"There is more determination of what to do in high school by the public and the elected officials now," Hardin said. "The parents are demanding and expecting more."
Hardin refused to elaborate, although he did acknowledge contention over the dress code.
Hardin also was against expanding the sports and activities offered at the school, said B. Marie Byers, Washington County Board of Education president. Byers said parents had contacted board members individually concerning expansion.
Williamsport students sparked a protest in January in which more than 50 county students demonstrated against dress codes at the board's central office.
The students said dress codes violated their rights to freedom of speech and self-expression, while Hardin and other school administrators said they helped schools maintain discipline and order.
Among inappropriate dress listed in Williamsport High's student handbook were hats; sunglasses; clothing that was too tight or exposed the torso; torn, frayed or cut-off clothing and clothes related to suggestive sexual allusions.
"He was a disciplinarian. He believed in order in the schools. He worked hard at that. He created an environment that was very conducive to learning," said William B. McKinley, director of secondary schools.
Washington County Board of Education member Doris J. Nipps said she was surprised when she learned Friday of Hardin's retirement. Nipps had been in Ocean City for the Maryland Negotiating Service Conference.
Assistant Principal Roger Giles will serve as acting principal until the board can appoint a principal, Byers said.
That is expected to happen by Nov. 18, she said.
Giles became assistant principal at Williamsport this school year. He said he held the same position at North Hagerstown and South Hagerstown high schools for three years each and was an English teacher at South High for 17 years.
Despite Hardin's reputation as a disciplinarian, McKinley said he could be considerate to students. McKinley worked with Hardin for five years when McKinley was principal and Hardin was assistant principal.
Hardin served as acting principal at Williamsport during the 1993-1994 school year before taking over officially as principal the following school year.
Hardin said he considered his consistency and firmness when it came to rules and regulations to be one of his major accomplishments as an educator.
"I lended stability to each school site I was at as an administrator," Hardin said.
McKinley said Hardin was a "tireless worker."
Under Hardin's leadership, the high school's Maryland School Performance Program record improved, McKinley said. Attendance was at or near the top in the county in recent years, he said.
The school's last two graduating classes led the county in scholarship dollars earned, with more than $1 million each year, McKinley said.
Hardin was instrumental in the school's successful transition to a four-period, semester schedule during the 1995-1996 school year, said Edward Kuczynski, co-chairman of the school's Citizens Advisory Committee.
"I think he's been an excellent principal," contributing countless hours to school administation and activities, Kuczynski said.
Hardin was often seen at extracurricular activities whether he had to be there or not.
When interviewed, Hardin said he was on his way to see the Williamsport Wildcats football team play Walkersville. He had seen the Williamsport boys' soccer team defeated earlier that day at an away game against Allegany High School.
Hardin said he will continue to follow Williamsport athletics. He and his wife, Marion, live at 19727 Meadowbrook Road.
He served as assistant principal at North High and South High for nine years each and taught social studies at South High and Smithsburg High School.
Hardin also taught physical education at Southern Fulton High School in Warfordsburg, Pa., for 10 years.