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Mercersburg Elementary School principal resigns

June 27, 2013|By ROXANN MILLER | roxann.miller@herald-mail.com
  • Lura Hanks has resigned as principal of Mercersburg Elementary School, citing "professional incompatibility" as the reason for leaving the job she held since 2010.
File photo

MERCERSBURG, Pa. — Lura Hanks has resigned as principal of Mercersburg Elementary School, citing “professional incompatibility” as the reason for leaving the job she held since 2010.

A week ago, the Tuscarora School Board decided to split Hanks’ time between two elementary schools.

“Due to recent executive decisions and situations, it was time for me to make a change,” Hanks said in a telephone interview Thursday.

On June 18, the board unanimously decided to approve an administrative change that would divide Hanks’ time between Mercersburg and Montgomery elementary schools.

The decision would have enabled Brett Kagarise, who currently serves as principal at Montgomery and Mountain View elementary schools, to serve full time at Mountain View.

Parents and community members stormed out of the June 18 school board meeting, demanding answers from board members about their decision.

While Hanks said the board’s decision was part of her reason for resigning, it was not the final push.

“The direction that the school district is going really doesn’t match with my direction of reaching student achievement,” she said.

As an educational leader, Hanks said it was time for her to move on.

“The decisions the school district was making didn’t align with ones that would have enabled me to continue the way I would have needed to,” she said.

She thanked Mercersburg Elementary’s dedicated staff and the hardworking and passionate community.

“I want to tell the parents and community that I have 100 percent confidence in the staff and the community to continue our efforts and secure the success of the school,” she said.

Hanks begins her new job as principal of Winter Street Elementary School in Hagerstown on Monday.

“I am very devastated and saddened by the news,” said Michele Poacelli, the mother of two young children in the Tuscarora school district.

She is one of dozens of parents who attended board meetings in support of keeping Hanks as full-time principal at Mercersburg Elementary School.

“I think it is a tremendous blow to our school and to our school district. I think that the decision made on the 18th effectively forced her out,” Poacelli said.

Considering the very outspoken views from the community and other voices that it was a bad idea for the school district, it’s shocking that the board voted for this, she said.

“It’s just so hard to believe that the board was shortsighted enough to not foresee that something like this could happen. We see this as an incredible misstep in the management of the school district,” Poacelli said.

Schools Superintendent Charles Prijatelj said he received Hanks’ letter of resignation Wednesday morning. While her last official day will be Sunday, she is no longer working in the district, effective June 26, he said.

“I wish her all the best in her professional pursuits. She was an excellent principal for us. I wish her well in her new position,” Prijatelj said.

He said the district will begin the search for a new principal, internally first. The district has an administrator pool, he said.

“If we feel we have an excellent candidate internally, we’re going to interview and go with that candidate. If not, then we’ll do an outside search,” Prijatelj said.

As far as the comments of the parents, Prijatelj said: “I understand their passions. I understand their concerns. But at the same time, we need to make solid decisions that are in the best interests of children.

“We made a decision based on the best way for us to use our administrative resources to meet the needs of all of our children, and that’s as far as I can comment on it.

“This is a personnel decision that we made that we felt was in the best interests of all the children in our district.”
 
Board President Clifford Smith Jr. wished Hanks well in her new educational endeavor.

“I would like to wish her well in her new position,” Smith said.

It is unfortunate that Hanks’ vision for her talents and abilities are different than the district’s vision for her, he said.

“As always, we strive to do what is best for the children entrusted into our care,” Smith said.

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