Karen Fisher was prepared for the sizable work load that comes with being a Cherry Creek School District Board of Education member.
Unlike many of her peers on the board, Fisher didn't have to adjust to the hours upon hours of research, school visits and other work involved in the post. By the time Fisher was elected to the Cherry Creek board in 2013, she'd served in volunteer roles at Belleview Elementary, Campus Middle School and Cherry Creek High School. She'd worked on accountability committees, served on the Community Asset Project Board, helped organize the first Family Wellness Summits and worked extensively with the district's Parents Council.
"I was really interested in running for school board for a number of years," Fisher said. "I attended meetings for a number of years before I was elected, and my transition was pretty smooth."
Part of that activism stemmed from Fisher's role as a parent of six children enrolled in the district. But Fisher, who earned an executive MBA in finance and marketing from Southern Methodist University in Dallas and held high-profile positions at large banks across the country, also chalks up her years of activism to a well-honed work ethic.
"Around when our fourth child was born, I quit my job at the bank. Because I had worked since before I graduated from college, I really threw myself into volunteering at the schools," Fisher said. "There was no way I was going to sit at home all the time. I was immediately pegged into treasurer jobs, and I loved it."
Fisher found such an easy fit in the district thanks in large part to Cherry Creek's longstanding emphasis on the value of neighborhood schools. With six children enrolled in the same preschool, elementary, middle and high school over the years (Fisher's two youngest – twins – are still enrolled at Cherry Creek High; the rest have moved on to college), it was easy to make community connections and find important roles to play in the district. From advocating for students' overall wellness to educating the community on the importance of bond and budget elections, Fisher took her district roles seriously.
"We have been in the same neighborhood. All of my kids went to the same preschool, elementary, middle school and high school," she said. "It was easy to share ideas and make connections."
But Fisher's work on the countless committees and boards also opened her eyes to the diversity of the district. She marveled at the cultural differences that can exist between two schools mere miles away; the range and scope of the Cherry Creek community helped make up her mind to run for a board position.
"I started to get a better appreciation for the diversity of the district; diversity in every sense," Fisher said. "I started to love that … I started educating myself as much as I could."
But even with years of preparation working on district committees and heading school volunteer organizations, Fisher said she still had a lot to learn when she took the oath as board member. The learning curve on the board is unique, and she's tackled the responsibility in part through lots and lots of reading. She's quick to quote from the recent dense reports the board receives on a weekly basis. She's apt to cite award-winning novels that explore social issues ranging from the achievement gap to psychological and physical wellness. The impressive reading lists are part of the job, she explains, but the most important part of board service comes in the everyday interactions with parents, teachers, staff, administrators and, of course, students.
"My biggest focus has been to learn about ways to reach all learners," she said, pointing to her ongoing work with students ranging from special needs populations to the community at Endeavor Academy, an alternative program. "As a mom, I love hearing people talk about their kids, and every kid is different. No two students are the same."
Those kinds of connections make board service a much more enriching gig than Fisher's time working as a financial expert at high-profile banks.
"This is more rewarding for me," Fisher said. "I've lived in this community for 24 years. I come across a lot of different people, and it's a perfect fit."