“I just love it,” Haff said. “I live here and I found a great match for myself. It is an incredible community and I have had a lot of opportunities. I really enjoyed my time here.”
Haff, and her husband Larry who is retiring in March from his position as a network administrator at University of California, Santa Cruz, recently moved from Boulder Creek to Santa Cruz to become “less car-dependent,” she said. In retirement Haff plans to walk every day, to travel and to spend more time with her children and granddaughter. Her son Eric is married and lives in Felton and daughter Emily is married and lives in San Francisco.
Haff’s career began when she was hired in 1978 by former Superintendent Joe Benedict out of San Jose State to teach first grade at Quail Hollow Elementary School. She taught at Quail Hollow, Boulder Creek and Redwood elementary schools for 15 years before she was hired as the principal of Boulder Creek in 1995.
Haff spent five years as principal before taking a job at the district office where she worked in several roles. She became superintendent in 2002 where she has served since.
“I look forward each day coming to work and I have been very fortunate to have my career in the valley,” Haff said. “We don’t have the problems big districts have.”
Haff said that being able to know all the staff in the district, many who have a community-minded focus made her job easier.
“The staff is just incredible,” she said. “We have a great working relationship with the staff labor-wise. It makes it fun to come to work every day.”
Haff said her focus has always been that the students come first and that academic achievement is the top priority of the district. Secondly, she said, schooling has changed and that the public schools must offer a competitive product as compared to charter, private, and other public schools.
The district academic scores have improved as a result.
“We want to be welcoming and friendly and go above and beyond for kids,” she said. “Parents should always feel totally welcome.”
Although never totally satisfied, Haff said that during her time, she is happy with the progress in those areas.
The biggest change Haff has seen in education is current as districts integrate the Common Core Standards into curriculums.
“There is a focus on accountability,” she said.
Online assessments have made everything more statistics-driven, and schools that are not reaching standards have to change.
“It’s an exciting time,” she said.
Haff has many memories of her time in the district, but has picked out a few.
She was part of a cadre of teachers who opened Redwood Elementary School as the district grew in the early 1990s.
Enrollment at Boulder Creek Elementary had reached more than 1,100 students as class sizes ballooned to 30-to-1 student to teacher ratios before the district opened Redwood.
“Classrooms were put up all across the tennis courts and lower playground,” she recalls.
Haff’s daughter was part of the first kindergarten classes at Redwood Elementary, and she recalls starting school that year without linoleum on the floors as the district opened the school in a hurry.
“Enrollment peaked,” she said. “It was a pretty exciting time in the school district.”
Haff remembers how the community pulled together during the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 and said that closing Redwood and Quail Hollow elementary schools in 2003 and 2004 was difficult.
Other accomplishments include the growth of the charter school program — SLV serves as the oversight of 1,800 charter school students and being able to work with the unions to limit health care costs incurred by the district.
When the district has labor issues, they go to the table and “work them out,” Haff said.
Haff said the district’s enrollment has leveled out in recent years – it peaked at 3,955 in 1994 and 1995 and declined to 2,273 last year. This year it is slightly up to 2,357.
Now the district has a careful formula that monitor’s enrollment versus staffing levels.
The district’s board of directors has hired a search firm and seeks a new superintendent. The interview process will take place this spring, with a likely replacement for Haff hired in May.