New duties excite former Dorseyville principal

| Wednesday, June 19, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Matthew Harris, 43, served as principal of Dorseyville Middle School for the last six years, but he is excited about his new position with the Fox Chapel Area School District as director of secondary curriculum, professional development and instruction.

“The biggest difference will be the focus — it will be narrowed to curriculum and instruction,” Harris said.

While curriculum and teacher development as well as instruction at the middle school were part of his job as principal, he was also concerned with many other items such as “doors that don't open and clocks that aren't working.”

“A principal has tremendous responsibilities,” Harris said. “It's part of the joy of the job.”

Now his focus will be on grappling with ideas such as what can the district do to help middle school students learn.

“I really love that stuff,” Harris said. “The energy you get when you are with people, it's intoxicating.”

Harris started working in the district while earning a master's in teaching education and was hired 19 years ago. He worked as a language arts and Quest teacher before moving into administration as an assistant then head principal at Dorseyville.

As an assistant principal and principal, he worked closely with Shelley Beck, the previous director of curriculum, who retired this month.

During his years in education, Harris has advocated meeting the needs of each student, helping each child to succeed.

“The main thing that has changed is the increase in standardization,” Harris said. “At Fox Chapel, we're in the midst of that wave of accountability and rigor.”

Harris is finishing his doctoral program with a major research study.

Luckily, technology enables him to research online versus running to a library.

He must balance his educational demands with a 50- to 60-hour work week at Dorseyville.

In addition, the North Hills resident finds time to spend with his son Max, 12; and daughter, Alexandra, 8.

“It's been a long haul with many Sundays (studying) at Panera, that chunk of time before soccer,” Harris said.

As for his new job, Harris said, “At some point, I wanted to become someone who could help a school system. Ultimately you get down to the fundamental truths about teaching and learning.”

Sharon Drake is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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