By Jason Wesseldyk
From National Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day to National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day, there seems to be a day in honor of just about everything.
So, Otsego Public Schools Board of Education member Amy Stender reasoned, there had to be a Superintendent Appreciation Day, right? But after a quick Google search, she discovered that wasn’t the case.
Stender and the other board members decided that wasn’t acceptable and took matters into their own hands, creating an appreciation day for OPS superintendent Jeff Haase.
That day took place on Monday, Feb. 28, as part of the district’s workshop meeting. The board—which had spread the word throughout the district and community—presented Haase with a bucket filled with nearly 200 notes of appreciation and several gifts.
“We do a lot of celebrating at OPS, so I was curious if there was a day specifically for superintendents,” Stender said. “When I couldn’t find one, I figured why not create one?
“The past two years have been stressful for everyone, students and staff alike. I thought it was time that we started celebrating getting through a difficult period and we should start at the top.”
OPS Board of Education president Scot Reitenour said the goal of surprising Haase was successful.
“We had notes and gifts pour in from all corners of our district,” Reitenour said. “In addition to notes of appreciation from the Board of Education, there were letters and cards from students, teachers, parents, administration members and staff. Many people wanted to share their gratitude for all that Jeff has done for our district.
“The best part was we completely caught him off guard, which we wanted.”
According to Haase, the gesture brought tears to his eyes.
“I was totally shocked and surprised,” he said. “I’m not one who likes that kind of attention as I feel it should be directed back at our board and employees. I truly appreciate all the work they do, especially for how much all of them have been through over the past two years.”
Reitenour said the quality of Haase’s leadership has been on full display during the past two yeas as he helped the district navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Jeff has been a strong leader through challenging times,” Reitenour said. “He works tirelessly for Otesgo Public Schools and was steadfast during the chaos of the early pandemic, leading our district to make decisions that served our students well.
“His leadership didn’t falter as the pandemic continued, though the challenges did not diminish. Jeff is great at building relationships, and this skill is more important now than ever. It’s something Otsego Public Schools deeply values.”
“While none of the decisions Jeff and the board have made over the last few years have been easy, Jeff’s steady leadership and willingness to listen and hear all stakeholders has significantly contributed to the stability that the Otsego district was able to maintain,” she said. “
“As a leader, Jeff knows that you can’t make everyone happy 100 percent of the time, but when he keeps his focus on the goals of the district and therefore on the success of students, excellence follows. In a situation that confronted the district with challenges never seen before, he led with tranquil strength.”
And Superintendent Appreciation Day wasn’t a one-time event, as the board members plan to make it an annual affair each Feb. 28.
“We hope other districts will remember to take a moment to appreciate their superintendents as well,” Reitenour said. “It’s a challenging job, especially in these difficult times.”