Harris out as HCCSC superintendent of schools

Huntington County Community School Corporation Superintendent Randy Harris is no longer working for the corporation, following his resignation during a special school board session held Tuesday, April 30.

Board members accepted the separation agreement with a 6-0 vote, with Board Member Gary McClellan abstaining. Harris’ resignation was effective May 1.

Following the vote, board member Brian Warpup noted Harris’ four years of service, having come to HCCSC in August of 2015.

“We had a lot of difficult decisions over the last four years to make, and I think you helped guide us in many of those instances, and I just want to say thank you and I wish you the best,” he said.

Harris thanked Warpup and the board, but made no other comment during the brief meeting.

In a press release from Board of School Trustees President Mathew Roth, he stated, “Both Mr. Harris and the board agree that this was in the mutual best interest of both parties.” No reason was offered for the resignation.

The press release enumerated Harris’ accomplishments as superintendent, including presiding over the closing of Northwest and Lancaster elementary schools, the re-opening of Horace Mann Elementary School and remodeling projects at Huntington North High School including the North Arena and the HNHS Auditorium projects. He also participated in the negotiation of four teacher contracts that increased teacher pay each time.

Roth said the board will immediately begin the process of hiring a new superintendent. During the interim period Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Chad Daugherty and Assistant Superintendent for Business and Classified Staff Scott Bumgardner will take responsibility for administrative operations.

During a work session held following the special meeting, the board discussed two potential referenda that will give voters an opportunity to weigh in on projects.

The first referendum addresses projects and academic needs at Huntington North High School and other projects.

“I know Mr. Bumgardner has been working with (general contractor) Hagerman and also with (architect) Barton-Coe-Vilamaa to think about what that impact will be – how much we’re going to really need to make sure our academic needs are met at the high school with this money,” Daugherty said, adding the pricetag is presented at around $79 million.

About $8 million of a second, operating referendum includes increases in teacher salaries, he said.

“But we’re looking at hopefully to get that number down,” he added. “We want to address the academic needs first, and then when we look at those academic needs, if we have enough money left over we can address those needs with some of the athletic facilities.”

HNHS Principal Russ Degitz said the teacher salaries increase would be used to raise the minimum salary as well as attract and retain the best and brightest teachers, which he said the corporation has been losing.

Bumgardner said there are also project needs, including the high school, preschool and expansion at the Learning Center. There are also athletic facilities that don’t meet the standards, he added. But he said the first priority must be academics.

“What we’re currently working on, is our largest need and our most important need, and also our largest pricetag need, which is our high school,” he told the board. “We are … looking at the best, most efficient way with the least impact to taxpayers to rebuild, repair our high school, and it is a desperate need for our community.”

Bumgardner also said athletic needs and sports facilities will also be addressed with the referendum. He added that money from the Roanoke building project will also be used to aid in the corporation’s needs projects to lessen the burden on the referendum.

“We are committed to two things. We are committed to putting out the best product possible, addressing academic needs first with our high school and our learning center,” he said. “But the thought that we are not going to address our sports facilities is simply untrue. We are. But what I can promise you is that will not have an impact on the taxpayer.”

Bumgardner added the school corporation is not yet ready to bring details of the projects referenda to the public, but will hold community meetings in May and June to answer the public’s questions on the plans.

“It is very important that we are transparent with our community to understand that we have more needs than we have funds at this time,” he said. “We have things that need addressed immediately, and we are putting together a plan to address those. And the fact that any of us think that we can do that without an impact on the taxpayer is just false.”

If the board approves the decision, both the operating referendum and the projects referendum will appear on the November ballot, Bumgardner said.

Following the work session board members met in an executive session. The agenda stated the purpose of the session was “to train school board members with an outside consultant about the performance of the role of the members as public officials.”

Executive sessions are closed to the public.

The next regular school board meeting is set for Monday, May 13, at 7 p.m. at Salamonie School, 1063E-900S, Warren.