As a man with a wide range of interests, Bob Howard has spent most of his adult life looking for new challenges and served in many roles in that quest.
He worked as a coal miner and an artist, excelled as a teacher and coach, winning multiple regional track championships at a school without a track. He eventually became the final principal at his alma mater, Evarts High School.
Howard found the greatest challenge of his career almost six years ago when he was named the first principal at Harlan County High School.
In the years leading up to the opening of the controversial school, many had shared their predictions of failure. Bringing together students from Cumberland, Evarts and James A. Cawood would not work, they vowed.
Howard disagreed, and immediately went about the business of proving the doomsayers wrong.
With his mission complete, Howard has started his search for the next challenge and announced Friday that he was retiring after 27 years as an educator with the Harlan County School District.
“It was an honor to be the last principal of a great school like Evarts. An equal honor was given me to be the first principal of Harlan County High School,” said Howard in a prepared statement.
Howard said he was stepping down now to ease the transition for the next principal.
“I make my announcement at this time for a new principal may be selected before I leave,” he said. “HCHS is a complex building and program that I was at a year before its opening.”
Howard credited the HCHS staff for playing a huge role in easing the transition from the three schools that merged.
“I would like to thank (former superintendent) Tim Saylor, (current superintendent) Mike Howard and the Harlan County Board of Education for their trust in me to open HCHS,” he said.
Howard said he planned to spend more time pursuing his “artistic dream of painting and a studio life” and hoped to help with the art program at HCHS.
“I would like to return to Italy and France to study art and paint and travel to art festivals and shows in Kentucky,” he said.
Howard’s wife, Waynetta, retired after 30 years as a teacher and they have two children, Bobby and Paige, and four grandchildren.
“It is time to go home and teach art to my grandchildren,” he said.