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NH school chief Thomas resigns

NH school chief Thomas resigns
NH school chief Thomas resigns
Kerry Ingle, who was selected to fill the seat on the North Harrison Community School Corp. Board of Trustees vacated by Gary Byrne, looks at stations in the new North Harrison Middle School lab during a walk-through of the new wing Thursday evening after the school board meeting. At right, is Dr. Lance Richards, who was named the interim superintendent during the meeting after D. John Thomas' resignation was accepted. With them is school trustee Marla Adams and Hal E. Kovert of Kovert Hawkins architects. Photo by Jo Ann Spieth-Saylor

The man at the helm of the North Harrison Community School Corp. submitted his resignation Thursday, and the school board unanimously accepted it during its regular meeting that evening.
D. John Thomas, who was not at the meeting that took place in the new North Harrison Middle School library, was hired on Sept. 8, 2011, and had hoped to bring stability to the school system that had seen five superintendents come and go, most during relatively short stays, since Monty Schneider retired in 2007 after a 17-year stint.
Two main challenges for Thomas were to improve the performance of North Harrison’s students and to get the school corporation back into financial shape.
School trustee Gregg Oppel said he appreciates all Thomas has done, including being an ‘amazing money man’ for the corporation.
Thomas, 69, served in the Army before being hired to teach U.S. history, math and English in Switzerland County. He left the classroom for two years and served a four-year term as a school board member before returning to teach agriculture, something he knew about as a farmer.
‘I know we all could make many comments about Mr. Thomas,’ Steve Hanger said before the five-member board voted to accept the resignation. ‘He ran a very good school while he was here. He watched our school grow and grow. All we can do is move forward. I hope with all my heart he can enjoy retirement.’
Thomas, a former assistant principal, principal and superintendent, had retired from Pike County schools in 2011. When hired by the NHCSC, he signed a five-year contract, which later was extended.
In a phone interview Monday, Thomas indicated he might be seen around the community in the next few weeks, as his apartment is rented through the end of the school year.
His decision to resign followed some health issues, which included recent back surgery.
‘My problem is standing,’ Thomas said, which standing is something he believes he needs to do substantially for the job.
‘I appreciate everybody’s support and concern,’ he said.
His resignation came three days after he shared the news that North Harrison High School had earned a bronze rating from U.S. News & World Report on its Best High Schools rankings.
‘It seems like every time we turned around something good happened,’ Thomas said.
Dr. Lance Richards, who has served as North Harrison’s assistant superintendent since June 1, 2011, was unanimously chosen to serve as interim superintendent while the school board goes through the process of hiring its next superintendent. The board will meet in executive session June 1 to discuss the position.
‘I feel like we’re in pretty good shape,’ Hanger said.
Richards said he and Thomas spent considerable time last week going over finances for the corporation.
‘I knew early in the week the decision he had made,’ Richards said. ‘He was the best at manipulating the budget.’
With regard to the U.S. News & World Report ranking, Richards said, ‘Any time the high school can get a feather in its cap, we need to shout it out. … Clearly what we do in the community matters. People go out of their way for (students).’
Following the meeting, Les Smith with Shireman Construction conducted a walk-through of the middle school, which, Richards said, is about 80 percent through its renovation project.
Smith said they will be able to complete much of the remaining work once school is out for the summer.
Richards is optimistic that lunch will be served in the new cafeteria, which will be built this summer, in October.