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Friday, May 19, 2017

Karen Cheser Named Superintendent of Fort Thomas Schools

Karen Cheser. Provided. 
Fort Thomas School has broken new ground by hiring their first female superintendent.

Karen Cheser, Deputy Superintendent/Chief Academic Officer of Boone County Schools, will take over the head position at the best school district in the state of Kentucky.

Cheser takes over for Gene Kirchner, who announced his retirement in March. Kirchner was hired by the district in 2012.

RELATED: Gene Kirchner On Why He's Retiring 

Cheser was named chief academic officer and deputy superintendent at Boone County Schools in 2012. She had been the district's superintendent for learning support services since 2009. She served as a teacher, coach, literacy and math specialist, principal, Distinguished Educator and district administrator.

Cheser’s career in education began in 1988 and has included positions as a teacher, coach, literacy and math specialist, principal, distinguished educator and district administrator. Prior to her years in education, she worked for Procter & Gamble Inc. in sales and brand management.

Earning an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership and Business Informatics from Northern Kentucky University, Cheser also has B.A., M.Ed. degrees and other coursework from Western Kentucky University, Northern Kentucky University and the University of Kentucky.

Boone County Schools is the third largest school district in the Commonwealth. The district is home to twenty-three schools including four high schools, five middle schools and fourteen elementary schools. They serve nearly 20,000 students from pre-school through 12th grade and have over 3,600 full and part time employees.

In 2015, Cheser was honored as a runner-up for the National Woman Administrator Award from the School Superintendents Association.

Cheser also helped lead the development of a Makerspace in Boone County Schools, where several of the student robotics teams in the district paired with the Northern Kentucky Leadership Class 2015.

“I am thrilled to partner with the Fort Thomas Board of Education to lead this district, where the schools are the heart of the community,” said Cheser.

“Fort Thomas is a rare find in the United States, where not only is a rich tradition of academic excellence well-known, but a desire to move schools to be the best in the world drives continuous improvement. I am looking forward to being part of this community, working with outstanding administrators, teachers, staff and parents to provide endless opportunities for our students.”

Cheser resides in Union, KY, with her husband and two sons, ages 14 and 17.  In her spare time she coaches her sons’ FIRST Tech Challenge Robotics and Odyssey of the Mind teams.

RELATED: Makerspace Movement Comes to NKY 

In April, Fort Thomas School Board Chair, Brad Fennell, told Fort Thomas Matters that the district would be looking to hire a superintendent that could continue the momentum of the district’s success.

Brad Fennell. FTM file. 
“We’ve looking for someone who’ll continue to innovate,” he said. “Our superintendent job is the best job in the state in public education and we understand the gravity of that. Our board will do everything we can to bring in the best candidate for the job because we understand that our school system us unique.”

The announcement from the Board came with a resounding harmony of applause.

The School Board formed a screening committee comprised of Michael Howton, Jeff Beach, Matt Winkler, Peter Winkler, Heidi Neltner and Dan Gorman.  They reviewed nine applications, conducted interviews and made their recommendations to the Board.

The Board reviewed all nine applications but ultimately interviewed three candidates on the recommendation of the screening committee.

"The Screening Committee and the Board did a fantastic job," said Fennell. "We had three candidates that would have been a fit here."

Cheser starts her four-year contract with Fort Thomas Independent Schools on July 1, 2017.

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