Mary Johnson Harris
|Mary Eleanor Johnson Harris|
|Member of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education for District 4 (Bienville, Bossier, Caddo, DeSoto, Natchitoches, Red River, Sabine, Vernon, Webster, and Winn parishes)|
January 2015 – January 2016
|Preceded by||Walter C. Lee|
|Succeeded by||Tony Davis|
Shreveport, Caddo Parish
|Spouse(s)||Keith David Harris|
Robert David "Robbie" HarrisTwo stepdaughters
|Parents||Julius and Eleanor Frazier Johnson|
|Alma mater||Louisiana Tech University|
Mary Eleanor Johnson Harris (born September 1963) is a Republican departing short-term member of the 11-person Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE); her District 4 encompasses eleven parishes in northwestern Louisiana: Bienville, Bossier, Caddo, DeSoto, Natchitoches, Red River, Sabine, Vernon, Webster, and Winn. BESE sets policies for some 700,000 public school pupils statewide.
Harris is one of five children, four surviving, born in Shreveport to the late Julius Johnson and Eleanor Frazier Johnson (1933-2014), who was an active Roman Catholic and a secretary for St. Johns Berchelmans Grade School and the B'Nai Zion Jewish congregation in Shreveport.
Mary Johnson Harris received her bachelor's degree in liberal arts, with teacher certification, from Louisiana State University in Shreveport, date unavailable. In 2005, she obtained a master's degree in counseling from Louisiana Tech University in Ruston. In 2007, she obtained an educational specialist degree from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Thereafter, she pursued another forty-five graduate hours from Louisiana Tech. Her training includes elementary education leadership and childhood literacy.
Harris is married to Keith David Harris. They have a son, Robert Keith "Robbie" Harris (born September 1984). She also has two stepdaughters and three grandchildren. A Christian, specific denomination not mentioned, she has been involved in various mission trips and as a result has taught in such countries as Mexico, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, and Jamaica.
Harris began her career when her son was in kindergarten and she was in school two to three nights per week while also working. "I don't think I could have done this if I had not had a wonderful support system in my husband and parent," she said.
Since 2011, Harris has been the principal of South Highlands Elementary Academic and Performing Arts Magnet School in Shreveport. Her magnet school has twice been designated a "Blue Ribbon School of Excellence." From 2009 to 2011, Harris she was the instructional coordinator at the Oak Park MicroSociety Elementary School in Shreveport. Earlier, from 2007 to 2009, she was master teacher at South Highlands Elementary School. From 2003 to 2007, she was a reading specialist at Summer Grove Elementary School. Prior to 2002, she was affiliated with St. Joseph Elementary School in Shreveport. Her Facebook campaign website in 2015 indicates that she had twenty-seven years of experience in professional education.
Harris is a former "Teacher of the Year" for both Caddo Parish and the northwestern region of her state. Both former Governor Kathleen Blanco, a Democrat, and outgoing State Senator Sherri Smith Buffington, a Republican, recognized her for her achievements in education. She once testified before a congressional committee on National Board Certification for teachers. She is a past winner of the National Milken Family Foundation Teacher Award.
In January 2015, then Governor Bobby Jindal appointed Harris to succeed Walter C. Lee, another Shreveport Republican educator. A former superintendent of both Caddo and DeSoto parishes, Lee resigned his seat under an ethics cloud in December 2014. He had been the longest serving member ever of BESE. A special election to fill Lee's seat was initially planned for March 28 but was cancelled by the governor. Therefore, Harris did not face voters for the balance of the unexpired term until the regular nonpartisan blanket primary held on October 24, 2015.
In the primary, Harris led two other Republican candidates, James Tony Davis (born September 1981), a businessman from his native of Natchitoches, and Glynis Rae Johnston (born April 1957), an educator at A.C. Steere Elementary School in Shreveport and like Harris an opponent of the Common Core State Standards program. In the campaign, Johnston described herself as "the people's voice. I will not be controlled. I will not be a puppet. Jindal's puppet or anyone's puppet." No Democrat contested the position. Harris received 47,834 votes (43.2 percent) and faced a general election, often called a runoff in Louisiana, with Tony Davis, who polled 40,895 votes (36.9 percent). Johnston held the remaining but critical 22,107 votes (20 percent). In the second round of balloting, Davis unseated Harris, 63,610 votes (51.2 percent) to her 60,746 (48.9 percent).
