Harris’s desire to help more students brought him across the county line to Union County Public Schools and, eventually, to Porter Ridge High School, where he recently began serving as head principal.
Harris comes from a rich educational background, with a handful of cousins, aunts and uncles having careers in education. His heritage, coupled with some experience as a substitute teacher, led Harris to pursue his own career as an educator.
“I started as a substitute teacher,” Harris said. “I loved what I was doing and said, ‘I could do more.’”
Harris, an East Mecklenburg High School graduate, attended Livingstone College in Salisbury for his undergraduate degree and began his career as a special education teacher at Coulwood Middle School in Charlotte. Though he loved his job, Harris quickly realized he had a desire to help more than just a single classroom of students.
“I was intrigued by helping more students,” Harris said. “I looked around the school and saw things that needed to be handled and sort of took an interest in that … I went to the principal and asked for more responsibilities and went and started doing those things that needed to be done.”
Harris decided to pursue a career in administration and enrolled as a graduate student at Gardner Webb University, where he earned his master’s degree in school administration. He eventually learned of an opportunity to serve as assistant principal at Forest Hills High School and jumped at the chance to work for UCPS.
“I heard nothing but good things about Union County,” Harris said. “I heard about the (high) graduation rate, (how) the atmosphere is conducive for great educators.”
Harris’s experience in UCPS eventually brought him to Porter Ridge Middle School, where he served as head principal until the end of the 2013-14 school year. Going from Forest Hills High to Porter Ridge Middle was somewhat of a challenge, Harris said, but he enjoyed his time at both schools.
“I had to get over the different things. It’s high school versus middle school, the demographics are a little different, each school has its challenges and each school has its successes,” Harris said. “You just have to adapt. I think that’s the name of the game in education these days – to adapt to whatever the situation is.”
The blend of positive experiences he had working at Forest Hills High and being a part of the Porter Ridge community urged Harris to pursue a position as principal of Porter Ridge High when he learned of the vacancy. He also was excited about returning to the high school atmosphere because of the after school events and the opportunity to continue working with a lot of the same students he served at Porter Ridge Middle.
“Middle school has its own challenges. It’s during that awkward stage (when students) are learning their self socially,” Harris said. “It’s pretty exciting to be principal here (at Porter Ridge High) and see them adapting to high school.”
Interaction with the students is Harris’s favorite thing about being a school administrator, and his favorite memories throughout his career involve witnessing students excel in the classroom, whether it’s learning to play an instrument, solving a difficult math problem or learning a valuable life lesson.
“When I see the student get what we’re trying to teach them, when that kid gets what they need to know, that beam of light that comes across that child’s face reminds me of what I do,” Harris said. “Every kid matters – that’s what I model my administration after.”
Harris, who recently earned a doctorate in education from Wingate University, officially took office at Porter Ridge High around June 23 and said the past month settling in has been “great,” partially thanks to already established relationships with the students, parents and staff in the Porter Ridge community. His main goal for the school is to build on an already rich tradition of educational excellence.
“Porter Ridge High is a great school. Porter Ridge Middle is a great school. I just want to continue that tradition of excellence that’s already been established here,” Harris said. “Failure is not an option, so we’ll keep going, striving and getting better every time.”