John Harrison leaving Mercer Island High School

By Linda Ball and Mary L. Grady

Mercer Island High School principal John Harrison announced Oct. 4 that he will be stepping down to take a position with the Bellevue School District, after six years at MIHS. His last day at MIHS is Oct. 13. MIHS is his fourth school as a principal, and fifth as an administrator.

Associate Principal Craig Olson will step in as principal until Nov. 4, when Pat Blix, who has previously served as an interim principal with the district, will take over until a permanent replacement for Harrison can be found. Presently, Blix is in Guatemala on a study trip.

Harrison will serve as the director of school support (secondary) for the Bellevue School District. He said his new job will be to provide instructional and operational leadership, mentoring the principals in the four high schools, one alternative school, one international school and five middle schools in the district.

"It's a golden opportunity," Harrison said. "I've been thinking about the next phase of my career.

"Several months ago Harrison told Gary Plano, superintendent of the Mercer Island School District, that he was interested in working toward a superintendent position and asked for his help and advice. He told Plano that he was hoping to find a position that would serve as a stepping stone to a superintendent job. Plano explained that he has been mentoring Harrison as he began working toward that goal.

Harrison said he was offered a superintendent position 14 years ago, but he felt he wasn't ready. He took a job in the district office in Victoria, British Columbia, but at that time he felt he was at his best as a high school principal."For me, I've been in schools because it's what I love," Harrison said. "It's my comfort zone. But I'm looking forward to this. It will stretch me. Now I'm ready."

Harrison said he has already started his superintendent credentials. The change of job will not require Harrison to move, as he and his family live in Issaquah.When the position in Bellevue came up, Harrison took the job with Plano's encouragement. But it did not leave Plano much time to locate a replacement, Plano said.

He contacted a few individuals, but did not have much luck because of the short notice. He did contact Blix, who agreed even though she had just begun her study program in Guatemala. Harrison said the community will be engaged in finding a permanent replacement for him at MIHS.

Harrison's contributions on Mercer Island include his attention and rapport with students and families; his empowerment of staff; and his amazing ability to deal with challenging situations with experience and calm, Plano said. Harrison's farewell message can be read at the district's Web site,


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