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Jon Howerton: Principal of the matter

A few days ago, I sat in on a retirement party that included Mr. Jon C. Howerton as one of the guests of honor. While the emcee of the ceremony did the best he could, lost in the shuffle was a praise that comes from one of the ones educators usually purport to really matter most: the students. I will acquiesce.
From what I gather, the North Harrison Community School Corp. has never been too keen on naming any of its facilities after anyone who symbolized or symbolizes a greater good than the person as a single entity.
At Paoli, you have Cooke Field to play football on and Chambers Gymnasium to bounce basketballs and volleyballs in. At Brownstown, the Braves play football at Blevins Memorial Stadium, may James T. Blevins rest in peace. I won’t go on, but you get the idea.
Why has North Harrison bucked any naming of its facilities after the contributions of anyone? Perhaps the idea has never been brought up? I really doubt that. There is bound to be a gymnasium or a calculator room that could be named after Mr. Norris Trowbridge. The guy was an institution.
With all that said, let me propose that a statue be erected in the foyer of the middle school in honor of retiring principal Jon C. Howerton.
The guy has been the principal of North Harrison Middle School since the 1975-1976 school year. When I talked to him recently and we were running these numbers, I exclaimed, ‘Man, Jon, you were principal when Gerald Ford was President!’ I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful. I just feel I have a sense of what he has accomplished.
Thirty-one years as a middle – school principal is mind-boggling.
Put yourself in this position. Close your eyes and imagine you are standing in a hallway with 300 kids between ages 12 and 14. And you are in charge of all of them! For those of you who did not faint, I hope you have a better sense of what Mr. Howerton has been through over the last 31 years.
Being in charge of a middle school is a thankless job in many ways. Students at this age are as squirrelly as they will ever be in their lives. Unfortunately over the years, I have seen many middle- school administrators wrongly accused of not having control of a building full of hormonal pre- and barely teens who can’t seem to talk to their friends loud enough. It is just the culture of the building. Mr. Howerton’s longevity is a testament to his character and patience. My hat is off to him. It should be.
It was late May 1982. I was in the eighth grade, and it was the last day of school. I never was much of a water pistol man. Neither are the kids these days, so it seems. Thirty years ago the water pistol was a last-day-of-school mainstay.
Anyway, when I ventured into any mischief as a school-going youngster, two other guys, Mick Rutherford and Kelly Samons, were usually no more than an arm’s length away. On the last day of school when the three of us were in the eighth grade, we brought some firecrackers to school. They were not show-and-tell pieces.
We usually threw a football out in front of the school in mornings. I asked another friend, who will remain anonymous, to throw the ball over our heads and down the hill over the road at the east end of the campus. The three of us, Mick, Kelly and myself, went down the hill and pulled the firecrackers from out of our pockets and began applying their wicks to lit matches, thus creating firecrakeresque noise.
While we thought the coast was clear, the teachers were having a meeting in Mr. Martin’s room just across the road from where we were. They saw us head down the hill and not come back up. They also heard the firecrackers. I am also sure they were laughing at us as well.
Mr. Snyder was whistling as he ambled out of the room and across the road to inquire.
We were led to the office. Since it was the last day of the year, a three-day suspension was out of the question. Mr. Howerton did what he had to do. He rolled up his sleeves, pulled out his paddle and called Mr. Stackhouse into his office to be a witness. When Mr. Howerton asked me to empty my pockets, I produced a fist full of Black Cat firecrackers. He wasn’t impressed when I asked if I could have them back at the end of the school day.
I got three licks with the paddle. Mick and Kelly got the same. I can report that all three of us discovered a newfound respect for Mr. Howerton and the force he possessed in his right forearm.
He went on to tell us we were good boys, and he expected better from us. He told us we were leaders. I suppose he knew what he was talking about. To date, there are six college degrees between the three of us. Kelly Samons is an engineer with Cummins. Mick Rutherford is a decorated Indiana Conservation Officer. I am a school counselor.
In large part, we (Mick, Kelly, I and literally thousands of others) have Mr. Jon C. Howerton to thank, for he was indeed the coolest of calm in that junior high storm.

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