Harrison Neal Sr.
Central Middle School
Harrison Neal is the current Principal at Central Middle School. He has also served in leadership roles at Lee A. Tolbert Community Academy and Banneker Elementary. During his time working as a school administrator, Harrison has been recognized with several awards, including the 2017 KCPS Rookie of the Year Award, the 2018 KCPS Attendance Award, and the 2019 KCPS Newcomer Award.
Throughout his career, Harrison has achieved accomplishments that include decreasing school discipline, increasing enrollment, and exceeding DESE MPI growth expectations. Under Harrison’s leadership, during the pandemic Banneker Elementary provided approximately $11,000 through community resources for utility assistance, and served over 1,200 touch points with families to provide basic education needs.
In 2021, Harrison was awarded the Excellence in Education award for Principal of the Year.
What made you want to join the education profession? Who were your role models as a young person?
There were several factors that lead to my decision to become an educator. As a graduate of Kansas City Public Schools, I often faced challenges and obstacles growing up within the inner-city of Kansas City, MO. Frequently, I found myself making poor choices with my peers that lead to multiple school suspensions and experiencing a superintendent hearing my senior year of high school at Lincoln College Preparatory Academy. These decisions lead me to mentor two at-risk third grade students with similar backgrounds as myself to fulfill my required community service hours as a senior in high school. Provided the opportunity to mentor Christopher and Jordan ignited my passion for education and change within my own community.
My role model growing up was my older sister, Tanisha Holliday, who graduated from Lincoln College Preparatory Academy fours years before I’d follow in her footsteps. Today, Tanisha has accomplished many goals while paving the way for so many to follow. Recently, she was promoted to Vice-President of her engineering company. This promotion made her the first female and African-American vice-president. Her success speaks to her work ethic and leadership ability to make everyone around her achieve more. I did not have to look far to find a role model as a child, as my older sister Tanisha always chose to go first to lead in our family.
How does working as a leader in the same neighborhood that you grew up in influence your work?
I’ve been provided a great opportunity to serve within the community that fostered and nurtured my upbringing. This influences my work because it is personal to be a part of advocating for social justice within our schools and communities. There are a lot of children who need a champion, a voice and role model who understands the challenges of the same neighborhood where they currently reside. It speaks volumes to the impact I have been able to make as a teacher, leader, mentor, coach, and role model to kids within the same community where I grew up as a child.
You were recently awarded the Excellence in Education award for a school principal; what did winning this award mean to you?
Winning the Excellence In Education Award meant the world to me as an educator. Often, we spend countless days and endless nights advocating, supporting and leading stakeholders to impact student outcomes within the classroom. To receive this award amongst the talented group of administrators within KCPS is an honor. Nelson Mandela once stated, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” It is my belief that, as I continue to serve within leadership, I can do my part to support the latter statement as we continue to improve the lives of young people within Kansas City.
How does it feel to be a role model to young educators and students in Kansas City? What do you try to bring to your work every day?
I am honored to be considered a role model to young educators and a father figure to so many children within Kansas City. I believe that every child can learn regardless of race, gender, or socio-economic status and, most importantly, my primary role is to help young people become more aware of who they are, where they come from and what they can become if they do not settle. In addition, my strong focus on culture responsive pedagogy is evident daily, as well in my leadership approach and display of commitment to building the capacity of our teachers and community. The previous statements embody my passion and dedication to change and improve the lives of children within our community.
With schools reopening this month, what’s on the horizon for Central Middle School and it’s students?
School is reopening soon, and we are excited to welcome back students at Central Middle School! As we have prepared for students to return, we are focused on a strong positive school culture. In addition, accelerating learning through our PLC’s with a targeted focus on Response to Intervention. Simultaneously, we are focusing on continuing our journey as a Trauma-Informed School aimed to meet the social and emotional needs of our students. These three school priorities will lead our school back to greatness following the COVID-19 pandemic.
What would you like the community and Central Middle School families to know about you as a leader as you start your new position as Principal?
I want our school community and stakeholders to know I am a servant leader. I believe in being the first to arrive at the building and last to leave in the evening. I am dedicated to improving the lives of young people while providing opportunities that will lead to success later in life. I am a Central neighborhood kid and I have a personal mission to advocate for a high-quality education for all students. Over time I am looking forward to seeing our Central Warhawks fly high as we aim for the moon and if we miss we’ll still land amongst the stars!