For Karen Youngblood, Monday was the fulfillment of a promise made five years ago. But it also was a bittersweet day of celebration.
Youngblood, who has served on the Yukon School Board for the past 10 years, cast her final vote during Monday’s meeting. She had promised five years ago that she would not seek a third term on the board.
Her son graduated from Yukon High School in May.
Youngblood said she feels that parents should serve on the school board, because they see how the decisions they make will impact their own households.
“The schools deserve that,” she said. “I made a promise to the taxpayers. I had to follow through on that. I’ve always been a person of my word.”
Youngblood’s role on the school board has never varied. As the longest tenured board member, Youngblood said she felt the need to be an example and to lead the way.
“We’ve accomplished a lot. I have no delusions that it was me, myself. But I have been a driving force on tough decisions that had to be made. I am the one constant voice that has been on here for the past 10 years,” she said.
Over the last decade, the school board has asked voters to approve two bond issues. One in 2008, which occurred just before Youngblood was elected, helped pay for things like the Yukon High School and a state-of-the-art sports complex.
At the time, the bond issue was the largest passed by Yukon voters. It led the way to last year’s passage of a $45 million package that will help fund the construction of a new intermediate school, as well as a complete overhaul of every school in the district.
“There have been a lot of tough things. There was a change of leadership that was necessary. … The employees, faculty and staff banded together and said if it needed to be done, they were with us. This is bigger than one person,” Youngblood said.
“It hasn’t been all wonderful, but we have learned. It has been progress,” she said.
Youngblood said she never had an agenda, other than doing what is best for the children of Yukon.
“My only agenda for running was our kids and the taxpayers who support them. I did not tolerate the dividing ‘athletes versus academics’ debate, or advocate to get a ‘favorite sport’ or a ‘shiny’ new program. All programs have been lifted up to strengthen each individual student and hopefully extend to help strengthen their family unit too,” she said.
Meanwhile, school board president Suzanne Cannon praised Youngblood’s passion for kids.
“Karen brings strength, perseverance and analytical thinking to everything we do as a board. Her experience and passion for our district is unsurpassed. She has provided leadership during good times and bad,” Cannon said.
Cannon pointed out that during Youngblood’s tenure, the district has continued to grow despite funding issues at the state level. The district’s attendance and graduation rates continue to improve and the relationship between the district and the community is better than ever.
“This didn’t happen in a vacuum, and I can’t imagine these things happening without Karen’s commitment to our students, faculty and community,” Cannon said.
Youngblood efforts are not ending with her departure from the school board.
She has been appointed by Gov. Mary Fallin to the state board of juvenile affairs. In addition, she has helped start a charter school to benefit juveniles who are incarcerated.