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E. HOLMES DISTRICT -- Stepping into the shoes of and hoping to continue the tradition of John Harris, Alexander Looney said he's looking forward to the coming school year.
At a special meeting of the Board of Education, Looney was awarded a one-year contract to serve as the vocal music teacher for the district.
Harris, who directed his last performance at Hiland's May 28 graduation, who has brought an end to a 31-year career, which culminated in 18 years in the East Holmes district.
It was "the high reputation of the choral program under the leadership of John Harris" that attracted him to the district, according to Looney, who also is impressed with "the community and how supportive they are of education and the arts and the quality programs," evidenced in the high-quality music facilities that make up Hiland's fine arts wing.
In general, Looney said, he expects a smooth transition into the Christ-centered community.
"I want to take the incredible tradition and move it forward," said Looney, adding he thinks he will have no problem rising to the district's expectations of a dynamic leader who will inspire and challenge students. "I will wholeheartedly invest every drop of my blood, sweat and tears into it."
He said he intends to provide the highest quality choral education for students in grades 5-12 as possible, while working hard to carry on and expand on the strong tradition established by Harris -- in music education, performances and competitions.
In doing so, Looney said he expects to expose students to a full spectrum of music. He also said he believes strongly in musicals and madrigals and looks to, similarly, continue the tradition of quality performances.
"I am just filled with excitement and joy and anticipation to learn about the community and teach the students. I am honored and humbled to be given this opportunity. I am, in general, incredibly excited about what is to come," said Looney.
From among eight applicants interviewed initially and four called back for second interviews, Looney "quickly rose to the top," said Superintendent Erik Beun.
Assisting in the search and hiring process was a committee consisting of representation not just from Hiland, but the music program, boosters, elementary schools and the Tri-County Educational Service Center.
While such committees often are employed by the district, a decision was made to make the group larger than normal to "gain a variety of perspectives," said Beun, noting, "Music, as we can see through our kids and community, is something people value. We want to make sure we get it right, and having those perspectives in the room led us to that destination."
Of Looney, Beun said, "He quickly was able to demonstrate he'll be able to connect to and relate with our kids. His high content knowledge in music and choir and the fact he has a year under his belt and has some experience in the classroom shows that he has a lot of potential.
"I think he's has a very approachable personality that I think people will gravitate toward. It's very clear he's passionate about music."
Reporter Christine Pratt can be reached at 330-674-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.