The principal of one of the state's top high schools has announced she will retire this year.
Valerie Harris has led Classen School of Advanced Studies since 2008.
Harris said she decided last fall that this year would be her last. She plans to help care for her parents, who live in Stigler.
“They both the last couple of years have had health issues,” she said, “and I just want to be there and help them.”
Her last year has been a tough one.
In March, two students died when a vehicle struck the broken-down van they were sitting in. Also, a graduate from the school whom Harris was close to also died this year.
During the waning spring semester, the school board decided to reject transfer requests from students who live outside the district limits. The board later reversed that decision, but the controversy was frustrating for families.
But the school will continue to be successful despite tragedy or controversy or new leadership, Harris said.
“I know somebody great is going to come in behind me,” she said. “We have such a great staff and student body and parents that it's going to be great anyway.”
Classen consistently ranks among the best high schools in the country. It's a hotbed of National Merit Scholars, Academic All-Staters and college scholarships.
The success can be attributed to a talented student body, strong parent and community support and a dedicated staff, she said.
“We're always looking for ways to improve,” Harris said. “We're never satisfied. We're always proud but there are always areas to improve on.”