Harlan County Schools opened the 2012-2013 school year this morning with the return of students and a new superintendent.
After much anticipation, the county board of education did as expected during a special session Tuesday evening and approved a four-year contract with Mike Howard to lead the district.
Following the retirement of Supt. Tim Saylor on June 30, Howard had been serving during the board’s search phase as interim superintendent. He now officially moves into the top office after eight years as assistant superintendent for finance and personnel.
“I’d like to thank the board for having confidence in me,” Howard said after the announcement was made. “These are difficult times and we are facing many challenges in the number of mandated items from the state and federal government (as well as) the number of funding cuts we’ve had to deal with.
“I appreciate your trust in me to work through these challenging times,” he added. “It is my desire to continue to team up with this board as we continue to lead our district forward.”
Gary Farmer, chairman of the board, noted differences in contract terms that would save the district some money. Howard will not have the district cover his life insurance premiums, resulting in a $5,300 savings, and he will not be routinely using a district-owned vehicle.
While the district will also not be paying for the new superintendent’s retirement, they will instead pay that amount to Howard in salary, Farmer noted.
The chairman also had a prepared statement.
“First, I would like to thank the search committee members for their hard work. They searched through all the many qualified applicants and came up with three highly qualified finalists that all possess the qualifications and experience that the board of education was looking for in our superintendent.
“After much deliberation, the board selected Mr. Howard as a result of his personal knowledge of the district, its finances and community partners. The board feels he is the perfect fit to lead our district,” Farmer added.
Howard too had prepared a comment beforehand.
“These are challenging times for public schools in many ways, especially in funding and assessment accountability,” he commented. “It is my goal to make certain that the Harlan County School District is financially sound while placing an intense focus on academic improvement.”
A native of Harlan County, Howard earned a bachelor’s degree at Cedarville College in Ohio in 1980. He earned a teaching certificate in business at Lincoln Memorial University in 1989, a master’s of special education at Cumberland College in 1993, and a Rank 1 in administration from Union College in 1995.
Prior to assuming duties as an assistant superintendent, Howard worked as assistant principal and teacher at James A. Cawood High School.
In addition to his teaching background, Howard has business experience serving as a divisional manager for Belk Simpson and as operator of Finley’s Market at Bledsoe.
Howard is a member of the Kentucky Association of School Administrators, the Kentucky Association of School Business Officials, and the Kentucky School Public Relations Association.
He has been a member of the district’s Frank Brittain Academic and Athletic Hall of Fame board of directors, the Harlan County Chamber of Commerce, and the Cumberland Valley Rural Electric Cooperative board of directors.