Kevin Harness is set to retire at the end of this school year after 14 years as superintendent of Allegan Public Schools. (Photo by Ryan Lewis)

Harness will retire from Allegan schools; superintendent search begins

By: 
Ryan Lewis, Editor

With Allegan Public Schools superintendent Kevin Harness retiring at the end of this year, school board members will have a busy couple months pursuing candidates to succeed him.

At the school board meeting Monday, April 8, president Troy Carns said Harness would be missed.

“I’m disappointed for sure that he’s leaving,” Carns said. “But that’s only for selfish reasons for the district. Kevin’s done a fabulous job while here. We’re going to miss him when he’s gone and we just hope we find someone as good or better to continue moving things in a positive direction.”

School board members met at a special meeting Wednesday, March 13, after Harness informed them of his intentions. At that meeting, minutes show they directed the board’s personnel committee to “gather information on various options for a succession plan and present their findings to the entire board.”

Harness announced his retirement to staff March 20.

At a March 25 special meeting, school board members opted, based on the committee’s recommendation, not to hire an outside firm to conduct a search for job candidates.

On Monday, Carns said that was due to the success the district’s administration had had in hiring other administrators.

“The way we hire administrators like principals is similar or better than what we would pay an outside firm to do,” he said. “We get the same, highly qualified candidates applying, we go through the same screening processes. So we’re looking at a savings of approximately $5,000 to $7,000.

“And we’d be doing a similar amount of work as a board even though we’d be paying somebody else to do the stuff we’d do. So we didn’t see any benefits that either of the outside firms could provide us.”

Harness will be involved only in helping post the position; he won’t be present for the interviews or any of the decision-making to determine the next superintendent.

In his official retirement letter dated April 8, he said that while his contract officially runs through the end of June, the date of his retirement was flexible if board members wanted him available to help transition the new superintendent.

“It has been a true honor and privilege to serve the district as assistant superintendent and superintendent for the past 23 years,” Harness wrote. “Allegan Public schools is an outstanding educational institution and I have been fortunate to have been a part of its evolution. Reflecting upon the improvements in our facilities and growth in educational opportunities for students that has occurred during my tenure, it brings a sense of pride for what our distinct and community have been able to accomplish.”

Harness has had a long career in education. He grew up in Cassopolis and began as teacher and coach in Elkhart, Ind. He got his start in administration as principal at Watervliet High School. He moved to Allegan in 1996 and was an assistant superintendent for nine years before spending 14 years in his current post.

He said he and his family would be staying in Allegan; his two children had graduated from college.

“We will continue to support APS in any way we can,” he wrote to the board. “Thank you for your support and your commitment to our students.”

During Monday’s meeting, at Carns’ suggestion, board members asked the administration to seek input about the qualities building administrators would like to see in the next superintendent. He also requested a way for board members to make similar comments in a shared document.

Board member Vicki Knuckles said, “I think any additional input they could give would be welcome.”

Board members are set to review applications April 25 and have tentatively scheduled interviews for May 9-10. The second round of interviews was planned for May 16, separate from the board’s May 13 regular meeting.

Contact Ryan Lewis at rmlewis@allegannews.com or (269) 673-5534.

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