We don’t know what led to Melvin Hugans not getting another contract as principal of Harper Elementary School — such decisions fall under the umbrella of personnel decisions — but we believe the next leader of that school will take over a much better school after Hugans’ leadership.

There were Harper teachers and parents and many members of the community who had worked with Hugans and Harper at the school board meeting last wee to show their support for him. 

Harper’s challenges are many. One hundred percent of the students are classified as economically disadvantaged, according to the state’s College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI). Fifteen percent of the Harper students are classified as students with disabilities.

Since taking over three years ago, Hugans went about turning Harper’s course around, with initiatives that were as much about instilling school pride as they were about boosting test scores. 

The Harper shirt initiative took hold.

Hugans helped build bridges between the school — the student body is 98 percent African-American — and the community, in particular the business community, to help show students there was more to life and there was plenty they could achieve. 

Under his leadership, the school partnered with businesses and organizations and students went on field trips as far as Savannah to see what they were learning about in class. Organizations also helped with the Harper shirt initiative as Hugans instituted a school uniform for kids.

Harper’s CCRPI scores were 49.5 for 2016. Since then, they have risen to 52.8 in 2017 and 61.7 for 2018. While still not sterling, the increase is nearly 25 percent in just two years. The Governor’s Office of Student Achievement gave Harper the grade of F from 2015-17. In 2018, the grade improved to a D. The school was on the GOSA’s Turnaround Eligible list, which means it was a candidate for state-level intervention. Hugans put in place a five-year academic intervention plan to lift Harper’s scores out of the doldrums. 

Whoever succeeds Hugans will take over a school that is in better shape than before Hugans arrived.