Where are they now? …. Bob Harmon

Editor’s note – Former Forks educator Bob Harmon, called the Forks Forum last week and said that he would like to share a story that he was very proud of with the community he once resided in. I said absolutely!

Thank you Bob, and congratulations!

Bob Harmon Service to Education Award

By Bob Harmon

Below is a relatively brief history of my connections to the Quillayute Valley School District (QVSD – Forks), Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI – Olympia), and the National Association of ESEA State Program Administrators (NAESPA).]

As I look back, one thread goes through my entire educational career of almost 50 years… [I was 21 when I graduated from Pacific Lutheran University; I turned 71 in June.]

That common thread is Title I, Part A—the largest program under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (or ESEA). No, I was not present when President Lyndon Johnson signed ESEA into law in 1965—but I was alive then.

I was hired as a math teacher in a Title I-eligible school—Forks Junior-Senior High School in Forks, Washington State—yes, the same Forks that was the subject of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series of books and movies about vampires in the damp, dark rainforests of the Olympic Peninsula. Forks Principal David Ratko interviewed me; he had been one of my teachers at Bethel High School in Spanaway. Some of my staff colleagues were Ron Thompson, Phil Borde, Bob Hall, Ken and Kathy Cunningham, and Jack Smith. That year, such students as Ken Olson, Larry Woody, Darlene Engeseth, and Fern Blankenship walked the halls of the 1925 building. Over the nearly three decades that would follow, hundreds of students were educated on that historic site. I was privileged to teach some of them. Some of my happiest and most rewarding years were spent on that campus.

Twenty-six years there as a teacher, vice-principal, principal, and district-level administrator in charge of (you guessed it) Title I and other ESEA programs — oh (and also) curriculum, instruction, assessment, staff development, transportation, food service—and other duties as assigned—mostly whatever the Superintendent didn’t want to do.

From there, I was hired by the state office in Olympia as the Title I Director for Washington. Later, I became Assistant Superintendent for Special Programs which included (you guessed it) Title I and other ESEA programs – programs like migrant, bilingual, teacher and principal quality, several state programs, as well as civil rights, special education—and other duties as assigned. I became a member of (what was then) the National Association of State Title I Directors (or NASTID)—with 2 terms as President—and was at the state office for 14 years.

Twenty-six years in Forks and 14 years in Olympia gave me 40 years in education—so, I retired—well, almost.

I was offered a job with A+ Events (later Franklin Street Management) in support of the National Title I Association and now is the National Association of ESEA State Program Administrators (or NAESPA)—which produces the annual National ESEA Conference. I have served the Association as CEO for 9 years.

Recently, I was asked, “What do you attribute your long career in education to? In a word, it’s relationships—It’s not who you know, but how you treat who you know.

I was honored at the 2022 national conference in New Orleans with the Bob Harmon Service to Education Award. Four thousand individuals attended the event—a combination of onsite and virtual. An excerpt from the program is provided below.


[This is the text from the 2022 National ESEA Conference program.]

The Bob Harmon Service to Education Award

Each year, the National Association of ESEA State Program Administrators will honor an individual that has made an exceptional contribution to the field of education and has demonstrated a dedication to meet the needs of all students in a School, Community, State, or the Nation. Award recipients have, through their actions, made a substantial contribution towards advancing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act purpose to provide all children significant opportunity to receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education, and to close educational achievement gaps.

Congratulations to the inaugural recipient Robert (Bob) Harmon as he retires from his long-time role as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Association of ESEA State Program Administrators! Bob has served NAESPA in a variety of roles for over three decades.

We can think of no better way to thank him for his service than to honor his legacy by recognizing others who are exemplary champions for high quality education.

Thank you, Bob, for all you have done. Happy retirement! We are going to miss you!

Bob Harmon, the innaugural recipient of an award that bears his name.

Bob Harmon, the innaugural recipient of an award that bears his name.