As reported in Athens Banner-Herald, after almost 50 years in education, Clarke County administrator Ernest Hardaway is retiring.
Hardaway taught for five years in Baldwin County after graduating from Savannah State University in 1969.
In 1974, he joined the Athens Clarke County School District and took a job as a science teacher at Clarke Middle School.
After 15 years of teaching science there, Hardaway transitioned into administration, first as an assistant principal at Fourth Street Elementary School, now renamed Howard B. Stroud Elementary.
At the H.T. Edwards Building where he was recently honored, Mayor Nancy Denson read a proclamation declaring June 29, 2017, as Mr. Ernest D. Hardaway Day in Athens.
He held many roles including as the district’s first hearing officer, interim principal at Clarke Middle School, interim Clarke County Schools superintendent, assistant superintendent, and in his final position, executive director of school support services. He retired in 2003 before returning part-time.
“I didn’t have anything else to do and I enjoy what I’m doing,” Hardaway told the paper. “You do it because you love it.”
The principal at Fourth Street when it opened was Maxine Easom, another retired Clarke County administrator, who told the crowd at H.T. Edwards about seeing Hardaway’s former Clarke Middle students bringing their own children to Fourth Street.
"Without a doubt, every parent that stepped into Fourth Street hugged him and told him how much they’d changed,” Easom said. They’d tell Easom, ‘You know he was my eighth-grade science teacher,’ “ she recalled. “They’d tell him about their families, their lives, their children, and laugh about their eighth-grade shenanigans.”
It was the kind of interaction you have with a family member, she said.
“Ernest was the epitome of how you develop relationships with people,” Easom said.
A few others described him as an “institution,” someone they could always go to for help and sound advice.
“The thing that stood out to me — it was never about him. It was all about service to the school district and the students that were here,” said one who’d come to know Hardaway only recently, interim Clarke County School Superintendent Jack Parish.
Hardaway received several honors including the 2002 Howard B. Stroud Award given by the Clarke County’s Foundation for Excellence in Public Education for putting the good of the school district and its students above self-advancement.
In 2014, he received UGA’s Fulfilling the Dream Award, given to those who put the ideals of Martin Luther King Jr. into practice.
Hardaway isn’t sure what he’ll do in retirement, he said.
“I’ve got to figure out what the rest of my life is going to be about,” he said. “I’ve been doing this ever since I graduated from college. I don’t know what else to do.”
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