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Clark’s 18 years full of positives

My Opinion
Alan Stewart, Staff Writer

Several student deaths in car crashes. Racism. Student fights. Teacher contracts. ICAN. Budget woes. The H1N1 scare. Changes in state education laws. Problematic yearbook covers. Lawsuits. An attempt by a parent to ban a book. School vouchers. Bullying. An administrative reassignment that led to an all-day protest by students. The seemingly ever-present outcry for coaching changes. Changes in board composition. Schools in the corporation not achieving adequate yearly growth.
Those are just a few of the things Dr. Neyland Clark, superintendent of the South Harrison Community School Corp., has had to face in his 18 years at the helm.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve been out and about and, during the course of a conversation with the subject of South Harrison schools being brought up, there have been negative comments about Clark.
He plays favorites, they say. He doesn’t like this teacher or that teacher. They never call off school when they should, or they always call it off on a threat and then the snow never comes. He favors sports too much. He doesn’t like sports enough. He turns a blind eye to (fill in the blank). Nothing ever gets done. He doesn’t care.
All I can do is nod my head as if I understand.
Really, I don’t, though.
Clark, who will step down as superintendent at the end of June, hasn’t been perfect during his 18-year run as head of South Harrison. No one ever is. Even he would admit a few shortcomings or things he’s done that he’d go back and do differently if he could. As a parent, there are a couple of things that I didn’t necessarily agree with, but I never thought the decision Clark made didn’t have the students’ best interest at heart.
Looking back on the time that I’ve been covering South Harrison, Clark has been involved in plenty of positive things.
The first ‘ and for me, the most appreciated ‘ is that South Harrison uses riverboat money to pick up the tab for student textbooks.
Another big positive is that, if students apply themselves, dual-credit courses taken during a high school lead to not only a high school diploma, but an entire freshman year of college being under their belt by the time they graduate high school. Did I mention that’s free of charge, too?
It’s no secret that children today are more hands-on oriented when it comes to technology. With every high school student already in possession of a corporation-provided laptop, next year the one-to-one laptop initiative will be extended to seventh and eighth graders (although, unlike high schoolers who can take the piece of technology home, the computers will stay at school).
Full-day kindergarten is a reality, and pre-kindergarten is on the horizon, further giving South Harrison’s youth a jump-start on their childhood education.
Students who takes part in extracurricular activities of any type at the high school level must agree to random drug testing. In addition to making sure many South Harrison students are clean, it gives a legitimate ‘out’ for a student in case of peer pressure when it comes to smoking, dipping or engaging in illegal activity.
Rachel’s Challenge and the Student Problem Identification and Resolution of Issues Together (SPIRIT) program have helped school relationships and helped curb bullying.
Schools now have armed resource officers who not only help protect schools, but also develop relationships with students to build a trust toward law enforcement.
The corporation uses a balanced calendar, with two-week breaks every nine weeks and a two-month summer vacation. Although this was ushered in under Clark, part of it was due to necessity to better match the calendar of Prosser Career Education Center in New Albany.
The list goes on and on.
The past 18 years have been marked with ups and downs across the board at South Harrison. But, when one looks back on the kinds of issues and difficulties that Clark has faced and how other school superintendents across the country have handled similar problems, it’s easy to see South Harrison could have been in far worse hands.