Our opinion: Hufnagel saw the reality

Brandon Hufnagel came to the Warren County School District at a pivotal time in its relatively young life.

After less than a half-century of existance, the district was about to fly apart, with the Northern Area Attendance Area moving steadily toward de facto secession through the conversion of Eisenhower Middle/High School to a public charter facility outside of the district’s management.

The embers of discontent had been smouldering for decades as suspicion that ultimately the school district would consolidate high schools in the face of declining enrollment and one or two of the smaller ones might be sacrificed for frugality.

Those embers had erupted into a bonfire of discontent, culminating in a charter application for Eisenhower and talk of another in the future for Sheffield Area Middle/High School.

Within weeks of taking the job as Superintendent, Hufnagel, a former assistant superintendent for a down-state district, forged a compromise. All four high schools would remain open in his blueprint, with two of them converted to kindergarten through Grade 12 facilities. In the process, a number of elementary schools would close.

On the balance sheet, the projected numbers showed the district saving money over the long haul, although some still find that prediction troubling.

Like any compromise, there are necessary compromises involved on both sides to find a middle ground. He looked at the political map of this place from outside the frame and understood its demands.

In short order, Brandon Hufnagel doused the fires of revolt and turned attention to matters other than bricks and mortar – improving education and test scores and the delivery of student services.

Hufnagel is leaving to attend to his family. We respect his decision.

His fingerprints will be on this district for many decades to come.

His replacement will find the landscape much more settled than it was just two years ago, yet not without its challenges. We hope the board’s search for a replacement will find someone with as quick a grasp of the unique character of this district as Hufnagel possessed.