Whitney Young High School new principal Rickey Harris talks plans for the future

ByCheryl Burton and Poinesha Barnes via WLS logo
Monday, August 22, 2022
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Whitney Young High School is Chicago's first public magnet high school and new principal Ricky Harris took over on CPS's first day back.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- There are 43 new principals starting across Chicago Public Schools, including the new head of Whitney M. Young Magnet High School Rickey Harris.

Harris set the tone for the 2022-2023 set a tone of togetherness and teamwork in his first meeting with teachers and staff. He is only the school's fourth principal in nearly 50 years, and said he understands the weight and magnitude of leading the institution.

"My goal, initially, is just to create and sense of safety and belonging for everybody in the community," Harris said.

READ MORE: Whitney Young High School principal Joyce Kenner retires after 27 years

But first, he said, he wants students, teachers and parents to know what kind of leader he is.

"I'm going to continue to lead with love," he said. "I'm going to listen to understand. And I want to learn something each day."

Harris has been in education for years, and even worked as Whitney Young's dean of students more than 10 years ago.

"When I left in 2010 to become an elementary school principal, I took with me this experience and desire to shape the school where I was at the time into a mini Whitney Young," Harris said.

Fun fact: Harris said he never even imagined being in education, despite his resume.

"I never ever, ever imagined myself in education. I thought I was going to be in business somewhere downtown, corner office overlooking the lake or something," he said.

But in college, an "Intro to Teaching" course and its students changed his trajectory.

"It was about having space to spark something in someone else. And then see them take that and run with it, and become whoever they desired to be," Harris said. "To see them come alive. I think my experience in that intro course, I came alive."

Dr. Joyce Dorsey Kenner, who had served as Whitney Young's principal for nearly 30 years, recently retired. Is Harris, who is nearly 50 years old, planning to stick around that long?

"Wait a minute, I gotta pull my glasses up for that one," he joked. "We might back it close to two. But uh, three decades, that might make me a little older and on a cane or something. I don't want them to roll me out of here."