The “resignation” of Harris became effective at midnight Wednesday and the board appointed assistant superintendent John F. Wheeler as acting superintendent “for a period not to exceed 180 days” (six months) while a board seeks a new permanent appointee for the job.
School Board member Linda King, a Harris supporter, cast the only dissenting vote for accepting Harris’ sudden resignation and the temporary appointment of Wheeler.
Officially, the board accepted Harris’ resignation as “termination without cause” and will pay him his $120,000 plus salary with benefits for the coming year. Listing the action as “without cause” helps the board avoid a possible legal action from the ousted superintendent.
Harris, involved in a string of emotional outbursts with teachers and parents of students, managed to survive several of the incidents but a recent one involving a coach apparently finally forced the board to act, a school source told Blue Ridge Muse.
The board, however, citing personnel privacy rules, would only say it was taken action that the majority felt was necessary.
“He had two years left on his contract. We thought it was in the best interest of the schools to part ways and move forward. At least a majority of the Board thought that,” said board chairman James Ingram.
Word had been circulating within the school system after the latest run-in with a coach a few weeks ago. A teacher told The Floyd Press that many felt Harris “has a serious anger management problem.”
Harris was brought in to replace Terry Arbogast, who opted for early retirement after questions arose over his salary and decisions as superintendent. The new school boss never moved to Floyd County, as required by his original contract, and the school board amended his employment agreement to allow him to live in Montgomery County.
Harris also had numerous run-ins with the county Board of Supervisors and became an infrequent visitor to their board meetings after being advised to stay away by previous county administrator Dan Campbell.
His actions brought repeated calls for him to resign or that the school board fire him and while support for ending his employment grew within the board the cost for paying out his contract was a sticking point.
More details by Wanda Combs, editor of The Floyd Press.