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N. Harrison begins school without a superintendent

While students in the North Harrison Community School Corp. are returning to the classroom today (Wednesday), the school board of trustees are preparing to search for a new superintendent ‘ the fifth since 2007 ‘ and deciding how it will handle some structural concerns at the high school.
John G. Roeder, a retired superintendent from the Rising Sun-Ohio County School Corp. who was named as North’s superintendent in January 2010, had advised the board during the first week of August that he would be resigning. Roeder’s wife, Janice, a pediatrician, had not made the move with him, so the new position will allow him to work closer to his home.
‘Currently, (assistant superintendent) Lance Richards is running the day-to-day operations,’ Veronica Battista, school board president, said yesterday.
The board unanimously accepted Roeder’s resignation Thursday night at its regular meeting and wished him well. Roeder wished the board well ‘in these challenging times.’
‘We have contracted Mr. Randy Barrett to work as a finance and business manager,’ Battista said. ‘Together, (Barrett and Richards) will make a fine team to address the immediate needs of the school corporation.’
Barrett was the interim superintendent from February 2009 until Roeder was hired. NHCSC has operated with an interim superintendent since Dr. Phil Partenheimer resigned June 30, 2008, to take the executive director position with the Wilson Education Service Center’s Region 2 office in Charlestown. Partenheimer was hired to succeed Monty Schneider, who retired June 30, 2007, after serving as superintendent for 17 years.
Another interim superintendent, Dr. Thomas Fihe, was employed by the school corporation from November 2008 to February 2009. Fihe, who was hired on a ‘day-to-day’ agreement, said he resigned because the school board had indicated to him that a ‘strong candidate’ was being hired as superintendent.
Battista said yesterday that the five-member board would be discussing the superintendent’s position during last night’s executive session.
Also scheduled for discussion last night was the high school and cracks to the building that were highlighted at Thursday night’s work session prior to the meeting. The board, Roeder, Richards and some members of the public, as well as Hal Hawkins of Kovert Hawkins architects and Les Smith from James L. Shireman construction firm, toured the effected areas of the high school after the meeting was adjourned.
A stairway on the west side of the high school was described as ‘pulling away from the building’ and there is concern about a block that has blown out at the truss bearing plate near the roof line.
‘I’m generally not an alarmist, but that’s a pretty big crack,’ Hawkins said of a the crack located at the top of the stairs near the entrance into the gymnasium.
Hawkins estimated that the repairs could cost ‘hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars.’
Battista said that ‘Kovert Hawkins is getting additional information together as to the different options available to fix the building.’
The ‘challenging times’ Roeder alluded to are those he mentioned at last month’s meeting when he predicted that the school corporation will possibly have to reduce its staff.
He said at the July 14 meeting that the school corporation has ‘had to tighten its belt in every way’ and will have to see what the ‘environment’ will be in the next two to three years.
‘We seriously need to look at every hire,’ he said.
Battista said yesterday that North Harrison’s financial situation is similar to what other Indiana school corporations have experienced in recent years.
‘As it stands now, yes, we do anticipate a reduction in force,’ she said. ‘We have reduced staff through attrition but that alone has not been enough. With ongoing cost increases, including another huge increase in health insurance premiums that will take effect Jan. 1, 2012, it does not look like there is any way to avoid a reduction in force.’
According to Battista, the school board is looking at options that can help reduce the increase in health insurance premiums, as well as other ways to reduce costs.
‘We have a tremendous staff at NHCS in our teachers, support staff, administrators, who have worked very hard to bring North Harrison up to one of the top performing schools in Southern Indiana,’ she said. ‘Each and every person has been instrumental in the success of the students.
‘It is extremely difficult to be where we are today with even more difficult decisions yet to be made,’ Battista said.