Taconic High School teacher dies after collapsing in classroom

Kevin Harrington

PITTSFIELD — A Taconic High School teacher died Wednesday after collapsing in a second-floor classroom with students at the school, according to city officials.

Kevin Harrington, 38, was a special education teacher at the school before his sudden death, School Superintendent Jason McCandless said. He was also known for his kindness, athletic prowess and his work coaching young athletes.

Pittsfield Deputy Fire Chief Neil Myers said the department responded to the request for services at 9:18 a.m. He said first responders were called to help a man suffering from cardiac arrest.

The school nurse had already begun life-saving measures, he said, and first responders started CPR upon arrival.

Two crews with Action Ambulance responded to the scene, Myers said. They transported Harrington to the emergency room at Berkshire Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

He said their response hit a slight snag when the school's elevator got stuck for a short time.

"There was a little bit of a delay in transport to the hospital because of that," Myers said.

It's not uncommon for elevators to get stuck, Myers said — "an hour after that we got a call to Wendell Avenue for another one" — and the elevator malfunction didn't seem to have much of an impact on their response.

First responders continued CPR while Harrington was in the elevator, Myers said.

"These guys did a phenomenal job," Myers said, nodding to his colleagues at the department's Columbus Avenue headquarters.

In a call home to families, Taconic Principal Matt Bishop informed the school community about Harrington's untimely passing. He called him "a friend and inspiration to all he came in contact with."

"Our thoughts are with Mr. Harrington's family and with his friends," Bishop said. "His dedication to students was deep. His impact was vast. He will be missed by everyone who knew him."

McCandless, too, said Harrington was an important part of the community.

"He was a hero, a brother figure, a real rock for so many children over his years here," he said. "He was a real champion for kids and a warm and supportive colleague."

School administrators decided not to announce Harrington's death directly to all students, and in the call home to families Bishop asked parents to speak with their children about the incident.

"Counselors will be available for all students tomorrow and throughout the week, and for as long as necessary," Bishop said. "Please let your child know that they simply need to let a teacher or administrator know that they want to speak to a counselor and this will be arranged for them."

Mayor Linda Tyer shared a detailed plan for the Thursday school day at Taconic. Lee Steele will cover Harrington's classes, according to the plan. Support staff plan to break students requesting services into groups, paying particular attention to students who were with Harrington when he collapsed.

Tyer said some 30 additional people will be on-hand Thursday at the high school to help with grief counseling and substitute teaching. The mayor said she extends condolences to his family. "He was a beloved friend and mentor to all of his Taconic students and colleagues," she said.

A School Committee meeting that had been scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday was canceled in light of Harrington's sudden death.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.