An assistant principal at Whitney Young Magnet High School has been tapped to replace longtime Principal Joyce Kenner, who retires this week after nearly three decades at the prestigious selective enrollment school.
Whitney Young’s Local School Council voted unanimously yesterday to offer a principal contract to Assistant Principal Rickey Harris, 49, making him the school’s first new principal since 1995 and only the fourth principal in its 47-year history.
Harris has served two stints at Whitney Young, his first from 2006 to 2010 as the school’s dean of students. He went on to become the principal of St. Margaret of Scotland School, a South Side Catholic elementary school, before he returned to CPS in the fall of 2013. He moved between a few schools before he went back to a private school and eventually returned to Whitney Young in 2020.
“This is a full circle moment for me,” Harris told about 50 staff, parents and students gathered for the LSC meeting Wednesday evening in the school’s second-floor library, declaring that “dreams still do come true.”
Harris turns 50 later this month and called his new job an early birthday present. He said he plans to continue Kenner’s focus on extracurriculars along with academics, while one of his primary goals will be to support special education students through a successful high school career.
Harris met Kenner in 2004 when he was the assistant principal at an elementary school. He visited Whitney Young for a meeting and chatted with Kenner, a moment he said Wednesday changed his life. Since then, the two have grown close. And she said she had Harris in mind when tossing around possible successors in her head and recommended him to the LSC — though she wasn’t allowed to vote on the matter yesterday.
Kenner retires as one of CPS’ longest-tenured principals and perhaps its most prominent. She became synonymous with Whitney Young over the years, championing the school’s athletics and clubs with its curriculum while facing criticism that she hasn’t always handled student concerns with care.