Retiring Barrington 220 superintendent leaving lasting imprint
Barrington Area Unit District 220 Superintendent Brian Harris has racked up several achievements in his six years at the job, including a change in student start times and a successful ballot measure to fund $147 million in building improvements.
However, Harris' time as District 220's boss is ending. He's retiring after the 2020-21 academic season.
"I live and breathe the slogan for this district, and that's 'To Inspire All Learners to Achieve Excellence,'" Harris said. "And you know, it never leaves my mind. It's always there. I'm proud to say that we've done some amazing things in the six years with one more to go."
District 220 board members Tuesday night will begin to discuss how they want to approach finding Harris' replacement.
"I do want to acknowledge Brian will leave big shoes to fill," school board President Penny Kazmier said. "His leadership and contributions to Barrington 220 are too many to count."
One of the biggest undertakings during Harris' District 220 career came in the 2017-18 academic year. After much research and discussion, the district shifted the start times for all grade levels at its 12 schools. High school and middle school students began reporting to classes later, with the younger children starting earlier.
Harris and other proponents cited research from leading health organizations for the move, indicating later start times would lead to healthier students and improved academic performance. Officials said it was believed District 220 was the first unit school system in the Chicago area to make a significant shift in start times.
Another milestone in Harris' District 220 tenure happened in March when voters approved borrowing $147 million -- without a need for a property tax hike -- for building projects, including safety and security upgrades at all schools. Voters in 2019 rejected a $187 million borrowing request that had a tax increase attached.
Harris, whose base salary was listed at $287,110 for the 2019-20 school season, spent four years as head of Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200 before joining District 220. He departed Wheaton Warrenville with a little more than four years left on a five-year contract.
Tom Leonard was District 220's superintendent when he called Harris in April 2014 to tell him that he'd be resigning to take a top school job in suburban Austin, Texas. After Leonard's encouragement, Harris applied to become District 220's boss and topped about a dozen other candidates for the job.
Harris, who's been in public education for about 30 years, previously worked as assistant principal at Barrington Middle School-Station Campus from 1993 to 1998, then moved on to administrative posts at St. Charles Unit District 303 and Wheaton Warrenville. He began as a classroom teacher, coach and administrator for schools in Mount Prospect, Yorkville and Waterman.
Beyond District 220, Harris has been a statewide education leader in roles such as president emeritus of the Large Unit District Association's board of directors. He was among 100 school district leaders from across the country who attended a White House conference on digital learning in 2014.
"I am just proud each and every day to be the superintendent of Barrington 220," he said. "And what better place to finish my career."