Harris wants to boost student achievement to ‘highest level’ at schools

As the new principal of Barnwell District 19's upper two schools, Sterling Harris is excited to watch students mature and develop as they transition to high school.
"I am a heavily student oriented principal," said Harris, who is looking forward to meeting each student at Blackville-Hilda's junior high and high schools. "I want to develop strong personal relationships" in order to know how to help students grow.
That correlates with his number one goal of improving student achievement. "I want to move student achievement to its highest level," he said.
Being over both schools is a benefit to students, said Harris, who was in similar situations at three previous jobs. "They already know your expectations," said Harris of the students.
His position over both schools will also allow him to work with faculty and staff at both in an effort to help students. He wants the teachers to talk back and forth about their expectations for students as they progress and how they can work together to help students reach those goals. "All of that makes for a stronger academic setting," he said.
Harris encourages students to come to school with a good attitude, ready to learn. "We want a high level of learning," he said.
This year, they are also placing an emphasis on regular meetings between advisors and students. A variety of topics will be covered within a group setting with their faculty advisor, such as transcripts as well as lessons on conflict resolution and other topics that will be helpful later in life. "It will help them talk a lot more confidently about where they are," said Harris, who also wants to use some of that time to enhance club participation.
Also new this year are free meals - breakfast and lunch - to all students. In addition to lessening the financial burden on families, Harris said this will help children stay focused in the classroom.
He also hopes the community and parents will be involved at the schools. "I want a community centered school" that encourages students to succeed so they can come back and contribute to their community, he said.
To keep parents updated on their child's academics, Harris said grade reports will be sent home every two weeks. He invites all parents and students to their August 21 open house that begins at 6:30 p.m.
Harris brings more than 20 years of educational experience to Blackville. While this is his first year in the district, he's worked in areas around Blackville, including as a band director in Orangeburg and six years at North High School. Harris comes to Blackville from Sumter County where he was principal of Sumter High School and most recently the director of that district's alternative school.
Harris is completing his Doctorate of Philosophy in Educational Leadership from the University of South Carolina. He plans to have everything complete by this fall.
He and his wife Audrey have two teenage children, Brianna and Sterling.