Newly hired Barrington 220 school district superintendent Brian Harris has some old roots in Barrington. Harris, 49, was an assistant principal at the Barrington Middle School-Station Campus from 1993 to 1998 before continuing his career in Wheaton-Warrenville, St. Charles and Mt. Prospect.
Stepping back into Barrington 220 as of May 30, Harris shared his excitement for overseeing the district’s 9,000 students, 1,500 staff members and 12 schools spanning 72 square miles, with Suburban Life reporter Tarah Thorne.
Thorne: Congrats on your new position with Barrington 220. What have you done within the district since stepping into your role as superintendent May 30?
Harris: I enjoyed the opportunity to meet and greet many students, staff and community members over the past week. It was great to reconnect with several staff as well as meet several new people in the community. I was able to visit each campus prior to the end of the school year, which has been a wonderful opportunity during this transition period.
Thorne: What inspired you to pursue this position? How does it coincide with your long-term professional goals?
Harris: I worked in Barrington 220 from 1993-98 as the assistant principal of the Station Middle School campus. During my previous time here, it was wonderful to have the amazing support of parents and community members. As the superintendent, I chose to return to the Barrington area again because of its commitment to the schools. This clearly fulfills my long-term goal to be an educational leader in a community that values a rigorous, 21st-century education.
Thorne: How is your Barrington 220 role similar to your former superintendent duty with D200 (Wheaton-Warrenville)? How is it different?
Harris: Both are large unit (pre-K-12) school districts in Illinois. My role of superintendent will be very similar. The academic expectations are high in each district and both communities expect great things from the schools. Additionally, the complexity of these large districts is unique. Both are geographically sizable and incorporate several municipalities. I look forward to working collaboratively with each local government in Barrington 220 as I did in District 200.
Thorne: What’s been most exciting with this job change? What do you most enjoy about the Barrington community?
Harris: I am excited to return to Barrington 220 as the superintendent. Our school district is an educational destination for employees as well as families because of its extraordinary programs and schools. I am very happy to have this new leadership opportunity in such a great learning community.
Thorne: Did you ever think you would come back to Barrington 220?
Harris: It has always been in the back of my mind that returning to Barrington 220 someday would be a privilege. When this opportunity became available, I was excited to be considered for the position.
Thorne: What do you enjoy outside of work? How do you spend your free time?
Harris: My wife, Carol, and I have been married 26 years. We enjoy all sports and attending musical theater. We are also very involved in our church. We have two children – Matthew (21 years old) and Brooke (20 years old). They both attend the University of Illinois in Urbana/Champaign.
Thorne: Describe your relationship with departing Barrington 220 superintendent Tom Leonard. What advice did he leave you with?
Harris: Tom has done a wonderful job as superintendent in Barrington 220. I feel very fortunate following him and taking advantage of the excellent and innovative programs he helped developed while here. Building on Tom’s success and helping these programs reach the next level will be my focus.
Thorne: What programs and initiatives are you looking forward to executing in Barrington 220?
Harris: The implementation of the new One to World technology initiative will be very important over the next few years, as the devices are brought into our classrooms. It will be critical to provide professional development for staff to use this technology so it has a positive impact on instruction and student learning. The evolution of the Business Incubator and other innovative programs will also be a priority. Continuing to seek and develop business partnerships can provide new resources for our students. Language programs, gifted education and the fine arts will continue to be hallmarks that distinguish a Barrington 220 education from so many other school districts.
Thorne: You’ve mentioned that you are most proud of bringing D200 (Wheaton-Warrenville) financial stability and increased educational programs. What are your short- and long-term goals for Barrington 220?
Harris: To maintain the educational excellence in Barrington 220 given the tremendous resources and support our communities provide.
Thorne: Where did you grow up? Have you always wanted to go into an education career?
Harris: I was born and raised in Tuscola, a small town in central Illinois near Champaign. I originally attended the University of Illinois to study economics but quickly switched to secondary education after I realized I liked working with young people. I enjoy history and politics and chose to become a social studies teacher. I also coached several sports, including basketball, baseball and track.
Thorne: In regard to your support of the One to World technology initiative, what do you foresee to be the future of education?
Harris: A robust digital learning environment is critical in a 21st-century classroom. Students need the skills to access information and enhance their abilities to be critical thinkers and problem solvers in all content areas. Teachers also need tools and resources to help students find knowledge and resources in the world around them. Using technology responsibly and cost-effectively to make this connection between student, teacher and content will be so important in the future of Barrington 220.