Wednesday, July 17, 2024

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School system’s new interim chief ushers in détente with commissioners

The temporary new head of the Alamance-Burlington school system didn’t get any back talk this week when he made his formal debut before Alamance County’s board of commissioners.

In fact, the county’s governing board was downright chummy on Monday evening as its members welcomed William C. Harrison to the county’s meeting chambers, fresh from his appointment earlier that day as the school system’s interim honcho.

Harrison, who had previously done a turn as the school system’s superintendent from 2015 to 2018 (as well as an interim few months prior to 2015), had already retired before most of current commissioners took up their posts in 2020 or 2021. The five-member board nevertheless hailed him as refreshing change from his immediate predecessor, Dain Butler, who had left the school system’s employ earlier this month after a succession of controversies that included several public clashes with the commissioners.

Harrison, a good deal more wizened than the comparatively young Butler, tried to appear humble in the face of this gleeful reception from the commissioners. Yet, he didn’t shrink from boasting of his prior achievements, including the passage of a $150 million bond package in 2018 that Harrison said the naysayers had warned him was doomed from the start. The interim superintendent also looked back fondly on the rapport which the school system had with the county during his time at the helm.

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“I think we had a good relationship with the commissioners,” he went on to recall. “I look forward to reestablishing a lot of the relationships I had…and my only interest is taking care of your kids.”

Particularly delighted with Harrison’s return was John Paisley, Jr., the chairman of Alamance County’s commissioners, who had frequently locked horns with Butler before the latter’s departure.

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Board chairman welcomes interim superintendent

“We welcome you back, and I know the transition is going to be smooth under your guidance.”

– County commissioner chairman John Paisley, Jr.


 

“We welcome you back,” Paisley assured Butler’s temporary successor, “and I know the transition is going to be smooth under your guidance.”

This mood of bonhomie also trickled down to Harrison’s subordinates, such as Greg Hook, the school system’s chief operating officer and one of the top-ranking survivors from Butler’s troubled administration.

ABSS chief operating officer Greg Hook

During their meeting on Monday, the commissioners unanimously agreed to give Hook permission to draw down the school system’s capital reserves in order to allocate $1,214,055 toward a new roof at B. Everett Jordan Elementary and $181,335 toward an HVAC upgrade at Graham High School. The commissioners also gave Hook the go-ahead to reroute another $468,665 in surplus funds from a roofing project at Haw River Elementary to the HVAC system at Graham High School.

Although this revenue shuffle will leave the school system’s capital reserves with a balance of just $59,497, the net impression that Hook’s sundry requests left on the commissioners was overwhelmingly positive.

“I can see you’ve definitely made some progress since the last time we spoke,” commissioner Bill Lashley declared before the board’s 5-to-0 vote.

“You’ve got things moving much, much quicker than we have seen,” Paisley agreed. “We thank you. And the citizens, the parents, and the teachers thank you as well.”

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