Hartley makes impact, retains sense of humor

JACKSON — Richard Thompson, who served two tenures as state superintendent of education, after coming to Mississippi from North Carolina to head the Tupelo School System, says Claude Hartley’s contributions to public education in the state have been many.

Hartley served 10 years as a member of the Tupelo School Board and finished a tenure this week on the state Board of Education.

During a recent telephone conversation, Thompson said Hartley played a key role in the early 1990s in passage of what was then the largest bond issue in the state, resulting in a new Tupelo High School and other needed expansions.

On the state Board, Thompson said Hartley worked quietly behind the scenes to ensure the enactment of tougher accountability standards for local schools.

Because Hartley often worked behind the scenes, he was better known by many for his sense of humor. In 2000, when he was being confirmed by the Senate Education Committee, for the state Board post after being nominated by then-Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, Hartley and another nominee were asked if they had done anything to embarrass the state.

The other nominee quickly responded no.

Hartley looked up sheepishly, smiled, paused and asked “how far back are you talking about?”

Hartley’s sense of humor and dedication will be missed on the state Board.