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KSBA News Article

Beyond the Board

Beyond the Board

Tom Haggard, Covington Independent Schools

Kentucky School Advocate
April 2021

You are a lifelong resident of Covington. What made you want to run for the school board last year?

It was about loving Covington. I’m eager to tell Covington’s story so others can see how amazing our kids are and the great things they are up to. I also saw that some opportunities we had growing up weren’t here for kids today.

You worked for Covington Partners for 10 years. Tell us about that work.  

Covington Partners acts as a nonprofit arm of Covington schools. It started in 1999 to raise funds from community foundation grants and individual donors to sustain school programming that had been started through federal grants. Now Covington Partners is responsible for a lot of student support programming, including after-school and mentoring programs. I oversaw out-of-school-time programs. In my time there we received seven 21st Century Community Learning Center grants. The multisite program I oversaw served about 2,500 students a year.

You attended the summer learning program when you were a student, so you certainly understood the value.

Absolutely. It is an area that is near and dear to my heart. My current job is director of the Kentucky Out-of-School Alliance, a statewide advocacy organization that works to ensure we have enough programs to engage students and promotes the need for high quality after-school and summer learning programs.

Could you talk about what the Alliance does?

In normal times, in addition to online professional development, we would travel around the state and host professional development opportunities, like programs to help directors keep their doors open, for example ways to diversify funding to stay healthy financially. We also want to be the biggest cheerleader and advocate for the field. We do a lot of advocacy and research to show policy makers and elected officials the value and importance of out-of-school and summer learning programs. In 2020, we published a page on our website called Kentucky After 3 p.m., a comprehensive look at major benefits and barriers. In March we had a webinar with KSBA about how districts can use Covid relief funds to step up their game in after-school and summer learning.

Learning loss is a concern because of Covid. Are out-of-school programs part of the solution?

What we are advocating for is yes, we absolutely need to do remediation with students, but we think summer programs need to get kids to love learning again. After-school and summer learning are all about small groups, hands-on activities and engagement, the arts and STEM, and health and wellness activities. For sure, we will work on math and reading, but let’s do that in fun and different ways to spark joy again.

You played high school soccer at Holmes and were head boys’ varsity coach for five years at Covington Independent. Why are organized sports important?
Our kids at Covington are inner-city kids in a suburban setting. It was about showing our players they were just as good as everybody else. It was an opportunity to teach life lessons to kids who didn’t have a lot of confidence. At my first practice we had four players so it was quite a rebuilding; my last season was our most successful in school history. A number of players went on to play in college.

What has surprised you most about board service since you joined the board this January?  

The scale. I thought I understood how the school district functioned, but after having this 30,000-foot view and seeing how the pieces have to work together seamlessly, I realize I didn’t. Also, the amount of time it takes. To be well prepared, I spend quite a few hours each week reading materials, the board packet and asking questions.

Getting to know
Profession:
Director, Kentucky Out of School Alliance

Hometown: 
Covington

Family: Husband, Todd; golden retriever, Lady Bird, age 7

Favorite subject in school: Social studies  

Hobbies: 
I really don't have hobbies. What I do is my work.

Book recommendation for board members: 
“How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character” by Paul Tough. It’s about the nonacademic skills kids need to be successful.

Interesting fact: Through Covington Partners, I became a mentor in 2013 to a high school junior. We are still connected. He has graduated from college, earned a graduate degree and started a career. He got his first apartment last summer, and I got to help him move. I’m proud of him, and it has been nice to be on this journey with him as he has set goals and accomplished them one by one.

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