New Challenge In Familiar Territory Brings One Paducah Family Man Full Circle
Brian Harper never strayed far from his roots.
A 1989 graduate of Reidland High School, he attended Murray State and then began his career teaching at his hometown high school. This job was followed by stints at nearby Lone Oak High School, Calloway County Middle, Hendron Lone Oak, and most recently as Secondary Supervisor of Instruction at Marshall County Public Schools.
In July 2017, Brian officially returned to his old stomping grounds when he began as McCracken County School Superintendent. “It really is a dream to head up the district where I graduated,” Brian says.
He acknowledges a lot has changed since his days as a Reidland Greyhound senior. “I’d say the biggest difference since I was in school would have to be the integration of technology into the classroom,” Brian says. “Tech has really changed the face of the way we do things in education,” he adds. “It really increases the opportunities that we can provide students.”
Brian is quick to point out what he believes the district is getting right. “The good news is that we are really strong with college readiness,” he says. “I think our biggest opportunity lies in offering more hands-on training in career fields, especially if we can build a skill center that would connect with the work demands of the community. Not all kids have a desire for college and, what’s more, I know workers in important areas like the carpentry, electrical, and plumbing fields are aging out of the workforce, and the young people aren’t necessarily always there trained and ready to take their places.”
Brian acknowledges the importance of college readiness but adds, “I think it’s safe to say every kid needs post-secondary education and sometimes that is college, but sometimes it isn’t.” He adds, “I think one of our most important jobs as educators is to really try to help kids connect with the kind of work they feel passionate about.”
It’s clear that education is what the Harper family is passionate about. Brian’s wife, Deanna, works in the finance department at the Paducah Independent School System and his daughter, Mackenzie, follows in her parent’s footsteps as a sophomore at Murray State majoring in education. It’s too soon to tell what career path their son, Weston, might choose, but it’s safe to say he has already made a break with tradition by becoming a University of Louisville basketball fan, in mostly direct opposition to Brian’s membership in the Big Blue Nation. “He started out life as a UK fan,” Brian laughs. “And then we went to a Sweet Sixteen game where he became interested in a University of Louisville player, and he’s been in that camp ever since.” Fortunately, most all the Harpers can agree on St. Louis Cardinals baseball,“ . . . even though they didn’t play as well as they should have this year,” he ruefully acknowledges.
Thanks to the flexibility of his former colleagues in Marshall County, Brian was able to start transition- ing to McCracken County in early June, and he credits now retired former Superintendent, Quin Sutton, with making the baton pass near seamless. “Over the past three years he [Sutton] has really united the school district,” Brian adds. “I feel fortunate to follow in his footsteps.”
While the job of superintendent might seem a complicated challenge to some, Brian’s philosophy is simple. “First and foremost, do what’s right for the kids,” he says. “If you can manage that, everything else will fall into place.”