Gene T. Harris, Ph.D.
Superintendent / Chief Executive Officer
Superintendent Gene T. Harris, Ph.D., 19th superintendent of the Columbus City Schools (CCS), has provided strong leadership resulting in significant measurable gains in academic achievement. Upon becoming superintendent in 2001, Dr. Harris promised to move the district from the state’s category of academic emergency to academic watch. Accomplishing this goal in spite of changing state requirements (2003), she attained continuous improvement in 2007. Her next major goal is a 90% graduation rate in 2012. The largest Ohio district, CCS serves 55,246 urban students.
Under Dr. Harris’ leadership, the Higher Education Partnership was created, providing a single point of contact between CCS and eight Central Ohio colleges/universities to develop programs that boost student achievement and college readiness. They include the Africentric Early College at Columbus State Community College, the DeVry Advantage Academy, the Columbus Teaching Academy on The Ohio State University (OSU) campus, and the Schoenbaum Family Center operated by OSU beside the district’s new Weinland Park Elementary School.
Dr. Harris established the no-cost Saturday Winter Institutes to help students pass the Ohio Graduation Test. The Virtual High School program lets students earn credits online, and the Credit Recovery Program enables them to retake classes and earn credits by computer. Gains include a graduation rate in 2006 of 72.9%, up from 55% in 2001, and the Class of 2007 earning a record $45.8 million in college scholarships/grants, up from $33 million in 2005.
Dr. Harris also directed the development of a 15-year capital improvements program with voters funding the first two segments in 2002 after district bond ratings increased. By using 30 percent in state matching funds, 35 Columbus schools are being rebuilt or renovated. The bond issue also provided $92 million in Locally Funded Initiatives, in part to reduce early elementary class sizes and address other specific district needs. Dr. Harris held the first all-staff convocation in 15 years in 2001 and a citywide convocation for parents of district elementary-school students in 2002. Since 2003, business and community leaders participate in what is now an annual Principal for a DayŽ event. Voters approved a 6.95 mill operating levy
in November 2004, and a 2005 community summit centered on reducing violence/improving school and neighborhood climates. Other initiatives target increased parental engagement, higher standards of customer service and marketing to reduce the impact of students leaving for charter and voucher schools.
A 1971 graduate of Linden-McKinley High School, Dr. Harris has earned her B.A. (University of Notre Dame), master’s degree (The Ohio State University), and doctorate (Ohio University). She started her career as a teacher in CCS. From 1980-95, she moved from the classroom to principal, supervisor of principals and deputy superintendent, implementing full-day kindergarten, aligning curriculum to new state standards, and helping to secure a $15 million National Science Foundation grant. After developing new teacher education and licensure standards as assistant superintendent for the Ohio Department of Education, she returned to CCS, becoming deputy superintendent in 2000 and superintendent in 2001.
Dr. Harris twice received the Ingram Award for outstanding leadership as a principal. In 1991, the YWCA named her a Woman of Achievement. In 2002, she received the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity African American Role Model Award and the Who’s Who in Black Columbus Master Achiever in Education Award. In 2003, she received the CMACAO Community Impact Award, the Cavaliers Club Award for Outstanding Accomplishments, the National Council of 100 Black Women-Columbus Chapter Personal Achievement and Devoted Service Award, and the University Council for Educational Administration Excellence in Educational Leadership Award. Dr. Harris received the Martin Luther King, Jr., Dreamer Award in 2004; the Champion of Children, the Children’s Hunger Alliance Educator of the Year, and the Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs Stellar Performer awards in 2005; and the Donald and Gail Anderson Award from the OSU College of Education and Ecology in 2007.
A Columbus Rotary member, Dr. Harris serves on Ohio University’s Board of Trustees and United Way of Central Ohio and the Central Ohio Workforce Investment boards. Currently a Sunday School teacher and Trustee at the Mt. Olivet Baptist Church, she is married to Stanley E. Harris, vice president of National City Bank. Their adult son, Wade Thomas Harris, resides in New Jersey.