There’s a new principal at Eagle Heights Elementary School, but he’s not new to the district or even the town. Josh Magness is doing something not a lot of people get to do.
Magness, the son of current Harrison School Board president Mitch Magness, was born in Harrison. He attended Skyline Heights, Central Elementary, which is now the school Administration Office, the old junior high and finally high school on Goblin Drive, where he graduated in 2002.
After college, he came back to Harrison and went to work teaching third grade at Forest Heights in 2006.
In 2012, the district combined the transportation and maintenance departments under a single department. He was made director of operations, a job he held since then.
He relied on his experience with Magness Oil Company for transportation and logistics. In addition, he worked summers for the Parks Department as a lifeguard and doing maintenance. “All those actually worked real well to transition into director of operations,” he said.
But he said the district was looking for someone who could handle bus discipline and had a license to handle expulsions and suspensions, and could talk to parents.
“I already had a principal’s license, so that’s where that came in,” Magness said.
By 2019, he was familiar with almost all aspects of the entire district, which he said helped him develop a leadership role and work with staff and parents in a larger role than just as a teacher.
He had been a part of the community, following his father’s lead participating in the Goblin Booster Club and Harrison Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Still, he said, his favorite part of the day was driving a school bus and interacting with children. So when long-time Eagle Heights principal Linda Pledger decided to retire, he was ready to get back to a classroom setting.
As the new principal, he enters the building basically unannounced through the back door. It’s heartening to hear cafeteria staff laughing and enjoying their jobs.
“That is cool to walk into a school with an already positive atmosphere,” he said.
“Eagle Heights has tremendous community and tremendous culture,” he continued. “They’ve got happy teachers, happy students and happy administration over there, which is unheard of. Hopefully I can just continue that.”
He credits Pledger and the entire faculty for developing a family, small-town feeling of learning by blending traditional methods with new ones and caring for students’ hands, hearts and heads.
Just as he works with his replacement, Pledger has been working with him.
“It’s funny, sometimes, you don’t know what you don’t know,” he said. So, Pledger has been a resource by helping him map out future challenges.
“She wants success for me and she wants success for Eagle Heights going forward,” Magness said.
Magness said a high percentage of students at all Harrison school plants read at grade level. He wants to not only continue that initiative, but to see 100% of students achieve that level — the first few years of a student’s education are crucial.
Prior to last week’s school board meeting, Magness was speaking with board member Jon Burnside.
Burnside said people often have to leave a school district to advance their careers. In this case, Burnside said Magness not only has the skills and qualifications for the principal job, he also has a direct connection to the community.
Magness said coming back to his hometown to teach and learn skills necessary to advance into his current position is a goal many people don’t have the opportunity to reach.
“It’s awesome,” he said.