Elaine Harper, principal of Red Bank High School, is the new executive director of the North River Learning Community in Hamilton County Schools. Ms. Harper moves into the position formerly held by Dr. Neelie Parker, who took over as chief schools officer for Hamilton County Schools in December. The North River Learning Community includes Hixson High, Sale Creek Middle/High, Sequoyah High, Soddy Daisy High, Hixson Middle, Loftis Middle, Soddy Daisy Middle, Soddy Elementary, Daisy Elementary, Hixson Elementary, Allen Elementary, Big Ridge Elementary, DuPont Elementary, McConnell Elementary, Middle Valley Elementary, and North Hamilton County Elementary.
“I am excited about the opportunity to serve the outstanding group of schools in the North River Learning Community,” said Ms. Harper. “I believe strongly in the power of community to strengthen our schools and the North River is that belief in action. I look forward to working alongside the amazing school leaders in North River to continue the academic progress of the last two years.”
Ms. Harper has distinguished herself in Hamilton County Schools as principal of Red Bank High School since 2016. In her first year, she established Hamilton County’s first Community School at Red Bank High through a partnership with Northside Neighborhood House. She was also instrumental in the development of “The Red Bank Way,” a focus on project-based learning and technology integration throughout the Red Bank feeder pattern of schools at Red Bank Elementary and Red Bank Middle. In 2019 Ms. Harper launched the BlueCross Technology Academy, a Red Bank High School, a Future Ready Institute focused on engineering and computer science. She also served at Red Bank as an assistant principal and taught in the classroom at the school. Ms. Harper taught AP Chemistry, Honors Chemistry, Chemistry, Teaching Academy courses, and ACT Prep classes.
“We focused on providing engaging project-based instruction and learning at Red Bank High that captures the interest of students and helps them to be more successful in school and after graduation,” said Ms. Harper. “With the project-based approach, Red Bank High has experienced success with an improved graduation rate, higher ACT scores, and the school achieved Level 5 status, the highest level of TVAAS growth.”
Ms. Harper is a product of Hamilton County and the public school system. She graduated from Hixson High School, attended Ganns Middle Valley and Hixson Jr. High. After graduation, she attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where she received her bachelor’s degree in Chemistry in August of 1995 and a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction in May of 2007. She received an Education Specialist Degree in Instructional Leadership from Tennessee Technological University in May of 2012.
After working as a professional chemist, her career in education began in 2000 as a chemistry teacher at the 21st Century Academy. While teaching at 21st Century Academy in 2005, Ms. Harper was accepted into the Leadership Fellows Program with the Public Education Foundation of Chattanooga to train as an instructional leader. She was in the classroom until 2012 when she started her administrative career as an assistant principal at Dalewood Middle School.
During the 2014-2015 school year, Harper was accepted into the Principal’s Leadership Academy, a joint venture between Hamilton County Schools, the Public Education Foundation of Chattanooga, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce. She has served as a mentor principal in the Rock Point Learning Community since 2018.
In large school systems, a sense of community can often get lost in the hustle and bustle of the day-to-day operation of schools. Superintendent Dr. Bryan Johnson introduced the concept of placing schools in Hamilton County Schools into learning communities across the system to encourage more cooperation between schools and build stronger relationships with neighborhoods around the schools. Hamilton County Schools reorganized academic and support services around the new learning communities to serve schools and the community better. The learning communities are Harrison Bay, North River, Missionary Ridge, the Opportunity Zone, and Rock Point.
“The learning communities and the focused leadership serving the schools foster a renewed spirit of cooperation between schools and engage the community to benefit the children,” said Dr. Johnson. “Great teachers and great leaders are a focus for a successful school district and a vital part of the recent success of Hamilton County Schools. I look forward to Elaine Harper continuing the tradition of strong leadership in North River that has maximized educational opportunities for children in the community’s schools.”
Wendell Weathers, assistant principal at Red Bank High, will be the interim principal at the school while the district searches for a new principal for Red Bank High.