In her fourth year leading one of the highest-performing school districts in Kentucky and the surrounding region, Dr. Karen Cheser announced that she will retire as superintendent on June 30, 2021, the last day of the 2020-2021 academic year. Dr. Cheser shared her plans at a meeting of the Board of Education on January 6, 2021.
“In Fort Thomas, we truly have the best and the brightest, not only in our classrooms and hallways but with community support that is second to none,” Dr. Cheser said. “Serving as superintendent of this wonderful district has been the honor of my career and I am so thankful for everything that we have accomplished together.”
Under Dr. Cheser’s leadership, the District has:
• Crafted and implemented “Portrait of a Graduate”, a series of key foundational concepts for our students, emphasized both in the classroom and in extracurricular activities, that provide a blueprint of the 21st-century skills our District wants students to embody as graduates.
• Completed construction on and opened Moyer Elementary School, and worked extensively with local and state lawmakers and stakeholders to obtain funding and begin construction on a brand new Johnson Elementary School, scheduled to open in time for the 2021-2022 academic year.
• Leased “Launch” from the building owner at 20 N. Grand Avenue in Fort Thomas, developing an offsite collaboration space and idea incubator for students, teachers, staff and leadership that is home to the App Development, Health Innovations, Entrepreneurship and Business Analytics flight paths at Highlands High School. The space provides students, teachers and community members with the tools to create and problem-solve collectively.
• Expanded the effective integration of 1-1 technology devices with all students and teachers in the District to promote digital learning and communication.
• Spearheaded programming and personnel that focus on the social-emotional and mental well-being of students, as well as Diversity, Equity and Inclusion through the Resiliency Poll, expanded counseling, and the district’s Inclusive Excellence Guiding Coalition.
• Collaborated extensively with health experts at the state and local levels to develop a plan for teachers and students to safely return to in-person instruction during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, and provide a remote learning option for interested students and families.
• And, using Dr. Cheser’s vast experience as a coach and member of the Greater Cincinnati STEM Collaborative, FTIS unveiled robotics, STEM Bike Club, and 3D printer clubs throughout the District as a way to introduce students to the skills that science, technology, engineering and mathematics develop.
“Dr. Cheser has done a magnificent job in Fort Thomas and we will miss her. Whether it’s providing new-age facilities or advancing our student performance in and out of the classroom,” said Jeff Beach, a Board member who has served four terms. “I remember her interview several years ago and how clear her vision was. By executing it so well, she has us ideally-positioned for the future.”
Dr. Cheser started her career in sales and brand management at Procter and Gamble before venturing into education, where she has been a teacher, coach, literacy and math specialist, principal, Distinguished Educator, director of curriculum, chief academic officer and deputy superintendent before moving to Fort Thomas in her current role in 2017.
“I am so fortunate to have had such a fulfilling career and to have met so many people along the way who have become lifelong friends. Relationships matter to me,” Dr. Cheser said. “Now is also the right time for me to step aside financially, given the way that pension benefits work in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. It makes the most sense for my family and our future.”
The Fort Thomas Independent Schools will conduct a national search to locate Dr. Cheser’s successor as superintendent and identify the ideal leader to build upon a well-established tradition of excellence.