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Columbus Schools Superintendent Gene Harris To Retire

Columbus City Schools Superintendent Gene Harris has announced she will retire at the end of this school year, a year before her contract is set to expire. WOSU reports the long-time educator contends her decision is not related to the on-going investigation into alleged attendance rigging in the district. “Let me be clear. This is not the reason for my retirement," Superintendent Gene Harris said. Harris, a grandmother, said her family is the reason for cutting her contract short…and not the investigations into whether students were retro-actively withdrawn and re-enrolled to scratch poor test scores to yield a better state report card score. “I have been thinking about retirement and talking with my family about it for quite a while. But before I leave getting resolution on the attendance recording keeping issue is high on my to-do list.â€? Harris touted her accomplishments. She pointed to the district’s improved academic performance. The number of schools earning an A or B grade increased from 15 to 28 since 2004. The district’s graduation rate rose from 55 percent to 85 percent. And during her tenure, the district built or renovated 39 schools. But Harris and the district have been under a cloud of suspicion for several months about the altered record keeping. Harris, though, said she is not worried about the perception of her retirement or its timing. “People who know me in this community know how committed I am to the children and the families of this community," Harris said. "And just because I’m retiring doesn’t mean that I won’t be working on their behalf. So, no, I’m not worried about timing. I’m not worried about what people will say; it’s just time for me to retire.â€? Harris informed school board members Tuesday night during an executive session of her plans to retire. Board President Carol Perkins firmly underscored the board did not encourage Harris to leave the district. “This board, in no way, influenced or forced her decision about retirement," Perkins said. Perkins said the board will begin discussions about a successor in about a week. Harris said the reason she announced her retirement now and not eight months from now – toward the end of the school year – is to make the transition easier for the district. It has been nearly 12 years since the district has changed leaders. “They need time. There generally is a community process that is involved," Harris said. "The board needs to decide what skills that they want in the next leader. And they need that kind of time to really plan.â€? Harris also said Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman will become more involved with the school system, but the mayor and other officials would not provide details. Harris has been an educator for 37 years, 35 of them in the Columbus City Schools District…and the past 11 years as its superintendent.