Harpst says at most, he'll serve R-3 two more years
by Ivan Foley
Dr. Mark Harpst says he won't serve beyond his current contract at Platte County R-3, which expires in two years.
He will be on the job at R-3 no longer than that. Of that much, he is certain.
"In August of '09, I will be doing something other than being superintendent 24 hours a day, seven days a week," Harpst said this week.
His current contract expires in August of 2009. He said he won't be signing an extension, and though as of now he intends to fulfill the final two years of the agreement, he says he is also leaving open the possibility of leaving at the end of the upcoming 2007-08 school year.
In last week's issue, The Landmark exclusively reported the R-3 school board is starting preparations on how to conduct the search for his replacement.
"I will probably finish my current contract," Harpst, age 51, said this week. "I want to think about it and weigh everything, including my personal life and what's best for the district," he said Tuesday.
Last week, Harpst told The Landmark he has indicated to the school board that he would be hanging it up "in another year or two." He has been in public education for 29 years. When a Missouri public school educator reaches 30 years of service, they are eligible for full retirement benefits.
Harpst noted that he was a head coach at West Platte at the age of 22 and that he began his first principal job at the age of 25 at Fairfax, Mo.
A search for a new superintendent is often a year-long process at many school districts. R-3 could have two years to be looking for the person they want to replace Harpst, who has been superintendent during a period of growth "and great advancement" for the district, said Bob Shaw, school board president.
"The board is very appreciative for the years of service he has given. And we look forward to him continuing to do an excellent job for the district for the next two years of his contract," Shaw said.
"The board will be working at an appropriate pace to make sure there is a smooth transition at the end of that time so that the district will continue to provide an outstanding education for our children," Shaw added.
R-3 will not limit itself in a search for a replacement, the school board president indicated.
"We will have to go through a full process. We have some outstanding administrators in our district but it is an attractive job that will draw interest throughout the state," remarked Shaw.
"We plan to continue Dr. Harpst's legacy of strong leadership in this district and we expect to be able to hire an excellent superintendent when he leaves," he added.
"I expect there will be some excellent candidates from both within and outside the district. But we still have to make the right decision," the school board leader said.
In last week's Landmark, Harpst pointed out that after one more year in his job he will be in a tie with Gerald Hart for the longest tenure of any superintendent in the history of the school district. If he fulfills his current contract of two years, then obviously he will retire as the longest-tenured top administrator the district has seen.
"He has far outstayed the state average for a superintendent," Shaw said, saying he believes the state average is five years.
The subject of Harpst's impending departure came to public light when The Landmark reported an agenda item for a recent school board "retreat" contained an item labeled "superintendent/personnel search.”
Shaw said he asked for the item to be placed on the agenda at the retreat simply to "pick the brains" of two current board members who were around the last time the district had to hire a superintendent. Those board members are Carey Rolofson and Dick Modin. Shaw said he wanted to gather information from those men about the process they went through, things they would do the same and anything they would do differently during the next superintendent search.
As for Harpst's future, he told The Landmark he may contemplate a political position either on the county or state level at some point, but has made no decision in that regard.
"I want to do something of service to the community," he stated.
Other possibilities for him include teaching part-time, being a school consultant, or something he hasn't thought of yet, he said.
"Whatever I do, it's not going to be something where I'm on call 24 hours per day, seven days per week," Harpst added.