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Plainfield Superintendent Harper Named Principal at Providence Catholic

Harper is set to retire in July from District 202.

John Harper. Credit: File photo
John Harper. Credit: File photo
After retiring from a 33-year career in Plainfield School District 202, Superintendent John Harper will take on a new role.

Harper, whose contract expires in July, is set to take over as the new principal at Providence Catholic High School in New Lenox next school year, according to a message from Providence President Rev. Richard McGrath.

District 202 Community Relations Director Tom Hernandez confirmed the news Tuesday, saying Harper sent a message about his new job to district leaders this week.

“After an extensive search we have chosen the best candidate for the job. He is one of our own, a PCHS alumnus and current parent with extensive educational experience to lead our school community,” McGrath said in a message to Providence families.

In a message posted to the Providence website, Harper, a former Providence student, said the move to the Catholic high school signaled "the circle of life."

“For the past 33 years I've been blessed to both live and work in District 202, and I'll remain eternally grateful for the life lessons I've learned from my colleagues, our families and most especially, our students," Harper said. "Ironically, I've come to understand the personal values and beliefs which have strengthened and sustained me both personally and professionally for the past three decades, which were first taught to me and modeled while I was a student at Providence Catholic. 

"Consequently, being named Principal of Providence Catholic is a tremendous honor, bringing with it a strong sense of 'coming home,'" he added.

Harper started his career in District 202 in 1981 as a social studies teacher at Indian Trail Middle School. The campus, now marking its 50th anniversary, is slated to get a brick garden dubbed "Harper's Hollow" in his honor. 

According to District 202's most recent administrator salary report, Harper's base salary is $270,446.33, plus $15,000 in annuities and $49,007.46 in other benefits.

Hernandez said the Harper's new job won't affect his pension.

In 2009, the previous Plainfield school board stirred controversy by voting to extend Harper's contract for another five years while laying off 86 other staffers.

Rod Westfall, who remains on the board, told Patch he voted against the extension, since Harper still had more than two years left on his contract.

During Harper's career, District 202 has grown dramatically, most notably during the years of 1998 to 2008, when enrollment went from 3,500 students in five schools to 30,000 students in 30 schools.

Harper is set to retire this July from District 202. Former Plainfield Central High School Principal Lane Abrell, who is currently serving as associate superintendent, will take over as the new superintendent.

Jdub0721 March 18, 2014 at 10:02 PM
Good for him! Im really happy for him! I wish him nothing the best. Take those two pensions and do the one finger wave to the haters all the way to the bank!!
Stella Reese March 19, 2014 at 09:28 AM
It would have been nice to know what Dr. Harper meant when he said "retire." Shannon, is there a way to determine just how much we taxpayers will be sending his way in pension payments to supplement what he'll be drawing at Providence?
Rob B March 19, 2014 at 11:05 AM
Good luck to him! If he is allowed to retire based on years vested, why does it matter that he has taken another job? Do you have the same concern with a fireman retiring at 55 and drawing a full pension while working another full-time job? Admittedly, I don't know how worthy Dr. Harper was over his entire career but he was chosen to have these positions over his 33 year career. It appears he is a motivated individual who progressed through the chain of our school system. He chased the carrot and caught it, is there shame in that? His accomplishments are simply achieved goals of his. Hard work and achievements should given the highest praise and recognition, not criticized because times are tough economically. We all want more for our great teachers but it's a horrible message to encourage teachers to progress up the ladder and than bitch about how every rung has a pay increase. When you become top dog, you have top responsibility and you get top pay. Again, through others, we choose this employee. We choose to pay him/her a set amount. It's sour to complain about how successfully somebody has played the game of life. My three kids are in PSD 202 and that's why we live here. Dr. Harper has spent 33 years working in it. If he was repeatedly promoted and/or renewed, than one would think it was deserved. Good for Providence and I hope Dr. Harper's replacement can continue to carry the torch well!
John Tips March 19, 2014 at 11:35 AM
Good Riddance! We wish him no foul, but are happy that he is gone, and only wish he would have taken Hernandez with him! Mr. Harper along with many other school districts officials in our area were over payed, at the expense of the taxpayers! If people living in these districts wish to see poverty education, just have a look at Southern Illinois, their teacher pay, and the condition of the schools there! We have long fought for equalized financial support for ALL Illinois family's children and the schools they attend. The pension/benefits that Harper and others were provided here is far overshadowing their value! What this state needs is full pension reform, less government, term limits, and more people who actually work for a living! We taxpayers will be watching how the school board and other districts perform in the years ahead. We voted - and hope you did too!

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