Michael H. Harris
Michael began his commitment to serving young people in the late 1960s after leaving a lucrative position in business. The driving force behind this change was a strong belief that education and social services could make a difference in young people and society. This is a belief he continues to hold today.
Beginning with high school social studies, he taught classes for the students that were at both ends of the performance spectrum at a time when alternatives were discussed but not practiced. Prompted by this interest, Michael taught emotionally disturbed junior high school students before becoming co-director of a “Community-based, career education program for Dropouts.” This alternative project became a national “exemplary model” program receiving special awards for working with the National Guard to train dropouts. It is still operational after 30 plus years.
Later, as Director of Student Services in a suburban district of Denver, Michael was influential in establishing Colorado’s interagency agreements for family services. He also established one of the first Robert Wood Johnson School Health Clinics in concert with the University of Colorado Medical School.
He spent several months (1977) in study with Lawrence Kohlberg at Harvard focusing on moral development and education. This was in concert with his work with Professor O.J.Harvey, University of Colorado, on Belief Systems, an evaluation study on value choices.
Returning to Portland after a 21 year hiatus, Michael served in the Portland Public Schools as a special education supervisor, then principal of Metropolitan Learning Center (a K-12 alternative program) and later as principal at Lane Middle School. During this time he was very active in Oregon alternative education which led to numerous appointments to state level committees including the education reform committee established by then Speaker of the House Vera Katz. As a proponent of options for students, Michael worked extensively with the Oregon legislature to pass legislation affecting funding, services and teacher licensure in alternative education.
During his tenure as principal at Lane Middle School he worked with the community and city/county officials to develop a plan that would create a community center complex with the school at the center of the neighborhood. The school campus now has the 9,000 square foot Brentwood/Darlington Community Center as part of its complex. The center and the school operate from early in the morning until late at night throughout the year. Services include senior programs, health clinics, social services, extensive recreational and adult educational programs and complete integration of the neighborhood into the school and community center.
As a result of these efforts Michael has been recognized by the City of Portland through the Mayor’s Spirit of Portland Award and the Multnomah County Volunteer Award.
He was appointed as the first Project Director of Schools Uniting Neighborhoods which is an intergovernmental initiative to establish community centers in as many schools as possible in Multnomah County. In concert with Oregon Commission on Children and Families, SUN is working to establish a similar statewide movement.
Michael retired as principal of Kelly Creek Elementary School, Gresham, Oregon. In addition he was appointed to work directly with the Assistant Superintendent as an Intergovernmental Liaison for the school district and supervise the district’s after school programs. He remained active in county and state level activities supporting SUN and alternative education. He was awarded the Metropolitan Family Service award as Volunteer of the Year award in 2005.
Retirement brought a continuation of work with after school programs for GBSD. In addition he supervised student teachers for the University of Portland and Lewis and Clark College. Later he became involved in the development of a new Montessori charter school within the Gresham-Barlow District becoming its first principal for the 2008-09 school year.
At the request of the Gresham-Barlow School District, he co-founded the Gresham-Barlow Web Academy in September, 2009. After two years of co-leadership he was appointed Principal/CEO until July, 2013 when he re-retired. GBWA/MEWA had a 500% growth in four years.
He has served, and continues to serve as the vice-chair on the Gresham Commission for Children and Families, Chair of the Program Committee and member of theBoard of Directors of the Metropolitan Family Service, consultant with the Center for Student Success at Portland State University and Secretary of the Metro East Web Academy Board through 2015.