For the first time in nearly a decade, Cullman City Schools will be under new leadership later this year.
After delaying her retirement by 14 months, Superintendent Dr. Jan Harris has announced she will officially step down on September 1, ending her nine year tenure as head of the system. She had planned to retire in 2012, but changed her mind at the request of the school board to help get plans in order for the upcoming Cullman High School renovation.
“This is an excellent time for a transition in leadership, and it is in our students’ best interest to have a new leader in place at the onset of the school year,” Harris said. “Our business is in order. During my extended time, extensive planning has taken plans for the CHS improvements and other capital projects, and they are ready for implementation.”
Harris said she plans to spend more time with her husband and family once she retires.
During her tenure, the school system has risen to one of the premier districts in the state. It currently ranks No. 2 in several test score areas, and has fully implemented a 1:1 laptop initiative for students. Several schools have also won national awards for academic achievement, and the system as a whole has been recognized as one of the most tech-savvy in the nation.
“It’s been the highlight of my career to serve as superintendent,” Harris said. “I’ve worked with wonderful people, outstanding students and great parents. And our principals are so talented and hard-working. You couldn’t ask for better people.”
School board president Suzanne Harbin, who was on the board when Harris was first hired, thanked her for her service and fought back tears as she formally accepted Harris’ resignation letter.
“I just want to express my deep gratitude for the job she has done,” she said. “She has assembled an amazing group of leaders who will stay behind and continue to do great work. But, it’s bittersweet.”
Longtime board member Brenda Howell noted Harris will be leaving the system in great shape, but said her one regret is that she won’t stay at the helm until the high school renovation is complete.
“We talked her out of it last time, but just couldn’t do it this time,” Howell joked. “She has obviously met all of our expectations and exceeded all of our wildest dreams. The sadness for me is that, I know our friendships will stay in place, but I’d love for her to get us across the finish line, with so many great things we have going on. But, I completely understand.”
With Harris’ last day less than five months away, Harbin said the board will start looking for her replacement immediately. The board approved a $14,000 contract with the Alabama Association of School Board to assist in finding and vetting applicants, and officials say more information about the search will be announced in the coming weeks.
Harris’ had originally requested August 1 as her retirement date, but pushed it to September 1 to allow more time for the board to find her replacement.
“We asked her to do that because we wanted ample time to get someone in place, so we could avoid having an interim during the process,” Harbin said. “We will be developing the criteria for applicants and talking to the community soon about what they’d like to see in the next superintendent. We plan to hold public meetings to seek the community’s feedback.”
Harbin said the board hopes to name Harris’ successor by late July or early August.
Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.