By Beverly A. Carroll
Delaware resident Bruce Harter , one of three finalists for the Hamilton County Schools superintendent position, left his previous job a year before his contract ended, he said.
Dr. Harter left the Lee County School District in Fort Myers, Fla., in 2001 to become superintendent of the Brandywine School District in Claymont, Del.
While Dr. Harter was at Lee County, from 1997 to 2001, the district rose from the bottom third to the top fifth in statewide studentlearning scores and completed 1 million square feet of school building and renovation, he said.
In his fourth year, Florida changed how school buildings were inspected, and 64 out of 68 Lee County Schools failed to meet safety and fire requirements, Dr. Harter said.
"I knew then I had to leave Florida," he said.
Lee County School Board member Jeanne Dozier, one of the two administrators, disputed Dr. Harter's version.
"I guess you could say I did get demoted," Ms. Dozier said. "But when I got elected, I told him I was willing to work with him. He was not willing to work with me."
Ms. Dozier said Dr. Harter did not come up with a plan for the fire code issues in a timely manner and that schools almost "didn't open one year" as a result.
Former board member Teri Wampler said Dr. Harter did an excellent job for Lee County and was "really focused on student learning."
The fire code problems occurred before Dr. Harter arrived in Florida, she said.
"But he never cast any blame," Mrs. Wampler said. "He dug in and got it back on track."
Dr. Harter's wife, Lee Anna Hedges, received contracts to do work for the Lee County school district during the time he was superintendent, Ms. Wampler said.
"There was no policy against (it), and it was all out in the open," she said.
Dr. Harter said his wife earned about $5,000 from contracts over several years, officials said.
Bob Johnson, former board member of the Corvallis School District in Oregon, said Dr. Harter did a good job when he served as superintendent there from 1992 to 1997.
"Bruce was one of the brightest educators I knew," Mr. Johnson said. "He is a risk-taker and a strategic thinker."
Dr. Harter also was superintendent of Vista Unified School District in Vista, Calif., from 1988 to 1992. He was the superintendent of Adams County District in Commerce City, Colo., from 1983 to 1988.
He earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan in 1970, a master's degree from Eastern Michigan University in 1976 and a doctorate from the University of Colorado in 1990.
E-mail Beverly A. Carroll at email@example.com