EAST CHICAGO | East Chicago School Superintendent Mike Harding retired effective Wednesday.
Harding, 63, of Granger, Ind., who also has a house in East Chicago, started the job in August 2009.
The personnel report regarding Harding was the only item on the agenda for the East Chicago school board Tuesday. The board voted unanimously to accept the superintendent's retirement. Sixth District representative Drake Morris was absent from the meeting.
Harding, who was on family medical leave from July 5 to Oct. 25, did not attend the meeting. Late Tuesday, he said he is looking forward to taking some time off, caring for family and spending time with his children and grandchildren.
"I plan to slow down a little bit," he said by telephone. "I developed some positive relationships there and I intend to take care of loose ends. I have been off for a while. I want to touch base with people.
"I'm proud of the accomplishments in the four years I've been there," he said. "We focused on improving and increasing educational opportunities for children and families. We've accomplished many goals and objectives. We improved test scores, graduation rates and addressing the many needs of schools in an urban setting. There still remains challenges and with that comes great opportunities for the district to continue moving forward."
None of the School Board members made any comments following the vote, though board President Jesse Gomez later said the board wishes Harding well in his retirement.
Harding's contract would have ended in August 2014, however School Board attorney Richard Lesniak said the retirement effectively ends the contract.
"There is no payout. The board does not have to buy him out, he simply retired," Lesniak said.
There has been some dissatisfaction among members of the community and school employees almost throughout Harding's tenure, with some members of the community calling for his resignation.
East Chicago Federation of Teachers President John Zarlengo was the lone member who clapped when the board accepted Harding's retirement. Last year, the union put up a billboard in East Chicago saying teachers had "no confidence" in the superintendent.
"It's been a long road to this moment," Zarlengo said. "We put that billboard up last year. I'm speaking on behalf of the union and the union members."