Dr. Steven Paine, state superintendent of schools, appointed Harris as principal of the $37 million facility which is now officially the "Home of the Mingo Miners," according to its logo which embraces the school colors of Carolina blue and black chosen by the students expected to attend the comprehensive school.
The new school is located on a strip of reclaimed mine property between Varney and Red Jacket. The land was donated by Alpha Natural Resources and Nicewonder Contracting Inc. The school is scheduled for completion in June 2011 and is to be ready for the merger when the new school term starts in August of that year.
Mingo County School Superintendent Randy Keathley confirmed Mrs. Harris' appointment to the principalship which becomes effective today - Oct. 28, 2010.
Harris, who has 26 years as a teacher, principal and county director of curriculum to her credit, will continue as principal at Tug Valley High School at Naugatuck to assist with the transition of the administration there, Keathley reported.
In confirming her appointment, Keathley spoke of Harris' capability that was demonstrated particularly with her leadership of Riverside Elementary School into becoming a West Virginia School of Excellence and also a National Blue Ribbon School.
The superintendent said Harris' educational experience and training equip her with the expertise needed to successfully merge Williamson, Delbarton, Matewan and Gilbert High School communities.
Assistant School Superintendent Robert Bobbera pointed to what he termed voluminous opportunities the new school will provide the students of Mingo County. "I am very pleased to have Deborah Harris as the leader for this magnificent school," he said.
Harris received her bachelor's degree from the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Ky., and earned two master's degrees from Marshall University, Huntington, one in Vocational Education and one in Leadership Administration from pre-kindergarten through adult.
She spent 13 years as principal at Riverside and prior to that taught at Williamson Junior High for a time before becoming assistant principal at Williamson High School. She was at Riverside when it was consolidated with Williamson Elementary, describing that as "a very smooth transition." She believes if people expect a maximum result of the transition, it will be achieved without any major problems. It is her plan to make the transition as smooth as it is within her power to do so.
When she retired last June after a three-year stint as director of curriculum at the board's central office at Cinderella, Harris did not leave the county school system entirely but continued to work and was employed as principal at Tug Valley High in July.
One of the secrets to her success in school administration is her interest in and enjoyment of children. As a parent, she can understand that people are reluctant to lose schools in their community, but Harris underscored the importance of citizens coming together to make the new school a success and for the good of the students who will attend it.
"This school will offer our boys and girls an enlarged curriculum, a variety of sports and many other programs that are not now available to them," said Harris. Students will have more electives from which to round out their class schedules.
The Mingo County Board of Education posted 71 vacancies in the new school the past week, indicating the advance planning that is going on in the superintendent's office. Harris announced that she will begin conducting interviews soon, noting that well qualified teachers will be derived from the four schools that will be involved in the merger with the new facility.
Harris grew up in the Williamson area, the daughter of the late Everett R. Thompson and Mary Frances (Lacy) Thompson. Her father operated a car dealership, Thompson Pontiac-Buick-GMC Inc. in Thompson Plaza, South Williamson for a number of years. Harris' husband, "Pat" Harris, is a retired official of that firm.
The Harrises, who reside in the South Williamson area, have three sons: Christian R. "Chris" Harris, an attorney at law in West Virginia and Kentucky and also Sixth District Magistrate in Pike County, Ky.; Dr. Jason Harris, a laparoscopic surgeon practicing in Lexington, Ky., and Wesley Harris of Pittsburgh, Pa., a global pricing analyst, and nine grandchildren.