For the last few months, the word “acting” had preceded the word “principal” on Ralph Harrison’s resume.
It is no longer part of the phrase.
The newly-named head of Penncrest High School, Harrison was the unanimous choice last month of the Rose Tree Media School Board. He replaced Rick Gregg, who resigned in January to become the Assistant Superintendent of the Penn Delco School District.
“We considered internal and external candidates, all of whom rated quite high,” said Sue Nolen, who sat on the interview committee with Tracy Barusevicius. “Ralph displayed confidence and dedication and repeatedly used the word ‘collaboration’ and we wish him well as he collaborates with the administration and faculty at Penncrest.”
A 1995 graduate of West Chester University, Harrison earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Health and Physical Education with a concentration in athletic training and sports medicine. The selection of the minor was quite purposeful, as he was present when his brother was injured on the high school football field.
“I felt helpless and from that point on decided I never wanted to feel that way again,” said Harrison. “Fortunately he recovered and I realized I wanted to have the ability to help people.”
Harrison applied both aspects of his degree as a health and phys. ed. teacher and head athletic trainer at Unionville High School, a post he held for eight years. In the classroom, as the department chair and as a trainer, he employed the leadership qualities he strives to instill in his students while building a strong foundation in education.
“Unionville is a high-quality high school and the experience there was so impactful,” said Harrison. “Serving as department coordinator was my first experience as a leader and it gave me the opportunity to see the bigger picture.”
After earning his Master’s Degree in Education and K-12 principal certificate, Harrison was named assistant principal of Penncrest in January 2006, a post that allowed him to develop skills in problem solving (“I tend to look at everything as a puzzle”). His responsibilities included overseeing student affairs for two grade levels, supervising the math, social studies, science and health and physical education departments and staff hiring.
“I’ve always thought I would be a great leader and often found myself looking at situations and thinking ‘I could do that – maybe even better,’” he said. “I’ve found I have the ability to connect with people and a good leader respects others.”
Harrison served from January-June 2013 as the acting principal of Springton Lake Middle School during a period of administrative transition. Spending six months with sixth, seventh and eighth graders, especially those he would see again in September as incoming ninth graders, prompted his decision to initiate a freshman transition program.
“Rick Gregg allowed me to do that – he mentored me and was a great delegator,” said Harrison. “Springton Lake provided in interesting perspective and I learned a lot.”
Noting his ascension to the principal’s role came with the caveat “he was being handed the keys to the Maserati,” Harrison realizes he is inheriting a school which functions quite efficiently. His goals include insuring all school stakeholders – students, teachers and parents – feel engaged in the Penncrest community and reviewing data from each grade levels to make certain every student has found his or her niche. He also conducted meet and greets this month with the theme “Even Better . . . Together” to introduce himself and share ideas about the future of school.
“Penncrest is so wonderful because of everyone involved,” said Harrison. “There is pride in everything we do.”