A lifetime of filling various roles ranging from coach to teacher, Harper now occupies the role of lead administrator for the 25th largest school system in the state, housing well over 14,000 students, 20 schools and the Ombudsman Program.
Although the school year ended Friday, Harper will be working behind the scenes this summer to prepare for the upcoming year.
Occupation: Bartow County Schools Superintendent
Age: "Old, but young at heart, mind and body"
Family: Wife, Adena Faith; Sons -- Seth Michael and Shane Conor; Pugs -- Scarlett and Bonnie
Education: Doctorate from the University of South Carolina. "Go Gamecocks!"
What brought you into education?
A: As a college track athlete, I had numerous opportunities to coach and work with high school athletes and truly enjoyed working with them. Even though I graduated with a degree in business administration with an emphasis in banking, I went into teaching and coaching at the secondary level and completed a masters in teaching in order to continue in education. Like most everyone that chooses education for a career, I wanted to make a positive difference for the students I served.
What is your favorite aspect of working in administration?
A: Supporting the school principals and helping them develop the best instructional staff possible to provide for all the students we serve. The classroom teachers are the people that make the biggest difference for our students. As Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, told us, that he wasn't responsible for the success of G.E., 'I just surrounded myself with good people.' Working with the great people in our school system and filling vacancies with outstanding educators is my passion. We live in such a great community with a fabulous opportunity to be the finest school system in Georgia.
What do you feel is the most important element of a child's education?
A: We talk a lot about rigor, relevance and relationships with our staffs. Our students must see the relevance in the work we ask them to do each day in our classrooms. If at the same time our students see the relevance, we provide greater rigor instructionally our students increase their level of understanding and subsequently they will be more successfully academically. The vast majority of our students will meet our expectations if we demonstrate to them we believe in them and that we care for them. Having well trained teachers in the science of teaching while demonstrating relevance to a rigorous curriculum and at the same time developing a positive teacher/student relationship is what is most important in and student's education.
What is your greatest achievement?
A: Making sure that all that I am and all that I do as an educator is focusing on the students and staff I serve. As a teacher and coach, the difference was easy to see in each student with whom I had contact. As an administrator, that difference is not easily seen. I must rely on the student data at the end of each year to see their academic growth.
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
A: I make an outstanding lemon pound cake.
What is your favorite place in Bartow?
A: My home with my wife, sons and two dogs.
What is your favorite restaurant or favorite food?
A: As you can tell by my size, I like many of the wonderful places to eat in our community, but my wife makes the best shrimp and grits on the planet.
What is your favorite book?
A: I have several books that are favorites: the first is a collection of books called the Bible; others are "The Old Man and the Sea," and two children's books -- "The Little Engine That Could," and "Love You Forever." I am currently reading "Known and Unknown" by Donald Rumsfeld.
Do you have a personal philosophy?
A: Using the gifts and abilities God has given me to make a positive difference with colleagues and the students I serve.