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Harrisville district hires two principals, shifts administrative duties

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HARRISVILLE — Harrisville Central School District has revamped its administrative structure by bringing in a pair of new principals to handle multiple duties.

The Board of Education hired Eric M. Luther as principal for pre-kindergarten through grade 5 and chairman of the Committee on Special Education, while George F. Merritt III will serve as principal for grades 6 through 12 and athletic director.

“These two gentlemen seem to be a good match for the district,” said board President Jan T. Mosher.

The district previously had one principal overseeing the middle-high school, while the superintendent served as elementary principal and two teachers handled the CSE chairman and athletic director positions on a part-time basis.

Mrs. Mosher said she expects the new setup to provide more effective leadership, noting the new positions may be “tailored to the needs of the district.”

The changes, which involved moving former Athletic Director David Giver back to full-time teacher status, are expected to be essentially budget neutral, she added.

While Mr. Giver has done a “great job” in coordinating athletics for the district, it made sense to move those duties under the auspices of a full-time administrator who likely would have more flexibility to handle midday issues than a part-time teacher, Mrs. Mosher said.

The district’s leadership shuffle effectively started in late May, when former Superintendent Rolf A. Waters accepted a contract buyout from the district and was replaced by Robert N. Finster, who was secondary school principal for the past three years.

Mr. Waters, Canton, who became superintendent in July 2003, had indicated prior to his resignation that relations with the board had become strained and that some of his budget and tenure recommendations had been disregarded by board members.

One of those recommendations involved Mr. Waters’s wife, Yvonne, who was hired in 2010 as a reading teacher and CSE chairwoman. That hiring eventually led to some community and staff complaints, and Mrs. Waters — after being denied tenure by the school board in April — resigned from her dual position, opening up the special education administrative slot.

Mrs. Mosher said the two new principals were chosen from a pool of six or seven candidates interviewed for their personalities and divergent experiences.

“They’re both bringing something different to the table,” she said.

Mr. Luther, a South Lewis Central School District graduate, for the past 12 years has taught 9th and 10th grade world history at Carthage Central School. He holds a bachelor’s degree from St. Lawrence University, Canton, a Master’s degree in general education from SUNY Potsdam and is working to complete his administrative degree through SUNY Oswego.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Carthage and learned a great deal from the staff,” Mr. Luther said by email. “However, I was looking to have a greater impact on students and felt that Harrisville was the perfect opportunity.”

Mr. Merritt, a native of the Rochester area, has served as assistant principal at Watertown High School for the past 11 years.

“I am very excited to be here in Harrisville and look forward to meeting more of the students, parents and faculty,” he said by email.

Mr. Merritt started out his career as a vocational, technical and math teacher in Rochester, and had prior administrative stints as an athletic director and school-to-work coordinator.

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