Two Floyd County deputy sheriffs showed up at Rob Neukirch’s home in town recently with a letter from School Superintendent Kevin Harris.
The letter warned Neukich to keep his mouth shut or face expulsion and banishment from school properties.
“I will ban you from being on any property owned by the Floyd County School Board or attending any school related event,” Harris said in the letter delivered to Neukirch by officers of the law. “Should you choose to disregard this warning, I will have you immediately removed form school grounds.”
Neukirch, it seemed, questioned actions of the school administration and did so publicly at a cross country track meet in Hillsville last week. He admitted to Roanoke Times columnist Dan Casey that he was sarcastic by suggesting Harris might fire a cross country coach is his daughter, who runs cross country, doesn’t win.
“I wasn’t on my best behavior,” Neukirch told Casey.
At the same time, others might wonder if a school superintendent who sends the law to the home of the parent of a school student, who is also a cross country track runner, is crossing the line too.
Neukirch has a history of taking on school leaders and coaches over what he feels are poor decisions involving the teams and his sons who have excelled at basketball and track. He questioned the actions of boys’ varsity basketball coach Brian Harmon.
But teachers and others who deal with Harris say he also has a hair-trigger temper when anyone dares question his actions. Neukirch questions the dismissal of former cross country assistant Dawn Weeks, who lost her job last season after Harris’ daughter was left off a track relay team.
Harris has tangled with members of the county board of supervisors over budget issues after he became school superintendent. He stopped appearing before the board after a dust-up with supervisors in the last budget review process.
The school superintendent, who stands will over six feet, says Neukirch, a former actor who is slight in stature, is “intimidating.” He says he called in the sheriff’s department to deliver the written warning to Neukirch because the home football game opener was coming up last week and he wanted to make sure the letter was delivered and “didn’t want another situation to develop.”
Harris told Casey:
By all witnesses, it was inappropriate, challenging, threatening. I think it was disruptive. It didn’t stop the meet, but when you have a parent yelling at anyone, it was disruptive. It’s not a venue for any parent to be yelling at any school officials.
Witnesses tell me the discussion between Harris was “spirited” and both sides seemed “intense.”
“He’s a megalomaniac,” Neukirch said of Harris in his interview with Casey. “He’s a bully.”
“Dr. Harris has a temper,” says one teacher. “You don’t want to see that temper aimed at you.”
Neukirch is also outspoken and is quick to defend his children and criticize any actions he feels are detrimental to them or the community. I’ve been on the receiving end of his temper more than once. He’s passionate.
Casey, who is a friend and wrote more than once about my recovery from a near-fatal motorcycle accident in 2012, says school athletics like cross country can create passion between parents and school officials.
On this latest situation in Floyd County, he suggests “it seems well past the time for all the principals to be in a room, put their cards on the table, and discuss this like adults.”
Good luck. If such a “Come to Jesus” meeting is called, will the invitations be delivered by deputies?