N. Harrison hires new interim chief
The resignation of North Harrison Community School Corp.’s interim superintendent was accepted yesterday evening (Tuesday) during a special meeting and his successor was hired.
But the reasons why Dr. Thomas Fihe resigned less than two months on the job vary.
The five-member school board listened for nearly 40 minutes to comments from the public, including teachers and other educators, who urged the members to reject Fihe’s resignation. However, they voted 3-2 to accept it, following Jerry Renneker’s motion and Michael Beyerle’s second. Gary Byrne voted with the two men who were elected to the board last year, while Bobby Chinn and Fred Naegele voted against.
Renneker said the decision was not an easy one to make but he had ‘lost confidence’ in Fihe.
Beyerle reiterated Renneker’s comment, saying it was a lack of confidence in decisions being made, not about contract negotiations. North Harrison teachers have been working on a contract that expired more than four years ago.
Next, the board passed a motion, by a 4-0-1 vote (Naegele abstained), to hire Randy Barrett as the next interim superintendent.
Beyerle said after the meeting that he was under the impression that Barrett would begin his duties today.
In a phone interview last night with Fihe, who was not at the meeting, he said he decided to resign Friday morning after board members indicated to him that they had found a ‘strong candidate’ following interviews Wednesday and Thursday evenings.
‘We didn’t really have a contract,’ Fihe said. ‘We had a day-to-day agreement’ that stipulated that either party could end the arrangement with three days’ notice.
Fihe, who retired six years ago as superintendent at Salem Community School Corp., said his intentions were to resign once the board had found his successor. He seemed a little surprised to learn that Barrett was being hired as an interim.
When asked if he would have stayed on at NHCSC if his resignation had not been accepted, Fihe said he would have been willing to talk to the board about it.
Fihe said he had been attempting to develop some trust between himself and the teachers ‘so bargaining would be meaningful and productive.’ He also said that it’s important for everyone to understand that ‘a collective bargaining agreement has to be something everyone can afford.’
Many of the teachers held signs stating support for Fihe.
Greg Rupp, president of the North Harrison Class-room Teachers Association, told the school board that Fihe was ‘making progress’ on the contract stand-off. He alleged Fihe was forced to resign.
In response to some board members’ comments earlier in the meeting that they didn’t know if Fihe’s resignation would be accepted, the Rev. Jeff Reed, following Byrne’s motion to hire Barrett, asked how they could have someone else in mind if they didn’t know what was going to happen.
‘In my house, that’s called lying,’ he said.
Chinn said board members often make decisions but are unable to ‘really say what we’d like to say’ about them.
The board is still searching for a full-time superintendent.
Barrett comes to North Harrison after serving 5-1/2 years as superintendent of Eastern Greene Schools, from January 2003 to mid-year 2008, when he retired. According to the Indiana Department of Education Web site, the school corporation has 1,334 students and had a 74.6 percent graduation rate in 2008.
Prior to being hired as Eastern Greene’s superintendent, according to a December 2002 article in the Bloomington Herald Times, Barrett served as assistant principal at Eastern before being hired as principal at Union High School in Dugger. He then spent six years as principal at Brown County High School.
Barrett is a 1967 graduate of Deputy High School and a graduate of Indiana University, where he earned two degrees. He spent 22 years as a classroom teacher, 18 of those years at Salem junior high and high school.
Barrett, who also coached basketball and football during much of his career, served on the Indiana High School Athletic Association board until Jan. 31 of this year.
Eastern Greene Schools completed a building project during Barrett’s tenure as superintendent.