Sunday, July 14, 2024

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Graham, NC 27253
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BREAKING MON. MORNING: Former supt. Bill Harrison named interim ABSS superintendent, sworn in


Former ABSS superintendent Dr. Bill Harrison has been tapped for a return engagement as the interim superintendent for the school system following the resignation earlier this month of Dr. Dain Butler.

Harrison previously served as ABSS superintendent between 2015 to 2018.  He initially served as the interim superintendent from July 2014 until February 2015 and later as the permanent superintendent from February 2015 until May 2018.

Harrison was at the ABSS Central Office this morning, where Alamance County district court judge Larry Brown, Jr. swore him into office.

Former, and now interim, ABSS superintendent Dr. Bill Harrison

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“If I had a vote, I would say, ‘aye,’” Brown remarked before delivering the oath of office to Harrison, whose wife Judy, held the Bible for him.

During a special-called meeting at Central Office Monday morning, the seven school board members entered into a closed session at 9:30 a.m. and reconvened in open session 12 minutes later, with Harrison following behind and taking a seat in the auditorium prior to the vote.

Harrison joined the board on the dais following a unanimous vote to appoint him as interim and to approve his employment contract for his six-month term. “I’m deeply honored to have the privilege to come back and serve,” he said, recalling fondly the memories and relationships he built during his previous tenure in ABSS.

School board chairman Sandy Ellington-Graves confirmed for the newspaper that Harrison’s monthly salary and travel expenses will be paid from state-funding that is already budgeted for the superintendent’s position, adding that Harrison’s total monthly salary and expenses ($18,200) are “equivalent to” the aggregate monthly salary that Butler had been paid prior to his resignation.

Butler submitted his resignation two weeks ago after a tumultuous final nine months of his 20-month tenure as superintendent.   The resignation agreement that the board approved on March 4 provided him with a potential severance up to $218,400, or the equivalent of one year’s salary.

Butler’s resignation agreement calls for him to be paid $102,038 in severance by March 31 and to be allowed to continue his health insurance coverage through COBRA for another 12 months, at his expense, or until he becomes employed in a position that offers health insurance as a benefit.

Butler also will be eligible to receive a second payment of $116,362 later this year, at the conclusion of the annual audit and subject to several conditions, under the terms of his resignation agreement.  That amount must be available in unrestricted fund balance; it must not exceed 50 percent of the undesignated fund balance; and the ABSS finance officer and an outside auditor must certify that those funds are available for that purpose, as outlined in his resignation agreement.

Harrison’s contract calls for him to be paid $16,200 per month, plus up to $2,000 for travel each month – a potential total of $218,400 annually, the same level as Butler’s ending monthly salary.  The sixth-month term for Harrison as interim began Monday and runs through September 18 of this year.

None of the three other candidates who had been interviewed for the interim superintendent’s position last week had been offered the job, Ellington Graves said in an interview with The Alamance News.

“It was the unanimous decision of the board [to offer Dr. Harrison the job],” the board’s chairman told the newspaper after the meeting adjourned.  “When Dr. Harrison was here before, his leadership was powerful.  He has strong connections in the community and across the state, and we’re excited to see where we go.”

In contrast to recent weeks – and a series of several special-called school board meetings to enter into closed session to negotiate Butler’s resignation and consider candidates for the interim superintendent’s position – the mood was celebratory Monday morning inside the school board’s meeting room at Central Office, where more than a dozen business, community, and education leaders were on hand to watch Harrison take the oath of office.

Among those in attendance were: former school board members Allison Gant and Tony Rose (neither of whom chose to seek reelection in 2022); former ABSS teachers of the year who went on to become North Carolina Teachers of the Year, Tyronna Hooker (2011) and Freebird McKinney (2018); Tracey Grayzer, president of Impact Alamance (the charitable arm of Cone Health); Alamance County area Chamber of Commerce president Griffin McClure (a former Graham city councilman); Alamance County commissioner Craig Turner; and numerous ABSS staff and administrators.

Turner told the newspaper Monday morning, “I value [Harrison’s] expertise and am hopeful he will continue to follow in his reputation of being supportive of community partnerships.  I am hopeful we can all move together in a positive direction.”

In addition to his previous tenure in ABSS, Harrison previously served as chairman of the state Board of Education (SBE) – the chief policy-making authority for North Carolina public schools – from 2009 to 2013, and as a superintendent for school systems in Cumberland, Orange, and Hoke counties.  He was also an assistant superintendent for Brunswick County schools; and his nearly 40 years in public education also includes prior service on boards of directors for the N.C. Military Child Education Commission for more than a decade and the N.C. Southern Regional Education Board, as well as an adjunct professor of education at N.C. State University.

Harrison holds a bachelor’s degree in intermediate education from Methodist University; a master’s degree and an education specialist degree in education administration from East Carolina University; and a doctorate in education administration from Vanderbilt University.

The vote to hire Harrison as the interim superintendent was 7-0.

See earlier stories on Butler’s resignation:

March 4 story on resignation:

March 7 story on how severance payment will use up school system’s savings:

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