March 17, 2021
Harris knows that the work ahead is nuanced, complicated, and deeply important. He understands the setbacks, but remains confident in his abilities nonetheless.“This is the country that we live in, it’s important for anyone who wants to dive into social issues, or anyone who wants to be alive,” he said. “You have to think about three things, you have to think about history, have to think about where we are right now, and you have to think about where you want to go.”
Looking forward, he is grounded with the knowledge that is bigger than just him, and that the district has a lot of work to do in order to create a learning environment that has students at the center and is inclusive for all. “In order to do that, you need to ask people questions, you have to let them talk about themselves and their experiences good, bad, the ugly, they got to give it to you. And that that is that is the only way that I can start this ball,” said Harris. “The intent is for us to get feedback and understand as a district, where we’ve dropped the ball. How often have we dropped the ball? You know, other hotspots? And how can we actively move forward. I think a lot of that is just giving people a chance to talk.”
Harris is making the most of the time he has left in the school year. He started with a listening tour, where he spent a virtual evening with students and families and every single one of the district’s schools. He also met with middle school and high school diversity clubs. “I’m glad that PPS hired Mr. Harris as the DEI coordinator,” said PNHS Empowered Club senior Jamillah Clark after she met Mr. Harris in their club meeting on March 5. “He is obviously dedicated to making a change for students of color, with disabilities, the LGBTQ+ community, and more. I’m very excited to see what he does in the future.”
Harris is also helping schools celebrate national diversity-themed months. He explained that he thinks celebrating all of these months is deeply important to establish joy and celebrate those that aren’t often included within the district. “I really want to do it and I know that there’s going to be a lot of pushback, and make sure that I’m ready for that fight. As parents and community members may have something to say about us celebrating or pushing pride in some of those schools,” he said. “I think that’s something that we still need. You know, many kids in high school are LGBTQ non-conforming. You can’t just ignore them. You can’t skate over this and assume that everything’s gonna be hush hush, and everything’s chill, like, no, that’s not how this works.” In addition to the monthly recognitions, Harris is also currently helping prepare teaching staff to support students during Ramadan.
Harris has had a long and intricate path to reach where he is today, and all along, one thing has kept him grounded: he always tries to maintain an open minded perspective that embraces change and growth. “Moving into this role, committing to diversity, equity and inclusion. You have to be selfless enough to put other people first, like this position isn’t about me,” he said. “It’s not about what I want, it’s not about Superintendent Bielang. It’s about making sure that other people feel loved and welcomed, and just as supported as everybody else.”