Woodward ends 16-year reign

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By Becky Barnes

Sixteen years ago, Dr. Roy Woodward came to Harrison County on the heels of controversy and was touted to be the man who would move the schools forward.

Woodward took over as superintendent on July 1, 1992.

Dr. George Paul Hehr, who was a former assistant superintendent, was serving as interim superintendent in the wake of the Wade G. Roby PhD. era. Roby's reign as superintendent ended after months of debate and division of the community.

Hehr stayed at the helm until Woodward arrived.

In Woodwards early days, he, too, came under close community scrutiny.

One of his first duties was to referee a turf battle between the football boosters and the baseball team.

"There were some angry people," he said.

The football team wanted to use the baseball outfield as its practice field and the baseball team wanted to maintain the integrity of its field.

Woodward's resolution and ultimate recommendation to the school board was to purchase adjacent property and make it a practice field.

Just as that controversy was settling, Woodward made another bold move when he recommended that the elementary schools be air conditioned.

"You're going to break the school system," Woodward remembers being told by naysayers.

Most of the high school and the middle school were already air conditioned. Woodward said the extreme heat and lack of air conditioning in the elementary schools caused the delay of school opening.

Another incident that grabbed headlines during Woodward's early reign was a threat against the high school's cheerleaders.

The FBI was called in and the incident made national news.

"Unfortunately, we found it was one of our own," Woodward said. However, he again came under fire because he would not allow the cheerleaders on the field the night the incident broke.

Another unfortunate incident was a school bus accident that injured one student and resulted in the dismissal of the bus driver. The bus was on its way to the Double Stink Hog Farm when the driver ran off the road and the bus overturned.

"Any one of those incidents is a nightmare for a superintendent," Woodward said.

Then came the spring of 1997. The 1996-97 school year had passed without missed day ... until March.

Harrison Countians were out en masse for the district basketball game between HCHS and Bourbon County. Law enforcement officials came to the Hilltop to tell Woodward that the game needed to be shut down because Cynthiana was flooding and was about to be cut off by flood waters.

"In a crisis situation like that, you find out what it really means to live in Harrison County," Woodward said.

School was out for three weeks during the massive clean-up efforts.

"When we came back, we had a lot of children without clothes and supplies," Woodward recalled. "It was wonderful the way the community pitched in."

Woodward said he discovered a compassionate community where he had made his home.

It was during his own health crisis with a kidney transplant that staff members stepped up to carry on in his absence.

"A good leader is when your people can step in and go right on when you aren't available," Woodward said.

He said that rang true again most recently when high school principal Robert Barr vacated his position in the middle of the school year. Assistant principal Amy Casey took over as interim principal.

"I have a lot of good memories here," he said, smiling.

Woodward said the greatest accomplishment during his tenure has been student achievement and learning.

"We've also had a good vision for the future," Woodward said, noting that the system has purchased 125 acres on the Hilltop for future developments.

"What I think in that in all probability, within 10 years the entire Harrison County educational system will be located on the Hilltop," he said.

That vision would involve building one elementary school to serve the entire county. Woodward said he believes that school would be for grades 2, 3, 4 and 5.

It would include a gymnasium and walking center for the community with up-to-date computer labs.

"We've got to build for the future," Woodward said. "We've started in that direction with our bonding. Economically, all the buses would come to the Hilltop. We could drop from four principals to two and from four librarians to two."

He noted that Harrison County has not shown signs of any significant growth, which would eliminate the need to have four schools and to be paying bills on four schools.

"We can't wait until that's what is needed and want it done immediately," he said. "We've got to have vision and be prepared to act on it."

Woodward said that has been his goal as superintendent.

He will be retiring following the June 24 school board meeting.

He said he plans to visit with his daughter Karen, who lives in California and is about to have his second grandchild.

"I'll be able to read and do some things I've wanted to do for awhile," he said.

He said he has promised his children that he would take at least a year off before looking at other ventures.

He will be moving back to his hometown of Owensboro at the end of July.

He said of all the things he has learned while in Harrison County, he believes the most valuable is that criticism is not personal.

"You have to remember that in a leadership position."