Interim supt. Harrison ruling out another extended stay with ABSS

Alamance-Burlington interim superintendent Dr. Bill Harrison is ruling out any possible repeat of his previous three-year term as superintendent.

Harrison originally came to ABSS, the first time, as an interim superintendent in July 2014 and agreed to come out of retirement in February 2015 to serve as the permanent superintendent. After 30 years in North Carolina K-12 public education, he retired as superintendent of Cumberland County schools in 2009. Harrison retired from state employment for the second time when he ended his three-year tenure as the ABSS superintendent in May 2018.

Harrison, 71, seemed to confirm this week his intention to stick to the six-month term for which he was hired last week as the interim superintendent of ABSS. His current employment contract with ABSS runs through September 18 of this year.

“Thank you all for the well wishes; thank you all for the confidence,” Harrison said toward the conclusion of the school board’s meeting Monday night. “The reception has been overwhelming.

“[We’ve] to a lot of work to do in six months, and I will support you in any way that I can,” the interim superintendent said. “But it’s important that you get the right person up here [in the superintendent’s seat on the dais] come September 19. I will support him or her any way that I can. I was glad to hear that was on the agenda tonight, not because I want to get out of here already but because I know the realities of the retirement system and my circumstances.”

School board chairman Sandy Ellington-Graves had broached the topic earlier in the evening, asking her fellow board members to start thinking about what process they would like to use to search for a permanent successor to former superintendent Dr. Dain Butler, who resigned March 4.

School board members are scheduled to begin discussing the search for a permanent superintendent at their next work session on April 9, Ellington-Graves subsequently confirmed for The Alamance News.

State retirement rules permit Harrison to return to work as a state employee for a finite amount of time without jeopardizing his retirement benefits. He had previously told The Alamance News, in a May 2017 interview, “When you come out of state retirement, [the state] starts another retirement account for you. As long as that stays less than three years, [the state retirement system] can pay that out as a lump sum, or just give me additional retirement checks, small checks.”

Harrison subsequently confirmed this week that state retirement rules prohibit him from working more than six months within a calendar year without jeopardizing his retirement benefits.

In order to lure him out of retirement back in 2015, the school board agreed to pay him an annual state-funded salary of $245,000. Three organizations – Elon University, Glen Raven, and Impact Alamance (the charitable arm of Cone Health) – also agreed to donate a total of $85,000 to ABSS for each year of Harrison’s tenure, raising his total annual pay to $330,000 and making him the highest-paid superintendent in the state at the time.

 

Another ABSS retiree returning as interim public information officer
In other business, after returning from closed session to review the semi-monthly personnel report and reconvening the open portion of their meeting, school board members voted 6-0 to appoint former ABSS public information officer Jenny Faulkner as a temporary replacement for outgoing PIO Les Atkins, whose resignation took effect Tuesday.

Faulkner had previously served as the school system’s PIO since the late 2000s and retired in June 2022, shortly before Butler officially took over as superintendent the following month.

Faulkner’s term as the interim PIO is scheduled to begin April 8, based on the recommended appointment that school board members voted 6-0 to approve Monday night. School board member Chuck Marsh was absent due to illness, according to the board’s chairman.

Faulkner has agreed to step in temporarily as the PIO until a replacement for Atkins can be hired, though her subsequent employment with ABSS doesn’t have a fixed term, Ellington-Graves told the newspaper Tuesday morning.