End-of-year school bells on May 31 and June 1 also will mark the end of seven Coast Unified School District careers that spanned more than 140 years of employee experience.
The Cambria Education Foundation is to celebrate on Friday, May 11, retirements of these notable district employees:
Mark Kniffen, award-winning middle-school teacher, 33 years;
Karen Howard, physical education and social science teacher, 23 years;
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Dan O’Neill, band teacher, 21 years;
Sharon “Cookie” Henslin, business manager, 20 years;
Sandra Paolini, accounts and budget clerk, 20 years; Marge Goodale, bus driver, 16 years; and
Ginger Channell, transportation manager, 9 years (she actually retired in December).
The teachers and staff members have “directly or indirectly impacted many student lives for the better in Cambria, San Simeon, and Cayucos,” District Superintendent Chris Adams wrote in an e-interview. “They will all be missed as we cannot replace their years of experience and their institutional knowledge.”
District administrators haven’t yet completed their plan for filling those vacancies, he said.
The education foundation’s event also welcomes to the district new music teacher Larry Frost and marks the reassignment of Wade Lawrence as high school principal. Carrie Brown came in earlier this year to head up the transportation department, and former Coast high school principal Karl Dearie is now assistant superintendent in charge of personnel and accounting functions.
Social-studies teacher Kniffen, 65, was honored as California League of Middle Schools’ Region 8 Teacher of the Year in 2009-10. He was the Coast Unified teacher of the year in 1988-89 and 2006-07.
The Vietnam veteran (Army) coordinated the middle-school’s History Day Competition. In 19 years, more than 50 Kniffen students won statewide, battling against larger schools and districts.
Of those, 14 local kids went on to place first, second or third at the National History Day event in Washington, D.C. “We were probably the top winning school in the state of California and within the top 10 schools nationally,” Kniffen told The Cambrian. “But it was a ton of work.”
Kniffen’s leadership classes, which he founded about a decade ago, serve as coaches and volunteers at Special Olympics events, give American flags to veterans at Memorial and Veterans Day events, provide companionship to the elderly and raise money for those less fortunate.
Leadership students do good deeds because they need to be done, not to get applause or credit. “I wanted them to want to do those things because they were the right thing to do, not for any praise,” Kniffen said.
The apparent dichotomy of History Day and Leadership classes fits both sides of Kniffen’s personality, he said. “One side of me wants to give to others as quietly as possible the other side of me is very competitive I wanted to win.”
Adams said Kniffen also coached flag football, basketball and softball, and was voluntarily responsible for organizing and overseeing the schoolwide intramural sports program, helping foster school spirit.
The superintendent wrote that, “His students will forever remember Mr. Kniffen’s legacy as a teacher who asked students to give back to their community and as a teacher who cared immensely about their success both in middle school and in life.”
Karen Howard “has been instrumental in creating one of the finest physical education programs in the county and has promoted healthy living and choices for all of her students,” Adams wrote of the grammar- and middle-school teacher. Howard coached girls’ basketball and volleyball for many years and “was the major coordinator for the annual field day event.”
Marge Goodale, a Coast special-education bus driver, daily drove more than 250 miles to pick up and deliver 16 students to various school sites. Adams said Goodale’s also noted for her “unbelievable sense of humor” and “sense of resolve to get the students to school on time and safe each day,” a comfort to students and parents. She “is the consummate example of a team player” and always works “to solve the problems parents of special-needs students experience in daily school life.”
Sandra Paolini has handled budgets for many school districts, including at Coast for the past 20 years. Her math skills helped produce fine audit reports for the district. Adams also noted Paolini’s “friendly demeanor and excellent memory,” and said she’s the district’s unofficial historian, “as it seems that she knows everyone.” Paolini’s peers selected her Coast Unified’s Classified Employee of the Year in 2008-09.
Sharon “Cookie” Henslin is chief business official (CBO) for the Coast district and the Santa Lucia Regional Occupational Program consortium. Starting as a classroom aide in 1974 for Cayucos, she worked up the ladder and became “an example of excellence in fiscal management” locally and countywide, Adams wrote. Her audit reports get high marks from officials, and “her budget projections are usually dead on,” Adams added.
Ginger Channell directed Coast’s maintenance, operations and transportation functions for nine years. Her career followed “what only can be described as a 31-year love affair with school buses. Under her direction, Adams recalled, “the Coast Unified fleet of buses achieved the status of the best in the county.”
Celebration of Education
Cambria Education Foundation’s ninth annual event runs from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, May 11, at the outside courtyard of Cambria Garden & Arts center, between Linn’s Easy as Pie Café and Linn’s Gourmet Goods at 4251 Bridge Street. Reservations are due by Monday, May 7; reserve online at www.cambriaeducationfoundation.org. Charitable contributions of $25 cover gourmet appetizers, wine and beer, with $20 of each donation designated to go to CUSD employees.