Brian Harper

MCCRACKEN COUNTY, KY — McCracken County School Board member Chris Taylor has confirmed the board ignored the recommendations of its own search committee when it hired recently resigned Superintendent Brian Harper in 2017.

The board vote to hire Harper then was 3 to 2, with Taylor joining then Chairwoman Kelly Walker and current Chairman Steve Shelby in voting to hire Harper.  Taylor said he voted for Harper because he had been an athletic mentor of his when Harper was a coach. Two other members of the search committee who declined to be identified confirmed Taylor’s account.

That search or screening committee, appointed by the school board, had forwarded the names of three other candidates to be considered. Current Board Chair Steve Shelby was a member of the committee. Multiple sources with direct knowledge of Harper’s selection said the screening committee had ranked him low among the pool of candidates. Twenty applications were received. Five were considered incomplete and discarded. Sources said the screening committee had not ranked Harper in the top 10 of the remaining 15.

Just prior to Harper’s selection, the Paducah Sun quoted Kentucky School Board Association Consultant Butch Canty as saying seven of the applicants were current superintendents — two were principals and one was of “an educational organization.” Harper was working for Marshall County Schools in an administrative position. Canty called it a healthy number of applicants. The School Board had contracted with the KSBA to oversee the application and screening process. The district paid the KSBA $6,000 for the work, plus travel expenses for the consultant.

Harper is now the subject of a Kentucky State Police investigation into his use of a school owned vehicle. He resigned his position suddenly as the district was dealing with investigations and criminal charges over sex abuse involving a school principal, two faculty members and a student.