“I had an eighth and ninth grade P.E. teacher named Bob Watson and he was a great role model,” Cass said. “He was a really good football coach and a really good teacher and I just remember him always being very encouraging, even though he was just our freshmen level coach. He continued to go to games and was very positive. He was almost like a father figure, you might say, to me.”
From that time Cass has known that he wanted to return the favor by influencing kids in the same way.
“For me, just the way I’m built, I love being a teacher and a coach,” Cass said. “I always wanted to be a teacher and a coach since I was in junior high. I really love coaching and teaching. The reason I always wanted to get into education in the first place was because I had great teachers and coaches as role models and I loved the idea of being in school.”
A major reason Cass wanted to be a teacher and coach was because of the impact that sports had on his life.
“I was kind of an at-risk kid and sports definitely got me through high school,” Cass said. “That whole experience let me and kept me wanting to go to school. I just think that athletics and activities are such a valuable at-risk program for kids. It keeps all kids in school because they all love being around athletics. Athletics builds so many different things, like a strong work ethic, a sense of team, a sense of commitment to get the job done whether it’s the right football play or doing the right thing on the baseball diamond or the wrestling mat. Whatever it is, I just think that athletics has so many great life lessons. That teamwork, that commitment, that work ethic, it all builds together. It’s definitely been the absolute biggest influence in my life.”
Cass has spent the past four years as the Coordinator of Athletics and Activities for the Washoe County School District after serving for 23 years as a teacher and coach at McQueen High, dean for a year at Reno High and the assistant principal at Wooster High for two. With that resume Cass has more than repaid the inspiration that he gained as a child.
“I grew up in the area when Ken was still coaching at McQueen so obviously I had a great deal of respect for him before I even met him,” Reed Athletic Director Ron Coombs said. “In working with him, you learn the same thing about Ken no matter where he is. He is consistent and fair. He always has the best interest of the kids and the district at heart any time he makes a decision. Any time he has to make decisions, the kids in our school district come first every time. He’s had a very long and distinguished career. With everything he’s done, he’s had an impact not only on kids’ lives but on anyone that he works with or helps out in the district. He’s had a very big impact on my life. I have nothing but respect for Ken.”
Spanish Springs Athletic Director Art Anderson echoed Coombs’ sentiments.
“It’s been a real privilege working alongside Ken,” Anderson said. “He’s done an outstanding job as Coordinator of Athletics and Activities. He better organized the district by putting us all under one umbrella. He’s always treated all the individual schools as a team and really focused on helping us work that way. Yeah, we each have our different rivalries and everything like that, but he really put us together as one unit and one team so we can work toward doing the best thing for the district and the kids.”
As the Coordinator of Athletics and Activities Cass was in charge of the general supervision and program evaluation of all middle and high school athletics, which encompassed a large number of responsibilities. Soon, Cass will be retiring from the position with the school district.
“I think all those experiences of being a teacher, a coach and a high school department leader, athletic director, athletic administrator made this job go relatively smoothly,” Cass said. “It was a good experience. I had really good relationships with almost all the other athletic directors and athletic administrators. We got a lot of stuff done because of those relationships, and the friendships that I had with those guys, made it easier.
“When I got into administration I still liked it, but being at the district level takes you away from the school site and the kids. And for me, being away from the school site was not as much fun. It has a high-stress factor for me because what happens when you’re at a district level job you don’t deal with your colleagues on a daily basis. It’s not like you have the great daily relationships like you do when you’re actually at a school site. That’s what bugged me about it.”
For those who have worked with Cass, it will be hard to see him leave.
“It’s a big loss for Washoe County to lose someone like him,” Coombs said. “Anytime you lose someone of Ken’s character and quality, they’re really difficult to replace. It’s not so much that someone else can’t do that job as well but I think Ken throughout his entire coaching and teaching career and administrative career has set the bar extremely high. I think everyone is sad to see him go but he’s put in his time.”
While Cass may be retiring from his position with the district, that does not mean he is retiring for good.
“I’m looking forward to a little more time to do the things I like and more time around my family,” Cass said. “I’m not really planning on retiring per say, I’m just retiring from the school district. I’ll keep working in one shape or form. Hopefully, maybe I’ll go back as a coach or be involved in some type of health and wellness for kids or go back into teaching. I’ll find my way, some way, to get back because I don’t really sit well and I don’t really see myself sitting around. I can’t imagine not going on a bike ride or to the gym. that is the top deal of the day. I think I’m going to stay pretty active and keep working.”