Karen Clardy to run for RISD school board

Karen Clardy with her 3 grandsons

When Lake Highlands residents go to the polls May 6, they’ll see a familiar name on the ballot for school board – Karen Clardy. Clardy, who retired last May after 25 years working as the Executive Assistant at Lake Highlands High School, will seek the Place 3 spot vacated by Kris Oliver.

When I interviewed Clardy at her retirement, she waxed nostalgic about all the principals she has served as executive assistant over the years and recalled fond memories of graduation ceremonies gone by. She was looking forward, she said, to retiring with her husband, shopping with her daughter and spending time at her lake house with her grandchildren.

I asked if she’d lost her mind why she was willing to give up her relaxation time to run for school board.

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“I have enjoyed retirement tremendously,” says Clardy, “and will continue to enjoy my retirement and spending time with my grandchildren, but I feel that I still want to be of service to RISD. Since my retirement I have been approached by several people asking me to consider running for the school board, so it has been in the back of my mind. When I heard about Mr. Oliver’s early resignation from his position, I started thinking about seriously running. Mr. Oliver has been on the school board for 7 years and has done an outstanding job serving the RISD community.”

Oliver announced his resignation in January, explaining that his daughter will be graduating from college in May and would like to apply for employment with the RISD.

“I have spoken with several current and past board members that I greatly respect and I feel very encouraged that running for this board position is a good decision,” Clardy says. “Both of my children are graduates of RISD and my daughter started her teaching career at Northlake. My husband and children are very excited and supportive of my decision.  I think my husband knew that I wouldn’t be able to stay away from RISD when I retired from LHHS. After 45 years of marriage, he knows me pretty well.”

Clardy’s time spent inside LHHS, she says, gives her a unique perspective to serve.

“I have been directly involved with students, parents, teachers, school administrators, counselors, district staff and district support staff. I have served on several RISD committees such as the Budget Review Team, Retention Committee and the Technology Committee. I was a past president and board member of the Richardson Educational Support Staff Association. I was also on the RISD 100th Anniversary planning committee. I am currently serving on the board of the RISD Excellence in Education Foundation. I believe that, with my wide range of experiences in RISD, I would be able to bring to the board a well-rounded perspective.”

Clardy has also received the PTA Life Membership and Extended Membership, the Lake Highlands Exchange Club Unsung Hero Award (twice) and the RISD Excellence in Education Foundation’s Champions Award.

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Clardy is aware, though, that whoever is elected will have their work cut out for them.

“This has been a tough year for the school board, the district staff and the LH community. The other night I listened to the January board meeting on my computer. It reminded me just how heart wrenching this year has been for everyone. In my position at LHHS, it was important to me to keep my door always open, to listen and to build relationships and trust with teachers, parents, students and the community. I will continue that policy but on a much wider scale, because I am retired, so I have the time. My experience will be a valuable link between the community and school district.”

I asked if Clardy was running with an “agenda” or a desire to make specific changes.

“This year I have been participating in ‘Inside RISD.’ It is a wonderful educational program that RISD has created for community members to learn more about RISD. Dr. Stone started the first meeting off with such enthusiasm! She had me at #RISDGreatness! RISD is growing and stretching its wings, and I want to be a part of guiding this great district in the right direction. I attended the board meeting last night, and I was so pleased to hear about the great strides the district is taking to upgrade student technology.”

There are two schools of thought. One, that school board members should have experience sending their kids all the way through the system  and have historical perspective and two, that they should currently have children enrolled to know what’s going on in the classroom. I asked Clardy’s view.

“It is important to have the perspective of both current parents and parents who have already been on the journey as part of the school board. It is absolutely necessary to understand all sides of an issue. My viewpoint as a retired RISD employee, resident and parent covers a lot of territory. I have no special agenda other than to assure that all RISD students receive the best education possible and to always make decisions that are in the best interest of our students.”

Because filling Oliver’s seat constitutes a “special election,” candidates have until March 6th to file an application for a spot on the ballot. Rumors are swirling about other possible candidates, but none have officially announced. Justin Bono and Dr. Kristin Kuhne have announced their intentions to run for re-election for their places.

If you intend to run for school board, I’d like to hear from you. Email me at ctoler@advocatemag.com. The election is May 6 and early voting begins April 24.

Karen Clardy
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