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Harpst: ‘It’s a great
time to be a Pirate’

‘I've only been a small
part of the
—Mark Harpst

by Alan McArthur
Landmark reporter

Over the last 11 years, the Platte County school district has seen increases in enrollment, construction, technology availability, and the budget. The superintendent, Dr. Mark Harpst, has overseen this growth from a smaller school district to become a major school district in the county.

“I have a saying, ‘It’s a great time to be a Pirate,'” said Harpst.

This could certainly be said now with the growth of the district and the personal successes for Harpst.

The district enrollment has grown from 1,700 students in 1996 to 2,830 this year. New construction projects include Siegrist Elementary, Platte City Middle School, and additions to the High School, Paxton, and Barry School.

Under his leadership the district’s operating balance has grown from around $600,000 to more than $6.6 million in 2006.

“It’s difficult to single out any one accomplishment,” said Harpst. “I’d say the biggest have been providing financial stability to the district, providing good staff members, and providing good facilities that provide good opportunities.”

However, the veteran school leader points out that a school district is only as good as the teachers it hires.

“I’ve taken great pride in hiring good people,” said Harpst. “Some districts will only hire teachers with two or three years experience because they are cheaper. We hire the best teachers regardless of the cost. Our biggest accomplishment is hiring, maintaining, and retaining good people.”

Harpst may be the main person in charge in the school district, but he does not take all of the credit for the successes of the past 11 years.

“I’ve only been a small part of the accomplishments,” said Harpst. “We’ve accomplished a lot because the board allows us to do our jobs. I’m really proud to be a part of that. I take no credit for it, it has been a team thing.”

In 2003, Harpst was named the Missouri Superintendent of the Year and in 2001 he was named Northland Administrator of the Year. Harpst says that he wants the Platte County school district to be able to compete with other districts in the area.

“People who know me well would say I’m competitive,” said Harpst. “If my name is on it, I like the work to be done well. I want Platte County to be one of the best districts in Missouri regardless of our size. I constantly hear about people moving here because of the school district.”

Platte County R-3 is one-fourth the size of the next smallest district in Platte County. Being a small district means that Harpst has responsibilities that might be taken by several people at a larger district.

“I consider myself a Jack of all trades, master of nothing,” said Harpst. “Over 25 years, I’ve dealt with almost everything as an administrator.”

Recently, Harpst made the announcement that he will no longer be superintendent at Platte County after his contract expires in August of 2009. One of the things he is looking forward to is to be able to relax more.

“Right now I’m superintendent all the time, at church, at a restaurant, people always want to talk about school,” said Harpst. “I carry the weight of the school district on my shoulders. I’m going to do something that is not as demanding. It’ll be interesting to wake up and not be superintendent anymore.”

Harpst says he does not know what he will do after retiring, simply that he is keeping his options open. Even though he looks forward to retiring, Harpst enjoys the challenges of being superintendent the most about his job.

“Everyday is different, there is never a boring day,” said Harpst. “I enjoy the challenge and variety. We are involved in the largest transportation, food service, and entertainment business in Platte City.”

Looking back on his career as superintendent, Harpst says he has enjoyed the challenges and being able to work with talented people. “I was fortunate to make the career choice to be here,” said Harpst. “I feel good to be a part of this district and to provide a good environment for learners. I’ve been in a good place at the right time.

“It’s a great time to be a Pirate.”



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