Sunday, October 12, 2003

'Trial by fire' at Kings schools

New superintendent facing one challenge after another

By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Superintendent Charles Mason points out Kings Schools' storm-damaged baseball field.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
| ZOOM |
DEERFIELD TWP. - Kings Schools Superintendent Charles "Chuck" Mason has endured more adversity in a little more than two months on the job than some of his colleagues experience in an entire career.

Hired as Kings superintendent on Aug. 1 - and coming into office in the wake of voters' resounding rejection of the Warren County district's $43 million bond issue - Mason thought that might be the extent of any major, first-year woes.

Instead it was only the first of many.

"It's been a trial by fire," he said.

First, mold was detected at Kings High School. It required testing, which revealed no health dangers.

Later in August came U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials' discovery of lead on the senior and junior high schools' grounds, shutting down the community's football stadium, three weeks before Kings' first home game.

• In May voters overwhelmingly rejected a Kings bond issue that would have paid for $43 million renovation and expansion of Kings junior and senior high buildings.

• Soon after starting his new job Aug. 1, Mason had to deal with a mold problem in Kings High School.

• On Aug. 15 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials announce they have discovered lead on the senior and junior high grounds that forced the closing of the district's popular football stadium, leaving the Kings team temporarily without a home field. They are playing at nearby, privately owned Galbreath Field.

• On Sept. 27 a storm caused about $300,000 of damage to the senior and junior high and the district's bus fleet, forcing classes to close for two days during repairs.

Mason then had to find another playing field for football, as well as boys and girls soccer, and was fortunate when nearby Galbreath Field was made available.

Then came a storm on Sept. 27 that ripped up Kings' baseball field, tore into sections of the senior and junior high and damaged 51 of the 52-bus fleet. Classes were canceled for two days following the weekend storm.

That was the same weekend Mason was moving his family into a new home in nearby South Lebanon.

If Mason changed his name to "Hard Luck Chuck," everyone would understand, said Kings Board of Education member Bonnie Baker-Hicks.

The good-natured Mason is still able to smile when describing his eventful first two months as superintendent of the 3,800-student district.

"I've never seen a string of things like this so close together," said Mason. "But you have to play the hand you are dealt."

Making his job easier, he said, are the hundreds of community volunteers who helped during the crises.

"They have really come together for the schools," he said.


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