Hal Harrell, superintendent of the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District (UCISD) in Texas, has officially retired after the Uvalde school board unanimously voted to accept his decision on Wednesday.
The board on Wednesday voted for Gary Patterson to serve as the interim superintendent until a permanent replacement is found.
Harrell, a 30-year employee of the school district, announced on Oct. 10 that he planned to step down from the role by the end of the academic year, adding that his heart was “broken.”
The move came following heavy criticism over the handling of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School earlier this year which claimed the lives of 19 children and two teachers.
Harrell’s resignation statement was posted on his wife’s Facebook page last week.
“My decision to retire has not been made lightly and was made after much prayer and discernment. My wife and I love you all and this community that we both grew up in, therefore this decision was a difficult one for us,” Harrell wrote in the announcement.
‘Completely My Choice’
“I have been blessed to work among amazing educators and staff who believe in education for more than 30 years, which have all been in our beautiful community. These next steps for our future are being taken after much reflection, and is completely my choice.”
The Facebook post is no longer visible.
Harrell is among dozens of officials who have faced mounting anger over their handling of the shooting, with a 77-page report published on July 17 by the Texas state House of Representatives stating that there were “shortcomings and failures” across the board by both law enforcement and UCISD in its response.
The superintendent’s retirement comes just a week after the entire school district’s police department was suspended after “additional concerns with department operations” were uncovered, according to Anne Marie Espinoza, spokesperson for UCISD.
It also comes shortly after it was reported that Texas public schools will begin handing out DNA and fingerprint identification kits to parents of students in an effort to help them identify their children in case of an emergency, such as a shooting.
The distribution of the kits follows the passing of Senate Bill 2158 (pdf) in spring 2021 which requires the Texas Education Agency to “provide identification kits to school districts and open-enrollment charter schools for distribution to the parent or legal custodian of certain students.”
According to the bill, the kits are intended for parents to submit DNA results to federal and local law enforcement to help locate children who are missing or who have been trafficked.