PORTLAND, Ore. - They're the only mother-son principals in
the history of Oregon Catholic schools. And go figure - both
have impeccable comic timing.
Sue Harris, 57, is principal of St. Cecilia School in
Beaverton and the mother of Chris Harris, the 34-year-old
head of St. Agatha School in Portland.
"We have our own styles and our own schools, but I treasure
the time we have to work together as colleagues," said Chris,
who two years ago left a teaching post in Burien, Wash., to
bring his young family closer to grandma and grandpa.
"We agreed on that idea," said Sue, flashing a thumbs-up.
Not that they don't compete. A worker at St. Agatha found an
old trophy and spruced it up with an inscription that said
"Principal's Cup." When the St. Agatha Storm and St. Cecilia
Cyclone meet on the basketball or volleyball court, the prize
goes to the winning school until the next contest.
"We are the only two weather-related mascots in the
archdiocese," Chris said. "And we're proud of that."
Both are aware, Sue painfully so, that St. Agatha was founded
105 years ago and St. Cecilia 103 years ago. "I'm never going
to catch up," she said.
Mostly, the mother-son principal duo love and respect each
other and have zeal for Catholic education. Both attended
Catholic schools before choosing to teach.
"It's a real privilege and blessing for me to be able to see
Chris - I would not say follow in these footsteps - but be
part of that same passionate draw that Catholic education
really brings to you," Sue said.
Chris wanted to be a teacher even as a boy. He would round up
the neighborhood kids, bring them into the playroom and
conduct class. He recalls watching his mother at school
assemblies and was impressed with the way she carried
He recalls summer road trips as a boy. He and his brother
would peer into the front seat to see their mother writing up
a master plan. He remembers seeing a blueprint of Portland's
St. John Fisher School spread on the dining room table.
"I learned how to be a leader by osmosis," said Chris, adding
that his mother taught him the importance of balance, making
sure there is ample family time. Sue and husband Brad, who
have been married for 36 years, saw to it that the family had
dinner together as often as possible. If Sue had a night
meeting, she came home to put the boys to bed.
They say they learn from each other. Sue has years of
experience. Chris is navigating a new era of leading Catholic
schools with young eyes.
Both mother and son have chosen Catholic schools because they
believe in faith-based education and appreciate the variety
and homeyness of the work.