New Rufus King, Riverside high school principals coming back to familiar places

October 3, 2013

131002_dr_smithDr. Jennifer Smith and
Michael Harris may be new
to their principal posts, but
they are not strangers to the
schools they are serving.
The new principals at
Milwaukee Public Schools’
Rufus King International
School – High School Campus
and Riverside University
High School are graduates of
the schools they now lead,
joining the many MPS graduates
who serve the community
as teachers, principals
and support staff.
MPS Superintendent
Gregory Thornton said the
presence of MPS grads in
district schools is a reflection
of the critical role the school
system plays in the community
and the positive impact
MPS has had on hundreds of
thousands of children.
“It’s an honor to come
back to the place where I was
provided so many opportunities,”
said Harris, Riverside
principal and a member of
the school’s graduating class
of 1986.
Riverside has, of course,
evolved over the last 27 years.
The school is now home to
Project Lead the Way preengineering
and biomedical
sciences programming,
for example. But Riverside’s
rigorous college preparatory
curriculum has not changed.
The school boasts countless
Advanced Placement coursework
offerings and a fouryear
graduation rate above
90 percent besting both MPS
and state averages.
After graduating, Harris
went on to college and received
a master’s degree in
educational leadership from
Marquette University. He
began teaching at Lincoln
Center of the Arts Middle
School in 1997, eventually
becoming an assistant principal
in the School District of
Menomonee Falls and later
a principal in the Mequon-
Thiensville School District
before being named principal
at Riverside this year.
“Being in the building now
brings back a lot of positive
memories of community and
celebrating diversity,” the
Riverside principal said.
Dr. Smith, the new Rufus
King International School –131002_mr_harris
High School Campus principal,
graduated from the
school in 1988.
King’s International Baccalaureate
program helped her
earn enough college credits
during high school to graduate
from the University of
Wisconsin-Madison in three
years. Dr. Smith, who earned
her doctorate from Walden
University, was a high school
teacher in MPS before serving
as principal of Milwaukee
School of Languages
and being named Rufus King
principal this year.
The International Baccalaureate
program is still critical
to the mission of Rufus
King, which won a national
ACT college and career readiness
award this year and was
rated the #2 high school in
Wisconsin by both U.S. News
and World Report and The
Washington Post.
“The first emotions that
come to mind are pride and
gratitude for the opportunity
to give back,” she said. “High
school was a turning point in
my life and an extremely positive
experience for me.”
Dr. Smith has been back to
the building many times since
graduating, but one thing still
stands out as surreal: seeing
herself in Rufus King tennis
team pictures that still hang
on the school’s walls.
“That’s the crazy part,” she
said.