Her campaign website describes Harris as a lifelong Republican, a conservative, and an opponent of Common Core. Johnson proposed that Common Core be replaced with an initiative that is "more beneficial to our students." Harris opposes taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood and other groups performing abortions. She objects to incest or rape exceptions as grounds for a legal abortion and opposes sex education which emphasizes contraception and abortion. She opposes sexual orientation as a protected class. She opposes penalties being imposed upon individuals, businesses, or public employees who decline to perform services in violation of their moral objections. She objects to the expansion of gambling. She opposes illegal immigration and signed a "No New Taxes" pledge. She favors repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Regarding state educational issues, Harris said:
We need more educators making decisions about education. There will be many important issues facing BESE in the next few months, including replacing Common Core, funding and proposed revisions to the current evaluation system of our teachers. This is an important time for our state and I have the educational knowledge, experience (local, state and national) and proven leadership ability to navigate the myriad of issues that a board member faces.
Her opponent, Tony Davis, a graduate of Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, has been since 2010 the president and chief executive officer of the Natchitoches Area Chamber of Commerce. Since 2014, he has been president of the Natchitoches Community Alliance Foundation, Inc., since 2014. He is a board member too of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry. Davis supports setting standards in schools, which Harris said means that he supports Common Core. Davis had he is "not an educator and I don't think that is a prerequisite for the job by any means. My experiences involve ... the chamber and any type of development work that I do."
Harris carried the backing of State Representative Mike Johnson of Bossier Parish and BESE appointed member Jane H. Smith, one of Johnson's predecessors in the House. She was backed by all twelve members of the Bossier Parish School Board, three Caddo Parish School Board members, one, Ralph Wilson, of the Natchitoches Parish School Board, and another, Ronnie Broughton of the Webster Parish School Board, who is the state chairman of the Constitution Party. Harris is the official choice of the Louisiana Republican Party and the Tea party movement. After the primary, the whole DeSoto Parish School Board also endorsed Harris.
A political action committee, Continuing America's Strength and Security, which supports Harris in the amount of $2,500, is tied to Republican U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, who opposes Common Core and instead supports local control over education. Tony Davis, conversely, has drawn $35,000 from other such groups supportive of Common Core.
- "Mary Harris, September 1963". Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
- "Results for Election Date: 10/24/2015". Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved October 28, 2015.
- "Shreveport principal gets BESE appointment". The Monroe News-Star. January 6, 2015. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
- "Eleanor Frazier Johnson". The Shreveport
Times. December 12, 2014. Retrieved November 4, 2015. line feed character in
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- "Mary Eleanor Johnson Harris". drive.google.com. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
- Danielle Dreilinger (January 5, 2015). "BESE special election date, temporary member named to replace Walter Lee". New Orleans Times-Picayune. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
- "Robert Harris, September 1984". Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved November 4, 2015.
- "The Principal with Passion". CityLife. May 2014. p. 19. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
- "Mary Johnson Harris". Facebook. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
- "Mary Johnson Harris announces candidacy for LA BESE District 4". Alexandria, Louisiana: KALB-TV. January 24, 2015. Retrieved November 8, 2015.
- "South Highlands principal heads to first BESE meeting next week". KTBS-TV. January 6, 2015. Retrieved January 7, 2015.
- "BESE election on March 28". Bossier Press-Tribune. January 14, 2015. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
- "James Davis, September 1981". Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
- "Glynis Johnston, April 1957". Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
- Crystal Whitman (October 21, 2015). "BESE district 4 election will be heated". KTBS-TV. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
- "Candidates Qualified in Statewide Elections". KEEL (AM). Retrieved September 11, 2015.
- "Results for Election Date: 11/21/2015". Louisiana Secretary of State. Retrieved November 29, 2015.
- "Newest education board member opposes Common Core". ksl.com. January 6, 2015. Retrieved November 5, 2015.
- "BESE District 4: Mary Johnson Harris (Republican)". Louisiana Family Forum. Retrieved November 8, 2015.
- "BESE Dist. 4 seat down to Mary Harris or Tony Davis". KSLA-TV. October 24, 2015. Retrieved October 31, 2015.
- "Endorsements". harrisforbese4.com. Retrieved November 1, 2015.
- "DeSoto Parish School Board endorses Mary Harris for BESE". Biloxi, Mississippi: WLOX. November 5, 2015. Retrieved November 8, 2015.
- Segann M. March. "See who's funding the BESE race". The Shreveport Times. Retrieved November 3, 2015.
Walter C. Lee
|Member of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education for District 4 (Bienville, Bossier, Caddo, DeSoto, Natchitoches, Red River, Sabine, Vernon, Webster, and Winn parishes)
Mary Eleanor Johnson Harris
| Succeeded by|