Head of Friends School to step down

Jon M. Harris lauded for work in planning

January 20, 2002|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Jon M. Harris, who has headed Friends School since 1998, will relinquish his duties at the end of the current academic year.

In an announcement made Friday afternoon at the North Charles Street private school, J. Kevin Carnell, chairman of the school's board of trustees, informed faculty members, students and employees that Harris will leave at the end of the school year.

In a letter mailed to parents of the school's 1,003 students, Carnell, a 1984 Friends graduate who has led the board for two years, wrote: "Over the past several years, Friends School has worked to develop and articulate a strategic plan for the school and its future. Jon Harris, Head of School, has led that planning process with energy and enthusiasm.

"We have embarked on the next phase, one of implementing and executing the many facets of the strategic plan. The board will be seeking new leadership to guide Friends School in the implementation of the strategic plan. We are looking forward to working with Jon through the end of this academic year. The board recognizes and appreciates his contributions to the school during his tenure."

In an interview yesterday, Carnell said, "The national average for a headmaster today is four to five years, and this is sort of a normal tenure."

Carnell, who described Harris' years at the school as a "planning tenure," said the news was received by students, faculty and employees without incident.

"It's not shocking. It's been OK. At a place like Friends, there is a clear focus and mission. There is a veteran faculty, longevity and stability. This has not been received with any concern," he said.

Harris' last day as head of school at Friends will be June 30.

Carnell said the school has begun a national search for Harris' successor and hopes to have one in place by the start of the 2003-2004 academic year.

Friends is also seeking an interim head of school to begin work this summer and be ready for the start of the next academic year.

Harris, 48, who was unavailable for comment yesterday, succeeded W. Byron Forbush II, who retired in 1998 after 38 years at Friends. Harris is the first non-Quaker to head the school.

Before coming to Friends in 1998, Harris was upper school head, English teacher and coach at Friends Central School in Wynnewood, Pa., and dean of students at St. George's School in Newport, R.I.

In addition, Janice S. Morrison, who has been upper school principal at Friends since 1999, also will be leaving the school June 30.

The upper school at Friends has an enrollment of 350 students.

Morrison, 49, informed the school in October that she would be leaving in June.

Morrison will be working more closely with the Teaching Institute for Elementary Science, which she helped found in 1997.

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