"Selfishly we are sad to see her go," said John Graf, chairman of the board of directors of the Northshire Day School. "She is a vital part of the school's success. We are really excited for her and her opportunity to retire and spend more time with her family, but selfishly we are sad to see her go and finding somebody to pass the torch to will definitely be something we will work hard at it in the next year."
Kern started working at the Northshire Day School in 1994 as the Office Manager when the school was still located on Highland Avenue. She described the place as rundown and saw a need for improvement.
"When we first came to Northshire Day School it was a small space, it was run-down, it had a leaky basement and I said to my husband I can't possibly work there everyday, it a little depressing," said Kern.
Kern then applied for and became Executive Director in 1996 and started leading the school to the goal of having a new building to call home. "It was a challenge because of our location and building, and it was hard to find employees at that point. Casleton was the only school around that provided an education degree so we were just hiring people who we thought were good with children," Kern said.
Since then not only has the Northshire Day School moved to a new location and building, but enrollment has doubled from 50 children and 11 staff members in 1996 to more than 100 children and 25 staff members.
"I feel like I have accomplished all that I set out to do and part of that was to provide an opportunity for a bigger audience of those who need childcare," said Kern.
Kern has also led the school to receive a four star rating (out of five) from the State of Vermont STEP Ahead program.
The STEP Ahead program is Vermont's quality recognition system for child care, preschool, and after-school programs. Programs that participate are stepping ahead - going above and beyond state regulations to provide professional services that meet the needs of children and families.
The Northshire Day School was originally established in 1968. In 1971 the school moved to its former location on Highland Avenue and then in 2006, officially moved to its current location on Route 7A.
"The first day at the new building was overwhelming, but it was a really great feeling, one I will never forget," said Kern. "We couldn't have done it without Leslie Keefe. She was the person who raised all the money for the new building. She certainly means a lot to this school," said Kern.
Leslie Keefe, of Leslie Keefe Consulting, played a vital role in the success of the Northshire Day School and raising money for the new building.
"It was a six-year process. I was at the chamber at the time when the board of the day school was considering the new building. During that time I was on the committee to find a development director to run the campaign," said Keefe.
Keefe then left the chamber to focus on family and started her own consulting firm. The Northshire Day School was her only client until the new building was completed.
"Carol is an amazing director; she is so dedicated," said Keefe. "I remember when my daughter was six months old when my son gave her a stuffed Curious George, she couldn't be without it. I forgot to bring it one day and Carol went across the street to my house, climbed through our window and got the Curious George so my daughter would stop crying. That is just one of many stories about how dedicated Carol really is."
Added Keefe, "I wish Carol the best, she worked very hard, and she deserves a very happy retirement."
As Kern started to look back on the 19 years she spent with the Northshire Day School she expressed appreciation for the help of everyone around her and to accomplish the goals she set out to achieve.
When asked why retire now, Kern said, "I have a granddaughter who lives six hours from here and 17 years making decisions as executive director it was just time. I just want to slow down and focus on family."
As Kern reminisced on her time spent at the Northshire Day School, she recalled how those around her and in the community made her job so much easier, and so much fun.
"There are so many things I want to say, so many people to thank," said Kern. "I could not have accomplished what I did without the help from so many people and I want to thank all of them from the bottom of my heart."