Columbus school district Superintendent Gene Harris will announce her retirement this afternoon, our partners at WOSU report:
A source confirms Harris will retire following several months in the spotlight amid allegations of attendance rigging. The retirement will not be immediately, however. Harris will leave at the end of the school year.
Her retirement comes as the state auditor investigates whether Columbus and other school districts improperly changed student data to make their schools’ performance look better, particularly on state report cards.
The state auditor’s investigation was spurred by The Columbus Dispatch’s reports that Columbus had “retroactively alter[ed] thousands of student-attendance records at the end of each school year, casting doubt on the accuracy of the district’s state report card.”
WOSU says Harris has “denied giving the order to make the data changes.”
However, Harris did not tell school workers to stop altering student-attendance data until June 2012, nearly a year after she said she had learned of possible problems with student data, according to The Dispatch.
Harris is not the first school administrator to leave her post in the wake of the school data investigation.
In July, the superintendent and another administrator in the Lockland school district near Cincinnati were fired after the Ohio Department of Education found they had “falsely reported 36 students as withdrawn during the school year, thereby removing them from the district’s state testing results.” The Lockland officials are challenging the firings.
Harris, who has been superintendent for 11 years, will make her official announcement at 1:30 this afternoon at the King Arts Complex.
Update, 2 p.m.
In a written statement, Harris says:
“I’m honored to have served our students and district for 37 years, 35 as part of the Columbus City Schools. It has meant the world to me. I have served in this position for almost 12 years for two reasons – the students and the people in the Columbus City School system. They have been my inspiration, but now is the time to begin the process of putting in place the next generation of leadership for our schools.”
Harris’ retirement is effective July 1, 2013.
Harris’ current contract expires July 31, 2014. It can be terminated earlier if the school board and Harris agree to do so or if the board accepts her voluntary resignation.
(We’ve asked the district how Harris’ contract was terminated and will update this once we hear back from them.) District spokesperson Jeff Warner says Harris announced today her plan to retire effective July 1, 2013. He says: “When her retirement is boarded, it’s considered a ‘resignation for purposes retirement,’ which is how most retirements are treated.”
Harris currently makes $205,980 a year: A base salary of $186,480, a tax sheltered annuity of $13,500 and a $6,000 car allowance.
The district also pays for a $300,000 life insurance policy and Harris’ state pension contributions. Harris also receives a $6,000 expense account and 25 vacation days (in addition to school holidays).
Update, 10 p.m.
WOSU report Harris says her retirement is not related to the ongoing state investigation:
“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.”