Before hiring a new superintendent Monday night, members of the Harford board of education said farewell to the woman who’s led the school system for the last four years and been part of it for more than 40.
Superintendent Barbrara Canavan, who started her teaching career in 1973, is retiring June 30. A new superintendent, Dr. Sean Bulson, was named Monday night.
Matt Resnik, the student representative on the board, called Canavan “one of the greatest women who ever walked in this building,” the Roberty Building on Hickory Avenue that is the school system headquarters.
“You’re a loving mom, a caring grandmother and a great administrator,” Resnik said, “and I am so honored to be leaving with someone as great as you. Thank you all for all you’ve done for the students of Harford County and we will miss you dearly.”
Canavan began her career as a language arts teacher and board member Nancy Reynolds, a former language arts teacher, said “every story has a theme.”
“She has always worked hard, always been dedicated to her staff, her community and most of all her students,” said Reynolds, who has known Canavan since they were teachers. “She had handled every job she has ever taken on with integrity and a very sound moral compass.”
Board member Robert Frisch and Canavan haven’t always seen eye to eye, Frisch said, but “I never had any doubt the decisions you made were what you thought was in the best interest of the children and the school system, and I respect you for that.”
Board member Tom Fitzpatrick joined the school board seven years ago and it was in a “very different place,” he said.
The budget was flat for four to five years, the morale in the classrooms was “terrible,” and “things weren’t good.”
“I was beginning to wonder what I was getting into,” Fitzpatrick said.
One thing changed, and that was the superintendent and the choice of Canavan for the role in 2013 was an “inspired one,” he said.
“Things turned around, not just materially, but emotionally and physically as well,” Fitzpatrick said. “There’s been a sea change in morale in Harford County Public Schools in your time as leader. Harford Count Public Schools is a much better place now than it was seven years ago and I have no doubt the largest single piece was is due to Barbara Canavan.”
Board member Laura Runyeon said she will always respect Canavan “for your passion and for speaking freely what you believe. I know it comes from a place of always wanting to support the kids.”
Under Canavan’s leadership, Harford students have excelled in their academic lives and her staff and faculty have improved their performances year after year, board member Joseph Hau said, while board member Al Williamson said Canavan’s record speaks for itself, “by every measurement, every objective.”
Her retirement is well-deserved, board member Rachel Gauthier said.
“You have my great admiration for the amount of time you put into educating thousands of children and the impact you’ve had on tens of thousands of kids, teachers and staff members,” Gauthier said. “I wish you luck and I wash you adventures.”
Canavan spoke briefly at the end of Monday’s seven-hour meeting, which lasted until nearly 1:30 a.m. Tuesday.
“I just want to thank everybody for the kind remarks; I’ll take them with me,” she said.
“My last day is June 28 and there’s still a lot of work to do, so my attitude is – well, I guess I can’t say I’ll get up in the morning, and start a new day – later on in the day I’ll start a new day.”
“Seriously, thank you for the privilege of allowing me to do everything that I could humanly possibly do to take care of kids and to take care of Harford County Public Schools. It’s a big part of my life, will be a big part of my life for the next few weeks and just thank you,” she said.