UPDATE: The board voted to terminate Superintendent James Harris. Read more here.
ALLEGHENY COUNTY (KDKA) — Woodland Hills Superintendent James Harris said he was shocked when the school board president, vice president and solicitor asked him to resign.READ MORE: Protest Held Outside Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald's Home Hours Before COVID-19 Vaccination Deadline For Employees
He vows to fight any move to fire him.
KDKA’s Andy Sheehan: Were you blindsided by this?
Harris: Totally, 100 percent.
In his fourth year as superintendent with more than a year to go, school board members paid Harris a visit on Tuesday and tried to show him the door.
Harris: The board president, the vice president and the district solicitor came to me, and they wanted my resignation.
Sheehan: Did you give it to them?
The board members then quickly put a vote to terminate on the agenda for Wednesday night’s meeting. But Harris and his attorney told KDKA’s Andy Sheehan that they believe the vote would be illegal — without proper notice and a scheduled hearing.READ MORE: 5,000-6,000 Gallons Of Gas Spilled Into Washington County Stream
If the vote is “yes,” Harris said he’ll fight it.
“This is my fourth year. I’ve received three positive evaluations. I’ve never had a verbal or written reprimand. I’ve never even had a sit down saying, ‘Hey you need to do this better,'” Harris said.
The superintendent came under fire recently for his handling of fights at the high school, including a brawl in October involving as many as 50 or 60 students. Harris initially told KDKA the fight involved only a half-dozen students.
Sheehan: The allegations were that you were whitewashing this.
Harris: Yeah, I was trying to get information out on the site, on the scene as soon as possible. And there was my mistake.
Sheehan: Is there an impression that the district, in terms of safety and student behavior, is out of control and you are not in control of it?
Harris: I think so, through social media.
Harris calls it a misimpression and said academics and finances have improved under his leadership. He also believes the district could stay on an upward trajectory if he stays.
“I’ve never been told that my performance is inadequate to run this district,” Harris said.MORE NEWS: Liquor Control Board Report Reveals Unflavored Vodka As Top-Selling Drink In Pennsylvania
With this vote, the board would attempt to terminate the contract without cause and pay Harris a year’s salary to leave. A legal fight could delay the vote and leave the matter to the new board members who take their seats in January.