NORTH BRADDOCK, Pa. (KDKA) — The Woodland Hills school board has voted to terminate its superintendent.
The board voted 8 to 1 to terminate James Harris without cause during a meeting on Wednesday. Harris told KDKA before the meeting that he plans to fight the decision.
Wednesday night’s meeting got heated before the vote. Students, parents, coaches and community leaders shared their opinions with the board. Most of the speakers showed their support for Harris, while a few others wanted him fired.
Harris walked out of the meeting right after the board voted.
Earlier on Wednesday, Harris told KDKA that he was completely blindsided when the board president, vice president and solicitor asked him to resign on Tuesday.
Harris has come under fire recently for his handling of fights at the high school, including one involving as many as 50 or 60 students. He initially told KDKA it involved only a half-dozen students.
Several community members said to the board that the decision to vote came up so quickly, so they wanted to know the facts and continue the conversation.
Some speakers said Harris helped improve district and student achievement. Other speakers did not agree.
“If you all vote tonight to remove this great man, this great leader, you are making a bad decision, a real bad decision. A lot of people in the community are upset about it. We have over 200 kids, 400 parents in our program and they’re very upset about it and everybody in the community doesn’t know what’s going on right now,” said Kareem Sarvis from the Woodland Hills Midget Football Association.
“Mr. Harris has consistently lied to us, to the media, to our parents, to our students, to our teachers. Our teachers are tired of it, our students are tired of it, our parents are most definitely tired of it,” said one student.
Earlier in the day on Wednesday, Harris told KDKA that he believes the vote is illegal because there was no proper notice or a scheduled hearing.
A legal fight could cause a delay and leave the matter to the new school board members, who take their seats in January.
The Woodland Hill School District released a statement after the meeting that said in part, “This is not a decision that was taken lightly, but it is one that the board believes is necessary for the district to move forward. We thank Mr. Harris for his service as the district superintendent and will work with him to ensure a smooth transition.”
The district said Harris’ last day will be Dec. 17th and the search for a new superintendent starts immediately.