HARRISON – The Harrison School District hosted a welcoming reception Monday evening for parents and students to meet and greet new superintendent Fred Hofman, who arrived in town last week after spending last year as junior high and high school principal in Absarokee.
Hofman replaces former Harrison superintendent Darren Strauch, who left to take an administration position at Monforton School in Bozeman.
Hofman admits he took a “different path” than most people in his position, having only been in education for the past five years. He began his teaching career in Brockton before taking a job as high school principal in Poplar and then Absarokee. Prior to that he was an attorney, serving as county attorney in Roosevelt County and prosecutor for the City of Billings.
Having grown up and gone to school in eastern Montana in the small town of Culbertson, Hofman describes Class C schools as a unique environment where students develop a tighter bond with their classmates and the surrounding community.
“It’s far more than just your normal student-teacher or student-administrator relationship,” he explains. “You become almost family friends to a certain extent.”
While the Harrison School District may be limited in number, Hofman says the smaller schools can sometimes offer more opportunities to students than larger ones.
“Here you get the opportunity to participate, you get a chance to benefit from all the extra curriculars,” he said. “I think the relationship factor is probably by far and away the single greatest benefit to being in a smaller school.”
Hofman made the move to the field of education after becoming frustrated with trying to make a difference and help people through the legal system.
“More often than not, it’s too late,” he said. “At some point, you keep beating your head against the wall trying to make things better and you realize that its way too late by the time people get to the court system. 75 percent of the people in prison don’t have a high school diploma. I know, I sent them there.”
When asked what he’s looking forward to most about coming to Harrison, Hofman couldn’t pick just one thing.
“It’s so much more fun, it’s so much more rewarding and frankly I wouldn’t want to be in a bigger school,” he said. “I’m looking forward to getting a chance to know the students and the staff and the people of Harrison.”
Hofman explained his long-term goal to improve the school’s ability to prepare students for the real world once they leave.
“Harrison is already a great school, the kids are doing well academically, but there are a lot of things that we need to work on,” he said. “The world they are going into is far different than the one that most of their parents grew up in.”