By MIKE SMITH
With the school year set to kick off, there will be hundreds of new faces gracing the hallways of Harrison High School’s campus. One might be a bit more visible than others at various sporting events, though, as Harrison has hired Stewart Hanson to serve as the interim director of health, physical education and athletics.
Over the course of his 35 year career, Hanson has helmed the program at Middletown High School and, most recently, served as the athletic director and assistant principal at Lakeland High School. He was with the Lakeland School district for 11 years.
“I’m elated to be here, it’s a wonderful opportunity that I’m looking forward to,” Hanson said. “And the support that I’ve received from central administration and other administrators has been wonderful.”
Through the interview process, Hanson said it was apparent just how invested the Harrison community is in the athletics and physical education department‑and the infrastructure in place made the job an attractive one.
“Even though I’ve been doing this a long time, and some people would just hand me the key, it’s great to know in talking to people like the coaches, and even Assistant Superintendent Brian Ladewig, that I have people that I can bounce ideas off of,” Hanson said. “Even though I have a lot of experience, I’m not closed-minded and I always believe there is room for improvement.”
Over the course of his first week on the job, Hanson was able to meet with several of the Huskies coaches and has gotten the lay of the land with regard to Harrison’s athletic traditions. Unarguably, the most visible part of that tradition–the annual game against Rye–is something that Hanson is not wholly unprepared for. As the athletic director at Middletown High School, Hanson saw his share of high-profile football games with the annual “Erie Bell” game–one of the oldest rivalry games in the country–against Port Jervis.
“Being a Section I athletic director, I know about Harrison-Rye, and, when I was in Middeltown, the Bell game was always a standing-room-only affair,” he said. “But, in speaking to the coaches here, I know it’s going to be five, six, seven thousand people.”
Hanson will also oversee the health and physical education departments. A firm believer in the P.E. for Life movement, Hanson was encouraged by Harrison’s recent advancements in the physical education curriculum and hopes to continue to grow the program.
“Fitness is a life skill, not a supplement kids have to do in order to meet a state requirement,” he said. “We moved it forward in Lakeland to make it a life skill, and I understand that there are wonderful things going on here in the Harrison P.E. department and I’m looking forward to meeting the phys-ed staff. It’s important for me to stress that, even though I have the word interim in my title, I’m not going to just be sitting here without doing anything. I want to be involved and work hard to continue to make this school successful.”