History of Dr. John Harris

John W. Harris

“Human contacts are the key element to education. What we are really trying to do is open doors and expand horizons. The horizons are different and the doors lead to different opportunities, but what we are about has not changed.”


   Dr. John Harris

John Harris Elementary opened its doors in the fall of 1991. Originally created as a three-section elementary, John Harris welcomed 500+ students and their families to the neighborhood school in the southeast area of Sioux Falls. The school was designed to a scale that fits a child, one that is comfortable and friendly. The 51,100 square foot building proved to be too small shortly after its opening. After less than one year, it was evident that John Harris needed to be a four-section school. Five additional classrooms were added to the southeastern corner of the school in 1992. As one enters the multi-purpose room, brightly colored flags come into view, representing each year of its existence and the theme for each year. These flags have been designed by a student within the school and are a lasting symbol of each year.

Our school’s namesake is Dr. John Harris who served as superintendent of the Sioux Falls School District from 1968 to 1992. Dr. Harris led the school system with compassion and integrity, touching the lives of thousands of students, teachers, and employees, and guiding the system to be one of the finest in the country. He is remembered for his gentleness, humility, graciousness, professionalism, intelligence, and sincere interest in people. He lived his philosophy that human contacts are the key element to education.

On the first day of each school year, our John Harris School community meets at the flagpole to raise the flag and sing the school song, “Make A Difference.” Dr. Harris was present every year for the first day-of-school flag-raising ceremony to lead the pledge of allegiance until his death in February 2007.

At a ceremony on August 30, 2007, a memorial plaque, purchased by the John Harris P.T.A., was dedicated. The plaque is mounted in the front hallway of the school to remind us all of the special men for whom the school is named.