is able to speak on a subject, she is so doggone articulate. And the way she approached it was very intriguing to me. We were going through some challenges at that time and I was fortunate enough to work with Sharla, she was a mentor to me.”
Trustee Teri Jamin, who has served on the school board since 2005, described Hales as a mentor and role model for the school board.
“You do your homework, prepare for our meetings and research the issues and come up with ways that we can incorporate them into our district’s policies,” Jamin said during the meeting. “I feel that the district is a better place as a result of you being here and also your participation at the state level with the school board association and the Teachers and Leaders Council.”
Hales is unsure what the future holds although she will continue her work as a community member on the district’s music and fine arts program committee.
“The committee is focusing on music now and we’ll also take a look at the other arts,” she said. “I think it’s a great opportunity to really ask, ‘Are we doing all we can for the fine arts programs in our schools?’ And I think we’ll have opportunities to improve and I’m excited about being able to do that.”