By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published June 11, 2020
ATLANTA—An Arizona educator with more than four decades of experience has been selected as the next superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
Harry “Hal” Plummer will lead the education system, where 11,450 students are enrolled in 18 archdiocesan schools and six independent Catholic schools. He replaces retiring Dr. Diane Starkovich, who has led the school system for 14 years.
“I feel great about it. It’s a wonderful school system and I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity to serve as the new superintendent. But frankly, I’m also a little concerned about the size of the shoes I have to fill,” he said, noting how his predecessor is respected in the national Catholic school leadership community. Plummer shared thoughts in an email as he prepares to move from Arizona to Atlanta.
Plummer comes to the position after working as the superintendent in the Diocese of Phoenix and its 35 elementary and high schools for the past three years.
He takes on the position as the schools will face challenges in how to start the school year in August. Students, families and teachers were upended when coronavirus concerns closed schools abruptly and ended classroom teaching in March. He encouraged school families and staff “to hold fast to hope and continue to show the heroic support” for the schools’ educational missions.
A seven-member archdiocesan committee of church leaders, human resource professionals, communicators and educators selected Plummer from three finalists interviewed by the committee. About a dozen candidates applied for the position.
The archdiocesan Human Resource Director Chuck Thibaudeau, who led the committee, said Plummer was the unanimous first choice.
Thibaudeau praised the incoming superintendent for his extensive senior executive experience in Catholic education.
“We were particularly impressed by his comments and recommendations facing our schools during the current pandemic crisis,” he said in an email.
About the coronavirus, Plummer said Catholic schools and the communities that surround them have impressed him with their “hopefulness, solidarity and tenacity.”
“Of the many lessons COVID-19 continues to teach us, I think one of the most stunning is its resounding affirmation that, with the help of God’s grace, our Catholic schools can meet any challenge quickly and effectively through working together in partnership with parents, donors and our many other advocates,” he said.
Plummer holds a master’s degree in educational administration from Central Michigan University as well as a master’s in pastoral theology from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio. His experience includes work as a parish catechetical leader, teacher, principal and superintendent. Prior to that, he worked in mission territory, including a stint as a teacher on a reservation in South Dakota and as director of education for Sacred Heart Southern Missions in northern Mississippi.
Plummer and his wife raised eight children.