School District Trustees Hire Shannon Harris As NCHS Principal
The Natrona County School District voted Monday to hire Shannon Harris as the new principal of Natrona County High School.
Harris, an administrator in the Lincoln County School District No. 2 in Afton, was among the names of the district's new employee hires, transfers and separations. Those names were approved with minimal discussion in the consent agenda.
The names also included Richard Edwards, who was hired as the principal of the Fort Caspar Academy.
The NCHS job, however, was of a much higher profile not only because of the size of the school, but because of the controversy that started the selection process.
Harri will fill the vacancy left by Dean Kelly, who resigned his position after the controversy over a “Saturday Night Live” parody skit performed before NCHS staff and some students in August. The uproar lead to an investigation and disciplinary actions against an unknown number of employees. Kelly took another job within the district.
District Superintendent Steve Hopkins put Harris' name forward with two other candidates in the past month: Ronald Estes, Jr., an assistant principal at Natrona County High School; and Mark Hutchenson, an associate principal for grades 11 and 12 at Linn-Mar Community Schools in Marion, Iowa.
After the trustees meeting, Hopkins said four groups -- students, teachers, support staff and administrators -- interviewed and ranked the candidates. The public also submitted questions for the candidates, who answered them at a forum on March 5. Members of the public also could make their recommendations in writing to the district.
The process chose Harris, he said.
"The work of the four interview committees plus work of the forum was combined together, and that's what I mean by saying, 'the process,'" Hopkins said. "So all of those individuals who participated in that process exercised their right to influence who they thought the choice should be, and she rose as the choice from the process."
Harris is director of curriculum and instruction at the Lincoln County School District No. 2 in Afton, according to her biography from the district's human resources office.
She attended Brigham Young University and earned a master’s degree with a certification in blindness and visually impaired education. She earned a master’s degree in special education and teaching from Utah State University in Logan, Utah., and has taken graduate courses in educational leadership and administration from New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas, N.M.
Harris also is a graduate of Natrona County High School.
Her contract begins this summer, but she's already working on the transition to her new job, Hopkins said.
During the March 5 forum, Harris used the word "safe" frequently to describe what Natrona County High School needs.
"It means that we treat one another with respect, that there' not bullying and harassment going on -- student to student, staff to student -- that people are respectful," she said after the forum.
This will require a cultural shift in attitudes and behaviors, she said.
"I think the most important thing right now is to instill trust, and repair the climate and culture of Natrona County High School," she said. "I think it has to be a positive safe place for students and staff, and I think that's the first step."