By Kim Walter
Frederick County School Board member Melvin S. "Jim" Harmon passed away early Monday morning at Winchester Medical Center following a courageous battle with cancer, according to a release sent out by the school system.
Since 2007, Harmon represented the Stonewall District. He was initially appointed to the board in late 2006, and in November of the following year he was elected to finish the last two years of a term. In November 2009, Harmon was elected to a four-year term, which would have ended at the end of this year.
Harmon served on a variety of School Board committees during his time, including the Instruction Committee, the Personnel Committee and the Buildings and Grounds Committee. He also served on the Board of the Frederick County Educational Foundation in 2011.
Frederick County School Superintendent David Sovine released a statement following the news of Harmon's passing.
"Mr. Harmon was a valued member of the Frederick County School Board. During his tenure, students were always his top priority. He was an advocate for the arts and had a great appreciation for the many talented students who attend our schools," Sovine stated.
"Having worked as both a teacher and school administrator, Mr. Harmon also possessed a good understanding of the challenges educators face and he worked tirelessly on their behalf. His many contributions and vision for the future of Frederick County Public Schools as a member of the School Board will be missed."
School Board Chairman Stuart Wolk shared fond memories of working with Harmon.
"We lost a good man today," he said Monday afternoon. "Our board was a lot stronger because of him. He was absolutely uncompromising when it came to doing what is best for kids. No matter what the topic or issue was, he didn't get caught up in the politics of pleasing people ... he was also just quick to point out what was best for the kids, and he stood by what he believed in."
Wolk said the Harmon's experience in a number of positions greatly lent itself to his time on the School Board.
"He was a teacher, administrator, musician ... and his sense of humor ... ," he said, laughing. "He was full of jokes, and we would poke fun at each other from time to time."
Wolk said he had hoped to visit Harmon in the hospital Sunday evening, but due to the shorter visiting hours at Winchester Medical Center, he changed his plans so that he could see him Monday morning.
"I was supposed to see him, and that didn't happen, and I feel awful," Wolk said. "So in that way I was surprised, but he's been fighting this for some time now. And, you know, it's really hard to see someone you love and respect going through such pain."
Wolk said the board now has to go through the tough process of finding someone to take Harmon's spot. In the meantime, he offered sympathy to Harmon's wife, son, and other family members.
"He's in a much better place now," Wolk said.
The board likely will hold a special election to fill the seat this November.
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org