CHARLOTTESVILLE — Despite the recent unexpected resignation of its superintendent, officials from the Eastern Hancock School Corp. say the school year is off to a routine start.
The Eastern Hancock School Board has hired an interim superintendent to fill the void until a new leader is hired, after former Superintendent Randy Harris left the district last month.
Steve Welsh, former superintendent of Blue River Valley School Corp. in nearby New Castle, has been appointed to a part-time interim position as Eastern Hancock’s leader. He’ll be in the office two or three days a week until a replacement is found.
Word came unexpectedly in mid-July that Harris, who had led the district since 2008, was leaving his post for a district in northeastern Indiana. The Huntington County Community School Corp. board commented at a school board meeting about its plans to hire Harris, who had not made a public announcement about leaving Eastern at the time.
Eastern Hancock board members said Harris had shared the news privately with them but wanted to wait until his hiring was made official before announcing the change to students and staff.
Since the district’s school year started Wednesday, Dave Pfaff, principal of the high school and middle school, said operations have been running normally.
“It’s just been smooth as can be inside the buildings,” he said. “You’d never know this was our first week because it just looks like we’re in midyear form.”
Though Welsh will work only part time for the district, Pfaff said the arrangement hasn’t changed the day-to-day operations in his buildings.
“It’s the same as usual for us,” said Pfaff, who’s worked for the district since 1979. “(Welsh) is available to us whether he’s on campus or off, and I think we’re in very good hands.”
Harris’ departure marked a complete turnover for the roster of superintendents of the county’s public schools. In 2014, Harold Olin took head of Greenfield-Central schools, and Southern Hancock appointed Lisa Lantrip to replace longtime Superintendent James Halik. Mt. Vernon appointed its new leader, Shane Robbins, this past spring.
School board members say the search for a full-time superintendent is underway, but they don’t intend to rush the process.
“We want to make sure we get the right person,” board member Scott Johnson said. “We know we need to get someone who will be a good fit for the community, and we’re going to take things one step at a time to make sure we find the right person.”
Scott Petry, president of Eastern Hancock’s school board, agreed, adding he hopes to have the position filled by the end of 2015.
Petry said the board members haven’t decided what criteria they’re looking for in a candidate. He said the district is working closely with the Indiana School Board Association, a statewide organization that helps connect school board members with the resources they need.
The Eastern Hancock school board will forward all résumés it receives from prospective candidates to the association then depend on the state organization to winnow the choices down to a handful of promising candidates.
“They won’t recommend anyone specifically; they’ll just guide us along that way,” Petry said. “We get the final say, along with our administrators.”
He said an ideal candidate will be outgoing and flexible.
“Things are changing in education weekly,” Petry said. “We want someone who will let administrators do their job while still giving them the tools and guidance that they need. That’s what we’ve had in the past, and it’s what we’re looking for now.”
He also added that before Harris left, he left school board members with a list of considerations they should take into account in their search for a superintendent.
Though Petry wouldn’t disclose what the specific considerations were, he said the board will take them seriously.
“We’re putting a lot of stock in what Randy had to say,” he said.