As Seabreeze High School's new principal, Tucker Harris said it has been a wild experience to see the community's enthusiasm and support of the school.
The former Palm Terrace Elementary principal is familiar with the Ormond Beach community, having been the principal at Ormond Beach Elementary and Pine Trail Elementary in years past. Harris, a 1994 Seabreeze High School alumnus, has replaced Dr. Earl Johnson, who was recently appointed as the district's chief operating officer.
It was Johnson who got the ball rolling to improve Seabreeze, said Harris.
"That's how I look at it — Dr. Johnson set me up for just a beautiful dunk and ... we as a team are going to just crush it and get this place to where it is, and that's an "A" school, a flagship high school of Volusia County."
The Ormond Beach Observer recently spoke with Harris about what he's looking forward to next school year, his goal of improving Seabreeze's school grade from a "C" to an "A" and what it means to be a Sandcrab.
You're back at your alma mater. How does that feel?
It feels great. It feels really surreal in many ways to be back.
My wife would say where you are is where you're meant to be, so just to kind of see it all come back to this and the way it's all played out has been perfect. I went to Palm Terrace [Elementary] with the goal of supporting getting it out of the situation that it was in, and we persevered. We were resilient there through COVID and showed gains, and were able to really close one chapter and complete what I intended, but then open another chapter, comfortably leaving one and starting another. The way the chapters of the book are unfolding, it was just a great ending and great beginning. So to have all that going so positively, I'm just very fortunate.
So you're going from Palm Terrace Elementary to now a high school. What are some of the challenges as a principal that you face when doing that transition, if any?
Every school has their challenges or needs, but to me, a pre-K kid through 12th is still a kid.
So within that, I don't think there's a difference. The great schools have to have a positive culture, a good climate, they're focusing on instruction, they provide a safe and secure environment, they prioritize the mental health of the kids to ensure that their head and heart are right so they can learn, [and] their systems are in place.
The difference being there's more stuff going on here. It's just more active so there's more operational management when compared to an elementary school, and then there's, I say, that master schedule monster. So that'll really be my main focus of learning this year.
I'm so thankful because I have Ms. [Stinamay] Lagrotta here, and she does an amazing job with that, so she's able to help me and educate me and keep me afloat. And I've got great support from the district and some of my best friends are high school principals, so I'm in a very good place to make the transition because I just have awesome people supporting me.
Do you have any goals for the next school year that you're looking forward to tackling?
Sure, I'm always goal-driven. In my line of work — some people may not agree, but a school grade is important. As I said at Palm Terrace, the "D" never defined us because there's so much behind the school grade that we know as educational professionals, but the community doesn't, and we need to be realistic, because the school grade for somebody that doesn't know the intricacies of school grades, the grade means something.
Especially in this community. Seabreeze is a school with over 100 years of tradition. You can't throw a baseball around here in Ormond without hitting a Seabreeze alum.
So my goal would be to, without a doubt, move it to a "B" this year. If we can get an "A," great, and then ultimately, an "A" in two years. That's more of the accountability end, but I just want to create a very safe and secure school for the kids. That's first and foremost. I want to make sure it's a safe place for kids and we prioritize their head and heart.
What about being Seabreeze's principal makes you excited?
For me, what makes me excited, it's the same reason you go into education — You want to make an impact. Then somebody sees you in the classroom and encourages you to get out of the classroom to make a bigger impact, and at first I didn't buy into it. It's more of a sales pitch, I thought in the beginning, but now I see it. I see how the principal can really impact the school, help teachers, kids, community, and to me to come up here now and to this. This is Ormond's high school, really.
To just come over and lead the city's high school and really play a role in getting kids across that stage... A lot of kids I've had, I had them at Pine Trail and Ormond Beach Elementary.
To be here now, on these bookends of their journey, it's just so awesome.
I want to be an open door guy for the kids and just be there for them and help them cross that stage.
Once a Sandcrab, always a Sandcrab. What does that mean to you?
It means a lot more now. When you're in high school, you don't understand the meaning of it.
But to be an adult now, it means everything to me because it really, I think, encompasses our community. You've got a lot of people who stay here — or they might think they're leaving and they end up coming back — so I think for me, it not only says something about Sancrabs, but it says something about Ormond. It says a lot about our community, and a school is a reflection of a community.
I tell people if there's a problem in a school, there's a problem in the community. We just represent community a lot of the times, and those society problems come in here. So "Once a Sandcrab, always a Sandcrab," you can turn that into "Once an Ormond person, always an Ormond person."