Former Hilton Head principal ousted as acting Pa. education secretary

info@islandpacket.comAugust 27, 2013 

William Harner in a photograph dated June 30, 1998.


The former principal of Hilton Head Island High School has resigned as Pennsylvania's interim education secretary over what one governor's aide has characterized as multiple, inappropriate comments while in another job.

Gov. Tom Corbett asked Monday for the resignation of William Harner, who also had been nominated, but not yet confirmed, to lead the state Department of Education full-time.

A spokeswoman for the governor, Lynn Lawson, declined to tell The Associated Press why Corbett asked for the resignation of Harner, who had been acting secretary of education since June 1. Lawson said only that "it is entirely a personnel matter" and added that the reason did not involve Harner's time in the Corbett administration.

Harner's dismissal came after Corbett, a Republican, removed Ron Tomalis in May without explanation.

Harner, who spent two years as Hilton Head High's principal before resigning in spring 2000, most recently had spent five years as the superintendent of the Cumberland Valley School District in Pennsylvania. His contract with the district was ending June 30, and the board there had not approved a new deal with him before Corbett nominated him in May, according to the AP.

A governor's office statement on Harner's resignation gave no reason for the move. However, a Corbett administration official -- who was briefed on the matter and spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation -- told the AP it involved multiple and inappropriate workplace comments by Harner while he was superintendent of the large school district in suburban Harrisburg, Pa.

In a statement posted online Monday by The Sentinel of Carlisle, Harner said "detractors" succeeded in undermining his confirmation "with a campaign of distortions."

"(A)ny complaints made during my tenure as superintendent were fully investigated, and no matter was ever determined to be of merit or legal consequence," Harner said.

Harner, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, began his education career with the Beaufort County School District in 1998 after 20 years in the military. He received a doctorate in educational leadership and master's degrees in education supervision and human resources from the University of South Carolina.

He resigned in spring 2000 after two years as principal at Hilton Head Island High to become the superintendent of the Greenville County School District. He abruptly stepped down from that position in April 2004, and the reasons for his departure have been kept sealed in a four-page legal settlement, according to past media reports.

Harner's four-year tenure in Greenville County was marked by clashes with the district's board and the community over issues such as changing school start times, closing two career centers, school dress codes and a failed tax referendum.

In 2007, he was inducted into the SC Lacrosse Hall of Fame for building the first public high school lacrosse program in the state, at Hilton Head Island High School in 1999. In 2003, while superintendent in Greenville County, he added seven more high school lacrosse programs.

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