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School Board Approves Assistant Superintendent

Dr. Robert Harney (above) as he welcomed visitors Tuesday to the Pottsgrove school board meeting, and a portion of the board agenda announcing his hiring as district assistant superintendent

LOWER POTTSGROVE PA – In years past, a majority of about-to-be-appointed administrators in the Pottsgrove School District have waited for their formal introduction to the public by the superintendent before uttering a word or, in some cases, even cracking a smile. Dr. Robert P. Harney shattered that practice Tuesday night (April 25, 2017), more than an hour before he was approved by the Board of School Directors as Pottsgrove’s assistant superintendent.

Directors and Harney’s new boss, Superintendent Dr. William Shirk, were busy in an executive session as those attending the board meeting came through the entrance to the high school’s large group instruction room. Only a few feet inside, standing in the visitors’ path with a welcoming grin and his hand outstretched to shake, was Harney, saying hello to all who passed.

Then he took a seat in the front row of the audience section, and patiently waited for Shirk and the returned board members to deal with five other agenda items before calling his name.

Harney currently works as assistant to the superintendent for personnel in the nearby Methacton School District. He’ll start July 1 under a four-year contract as Pottsgrove’s second-in-command, at a starting salary of $150,000.

The board vote may not have gone quite as Harney hoped. There was one dissenter, director Bill Parker, who first unsuccessfully sought to table the appointment and later voted against it. Parker made it clear he did not oppose Harney or his qualifications, but instead wanted to defer his hiring “until a zero-percent tax increase was in place” for the district’s 2017-2018 academic year budget.

Budget calculations aren’t finished, and district Business Administrator David Nester has secured a June 27 date for the board’s final budget vote just in case the financial wrangling takes longer than anticipated. The budget now carries a roughly $600,000 deficit, director Rick Rabinowitz noted, and Parker’s colleagues apparently were unwilling to further delay filling the vacancy created after Shirk was promoted last August.

The board authorized Harney’s hiring in a 7-1 decision. Board President Matt Alexander was absent and did not vote. Shirk himself shouted out congratulations from the front of the room, and the audience applauded.

Related (to the Pottsgrove Board of School Directors’ April 25 meeting):

Harney photo by The Post Publications

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