New operations director at Harrison Hills

CADIZ – Harrison Hills School District will have a new director of operations this year.

Mark Kowalski will assume the title and duties. His job will cover transportation, food services, payroll, and buildings and grounds. He is stepping into the shoes of Ed Kovacik, who has served as director of operation for several years.

Kowalski thanked Dr. George Ash, superintendent, and the school board for their confidence.

“I really appreciate Dr. Ash and the board affording me the opportunity to work closely with Mr. Kovacik in the latter months of his career,” he said, noting the extensive food service and transportation operation. “We’re talking about over a million-dollar business with transportation in our district. Along with traveling 3,000 miles a day on our roads and hauling a very precious cargo to the people of this county, and I think we do a pretty good job.”

He added that the reimbursement from the Ohio Department of Education is more than $1 million. The cafeteria is a more than $80,000 per month business requiring monthly reports.

“There’s a lot of responsibilities there that people don’t see. And people trust us to make sure we’re putting good product out in our cafeterias and that we’re taking care of kids, picking them up and getting them home safely. A lot of responsibility, but I appreciate the opportunity,” he said.

“Transportation starts in this district at 5 a.m. every day,” he said, adding that buses are often on the road well into the night and on weekends when extracurricular activities are taken into account. Mechanics are also on duty. He carries a radio and remains on-call in the event of emergency. “It’s really a round the clock thing.”

He complimented the staff for their quality and hard work.

“We’ve got some really good people working in our transportation department along with our food service and our buildings and grounds, and we’re going to continue to work and try to improve those areas and keep things going in the right direction, which Ed has done in his time as director of operations.”

An upcoming change is the ongoing project to move the district fleet of 26 buses to a new garage on Industrial Park Road. The district covers 384 square miles. Buses carry close to 1,300 students.

In addition, the district must continue to adhere to new regulations from the National School Lunch Program, determining what may be served in cafeterias. Standards are focusing on low fat, whole grain and other more healthy foods.

“We’re going to continue tweaking or revamping on our menu to meet the national standards. We have a dietitian who’s done our menu for us this year and will continue to make the necessary changes along with the federal laws that are coming down.”

Duran Morgan has taken on Kowalski’s former role of building principal. Kowalski has worked in the high school building for the past seven years.

“That building will always hold a special place in my heart. There’s a lot of good people there. A lot of good kids walk those halls, have and will continue to, but I think it’s in very good hands,” Kowalski said.

Kovacik has served the district during periods of fiscal caution and reorganization that necessitated cuts and the closing of three buildings.

“We’ve come a long way in the last four or five years of our safety plans, our success in food service, the work we’re doing on buildings and grounds, the plans we have for preventive maintenance and improvements in the district,” he said, adding that Harrison Hills has deemed one of the most efficient and safe districts in the state. “We just want to keep everything going and continue making progress.”

He added that Kowalski has been working with him on a part-time basis since last year to familiarize himself with the system and his duties. Training will continue to intensify during the next month as Kowalski takes on the day-to-day operations of the district.

“Mark’s working with me 24/7 right now,” he said. “These are big jobs. This is a multi-million dollar position.”

Kowalski should officially take office later in March.

Kovacik is closing out a 35-year career as an educator and his 39th year as a bus driver.

“We’ve had a transition plan for Mr. Kovacik’s retirement,” said Ash. “Although Mr. Kovacik’s experience and work abilities are irreplaceable, Mr. Kowalski has chosen to step up and take those responsibilities. He’s been mentoring under Mr. Kovacik for the past two years. He’s up to the task of being director of operations.”

DeFrank can be reached at