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July 30, 2013

Community says good-bye to city schools’ Supt. Jan Harris

CULLMAN — ‘After almost nine years at the helm, Dr. Jan Harris’ tenure as superintendent of Cullman City Schools comes to an end tomorrow night when her contract ends and retirement begins.

Dozens of local residents, officials and parents streamed into a farewell reception Monday afternoon to say good-bye to the woman who helped lead the system to the upper echelon of the state.

With his wife and children in tow, East Elementary School principal David Wiggins said Harris’ departure isn’t like losing a boss — it’s like losing a friend.

“She’s not just our superintendent, she’s family,” he said. “It’s bittersweet, but she has absolutely earned it and deserves it.”

Long-time system employee Jackie Joiner, who has worked day-in and day-out with the superintendent since Harris’ first day on the job, said she has always been inspired by her work ethic.

“She is truly a faithful, servant leader,” she said. “Absolutely.”

Cullman High School football coach Mark Britton said Harris’ positive attitude is something that has permeated through every inch of the school district, including athletics, creating an environment that breeds success.

“She’s been such a gracious leader, and a tremendously positive influence on our community and the kids in Cullman City Schools,” he said. “It’s been a tremendous run of almost nine years. I hate to see her go, because she has been such a pleasure to work with.”

Systemwide finance director Russell Raney worked closely with Harris in the daily management of the system over the past decade. Raney said he will definitely miss her management style, which gave department heads enough space to work and innovate, while still remaining involved with the inner workings of the system.

“She’s been very supportive of my department, and any time I would have a suggestion or idea she was open to working with me,” he said. “We were always on the same page and had a great working relationship.”

Cullman County Board of Education Superintendent Billy Coleman took some time to bid Harris farewell, and noted the two have worked together on several projects to keep the city and county systems in harmony.

“Knowing Dr. Harris as a person, and as a superintendent, has been one of the great blessings of my life,” he said. “I hope our friendship had a positive impact on the two systems, and I hope our friendship continues.”

Harris will officially relinquish all legal authority as superintendent on Thursday, August 1, passing the reins to new hire Dr. Doreen Griffeth. But, Harris will remain on retainer with the district throughout the month of August to serve as a consultant as-needed.

* Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at trentm@cullmantimes.com, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.

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