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Passionate Harris reflects on 39 years with Alma Public Schools 5/17/22

Passionate Harris reflects on 39 years with Alma Public Schools

By Kevin Taylor 

Alma Schools 


Dee Ann Harris signed up to teach Alma kindergarten for two years. Three tops. She was 20 years old, fresh out of college, and eager to learn.


This year, she celebrated her 39th year — all with Alma Public Schools. 


“I was only going to stay two or three years, then I was going to move on because I was from Fort Smith and this was too small of a town,” Harris said. “(But) the longer I stayed, I started to love it.”


Harris married her husband, Phil, two years after moving to Alma and the couple raised two kids — son Zach and daughter Malia. 


The former Dee Ann Fairchild graduated from Northside High School before following her dreams — something she never let go of. 


“It’s (education) been my life,” Harris said. “It’s definitely been my calling, really, ever since I was in the first grade; I wanted to be a teacher. People thought I would major in music, but I didn’t — I majored in elementary ed.”


Harris did a little bit of everything with Alma schools, including time spent as a middle school counselor. She credits superintendents Charles B. Dyer and David Woolly for making people love their work. 


“They are the reason everyone wants to be here,” Harris said. “Mr. Dyer’s vision for the arena and all things for kids were important. He always said he wanted the best for all kids. Mr. Woolly’s vision for the arts and the PAC (Performing Arts Center). They’ve incorporated so many other interests for kids … there should be something for all kids to find their niche, to keep them connected, and stay in school.”


Harris spent the last 10 years of her career as Shawn Bullard’s assistant principal, a sometimes unforgiving but never boring tour.


“She has the right personality and the right fit in every way,” Woolly added. “It happened in the middle of the year. It was one of those things we had to get done; she was right there and decided she liked the idea.”


“Dee Ann’s a lady of faith,” Bullard said. “There have been several things that have come up over the years and we’ll close the door, pray about it, and make the right decision. We have never had an argument in 10 years. We love to play devil's advocate. 


“She’s been fantastic to work with; I’ve learned a lot from her.”


Harris signed on with Alma schools not long after David and Marsha Woolly came to work for Alma schools. 


“I feel like I grew up with them,” Harris said. 


Barely old enough to vote, Harris taught kindergarten as a spry 20-year-old.


“The first year I started was the first year Arkansas had public school kindergarten,” Harris said. “Mr. Dyer had to hire four of us, and I think by the time school started he had hired five (kindergarten) teachers. This is my family … every bit of it is my family.”


“Why would I go somewhere else when things are so good here? Things have been pretty steady, fun, and we built some great facilities,” Woolly said. “I think that’s why a lot of hers and my generation have enjoyed it. None of us had a reason to think about doing something else.”