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Holly Jack Outstanding Service Award

Karen Vota of Coal City CUSD 1 accepted the Holly Jack Outstanding Service Award during the opening session of the Secretaries’ Program at the 2016 Joint Annual Conference on Nov. 22. Vota serves as both the superintendent’s administrative assistant and board of education secretary for Coal City. She is the eighth recipient of the annual award.

Karen VotaVota was chosen to from among 25 nominees. She has spent nearly 30 years working in public education, beginning as a copy clerk in 1987. In 1991, Vota moved on to the clerk position at the middle school and two years later was working as a secretary in the main district office. In 2000, she was promoted to the head secretary position at the new Coal City middle school. After serving four years in that capacity, Vota was named administrative assistant to the superintendent while also assuming the duties of school board secretary.

“This is such a prestigious award and honor,” Vota said when receiving the award. “Each of this year’s nominees has made incredible contributions to their communities.”

The award was created to honor the memory of Holly Jack, a long-time employee of the Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB), who served as an IASB field services administrative assistant and was instrumental in creating professional development programs for board and district secretaries. The purpose of the award is to both honor Holly’s contribution and memory and to recognize the extraordinary work and service provided by secretaries who serve and assist their local boards of education.

WinnerA selection committee comprised of individuals representing board members, superintendents, school business officials, district administrative assistants, and former IASB administrative assistants reviewed the nominating materials and made the selection. Nominations were made by district superintendents and school board presidents. The judges considered the following criteria: performance, initiative, innovation, staff development, self-improvement, passion for public education, and dedication to the district and community.

In addition to her secretarial duties, Vota has taken on responsibilities that include organizing training opportunities for clerical staff, handling the student registration process, managing the cafeteria program, and streamlining board meetings through the use of technology.   She also serves as the district data manager, assists with a number of financial related reports, and has helped with cost-saving transportation route analysis.

“I was immediately impressed by Karen’s professionalism and work ethic,” said Coal City Superintendent Kent Bugg. “I had never met a secretary who was so productive, yet still managed to find the time to make our faculty, students, and the public her top priority.”

Vota credited Bugg for his constant encouragement to seek new opportunities to learn and improve. “Dr. Bugg has created a culture of excellence. I was always encouraged to broaden my knowledge base,” Vota emphasized. “He consistently expected us to do more for the students and community.”  

Shawn Hamilton, board president of CUSD 1, also cited Vota’s work ethic, positive attitude, and continual desire for self-improvement when nominating her for the award. “Karen always brings a passion for the district and community in fulfilling her role as school board secretary,” stressed Hamilton. “She understands that the support she provides the board and superintendent on a day-to-day basis helps us fulfill our [the board’s] key mission of ‘excellence in local school governance.’”


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