Departing school director offers words of thanks

To the editor:

As Thursday, Nov. 21, was my final public board session, I would like to take this brief opportunity to thank my fellow board members, as well as our school community, for giving me the opportunity to serve the Mifflin County School District for these past eight years. It has truly been a privilege to have served with so many conscientious supporters of our public school system.

For those who have never served in this capacity, I can tell you it has been a tremendous challenge and a tremendous learning process. During the past four years alone in the aftermath of our national economic crisis, we have labored to make some very difficult choices in order to preserve our system and put ourselves back on a fiscal path that will help sustain us down the road. In these past four years alone, we have had to do many things, such as:

Hire a new superintendent

Complete a district-wide feasibility study

Close six school buildings

Completely restructure the district

Successfully merge two high schools

Eliminate 83 positions

Negotiate five collective bargaining agreements (some more than once)

Move to a high deductible insurance plan to try to slow the skyrocketing costs affiliated with health care.

Renovate several very old, very tired buildings, and this is ongoing as I speak

Take more complete ownership of the CTC, including going to court to do so

And, all the while these things were being debated, decided and implemented, we’ve tried our best to keep the needs of our 5,300 students in mind and just make sure that the “day to day” jobs of educating are being done.

Shortly, it will be someone else’s turn to sit in these seats, and knowing what it’s like to sit here, I want to thank each of the new incoming board members for the willingness to take on this challenging, but wonderful role. And, I would be remiss if I didn’t specifically thank our administrative leadership team here at this table for their efforts in leading us through so many formidable challenges. I don’t think the general public can have a true appreciation for the pressure under which they work each day to try to keep us on a path of continuous improvement.

And finally, I want to thank our professional and support staff for their dedication to our children – they are critical to making everything work, and they too are under more pressure than at any other time in the history of public education.

Walter L. Harpster