Former T.R. Miller assistant to head program
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
Vincent Harris, an assistant football coach at T.R. Miller High the past two years, was introduced as the new head football coach and athletic director at Escambia County High School during the Monday, June 6, special meeting of the Escambia County Board of Education.
Harris also coached four years at Pleasant Grove High, including the first of the school’s state championship teams, and three years at Talladega High, where the school is now a perennial playoff contender after a 25-year postseason drought.
“I got the chance to help turn that program around,” the recently hired coach said. “I hope to do that here.”
Harris was selected from three candidates and becomes the fourth person to head the ECHS program in the past seven years. He replaces Scott Mason, whose Blue Devils posted a 9-21 record during his three years at the helm.
Superintendent of Education Michele McClung said the candidate’s explanation of why he sought the job was as compelling as she had ever heard.
“The Atmore community is blessed to have you as athletic director and head football coach at ECHS,” McClung said to Harris. “When we interviewed Coach Harris, he told us his ‘why’ as a coach, and it touched my heart. In my 32 years in education, I have never heard a ‘why’ as compelling as your ‘why,’ about what you do and why you do it, as far as coaching.”
The new ECHS coach shared the story with BOE members, explaining that a dark tragedy led him to develop and strengthen his current coaching and teaching philosophy.
Harris said he had just begun his coaching career, his wife was expecting a son, and things looked great. Then came the tragedy that almost ended his career before it had left the starting gate.
“I had been on the job about two months, and my wife went in for a checkup,” he said. “We thought we were going to have another son, but he passed. When he passed — I don’t know if any of y’all ever lost a child or loved one, but that was it for me, I was done. I decided that football, or anything else I was going to do, I was going to just be there. I was going to be with her [his wife]. I decided I was going to be sad, be depressed.”
But his wife, Shelesia, and the students at Pleasant Grove wouldn’t let him.
“Those kids wouldn’t stop calling me and texting me,” he said. “My wife said ‘you must have done something right, so you’ve got to keep going. If they keep hounding you, you must have made some impact on them.’ I owe those kids my career. If it had been left up to Coach Harris, I was just going to lay down.
“That’s one of the things I want to give back to the whole Atmore community, the whole Escambia County community — keep fighting, don’t quit.”
Shelesia Harris and the couple’s children —daughter Amani and sons Vincent Jr. and Kyler — attended the meeting and were also introduced to board members and the public.
The new ECHS mentor made two promises, that he would help build character among his players and “put them back into society as better people,” and that he would never embarrass school officials.
“I’m going to love them [players] like I love those three,” he said, pointing at his offspring. “I’m going to discipline them like I do those three. I believe in the ‘two A’s,’ academics and then athletics. Football and other sports are just icing on the cake. I want to put [players] back into the community as better men.”
The ECHS job will represent the 35-year-old Harris’s debut as a head coach, a position on which he has had his eyes — and his mind — for 20 years.
“Thank you for giving me this opportunity,” he said. I’ve been wanting to do this since I was 15 years old, stand before a group such as this. You are the people God picked to give me my first opportunity. I’m indebted to everyone in this room.”
BOE President Coleman Wallace offered a special welcome after Harris delivered his explanation of why he wants to be a coach.
“We welcome and receive you in the spirit in which you share your ‘why,’ and the compelling nature that you’ve displayed in upholding your ‘why’,” Wallace said.
District 5’s Loumeek White and District 6’s Sherry Digmon, both ECHS graduates, were equally impressed.
White said Harris is “another solid link in the strong bond that is forming to support Atmore.” He said he expects nothing but positive things from the new ECHS coach.
“We are truly blessed to have such an outstanding coach to lead the Atmore Blue Devils,” White said. “I’m excited about it. His heart is in the right place, and I know he is going to transform the program in awesome ways.”
“I appreciate Coach Harris’ talking about his faith and his philosophy in coaching,” Digmon said. “The board shares a common goal with the coach – to help our young men become productive citizens. I’m excited about this new chapter at ECHS.”
Deputy of Operations Shaun Goolsby reported during the meeting that summer repair and renovation projects are ongoing across the system, including at ECHS, Escambia County Middle School, Rachel Patterson Elementary School, Huxford Elementary School and A.C. Moore, where the county’s new First Class Pre-K program will be housed.
The upgrades range from new paint to new carpet; from new ceilings, lights, flooring and roof at A.C. Moore, to a new auditorium floor at Huxford; to repairs and replacement of handrails and bleachers at ECHS’s Herbert Barnes Field and new doors for the school’s former gym.
Flomaton High (FHS) is also getting a facelift, as are Pollard-McCall and W.S. Neal Elementary, Middle and High schools.
School officials also reported that new LED signs, or parts to repair such signs, have been obtained or ordered for ECHS, Rachel Patterson, W.S. Neal High and FHS. Jamie Burkett, the system’s new IT services supervisor, said the marquee at ECHS needs a new LED panel, which costs “somewhere between $9,000 and $12,000.”
BOE members also approved a “barter deal” with Escambia County Sheriff Heath Jackson under which school officials will deed one of the system’s surplus buses to the sheriff’s office in exchange for provision of school resource officers during the summer and use of the bus in active shooter and other emergency drills.
The following personnel recommendations by McClung were approved by the board.
1. Allison Nalty, part-time academic interventionist, Escambia County Middle School, effective May 25, 2022
2. Deborah Silcox, temporary/part-time, Special Education Services, Office of Special Education and Student Services, effective May 26, 2022
3. Wendy Stafford, part-time (retired) speech/language pathologist, Escambia County Middle School, effective May 26, 2022
4. Jordan Bowens, teacher aide, Escambia County Middle School, effective May 25, 2022
5. Adam Atchison, band director, Flomaton High School, effective May 26, 2022
6. Steven White, mechanic, Atmore Bus Shop, effective May 26, 2022
7. Jason Beasley, welding instructor, Escambia Career Readiness Center, effective June 8, 2022
1. Anna Wheeler, math teacher, Escambia County High School, to math teacher, Escambia County Middle School, effective August 1, 2022 (replacing Tyler Boatwright)(amended)
2. JoLynn Godwin, physical education teacher, Rachel Patterson Elementary School, to physical education teacher, A.C. Moore Elementary School, effective August 1, 2022
1. Jean Walker, temporary part-time JAG Career Specialist, Escambia County School System, effective June 9, 2022 (replacing Teresa Lucas)
2. Vincent Harris, teacher/head football coach and athletic director, Escambia County High School, effective August 1, 2022 (replacing Scott Mason)
3. Michael Williams, assistant band director, Escambia County Middle School, effective August 1, 2022 (replacing Kenneth Ford)
4. Academic Recovery Response Plan Summer Programs’ Personnel: Staffing work schedules will be based on student enrollment, student attendance and need for student academic support, effective May 31, 2022
Escambia County Middle School – Aide: Melissa Ingram
WS Neal Elementary School – Teachers: William Shell, Ashley Sawyer, Allison Nall; aide: Robin Brazile
Student Summer Workers (Academic Recovery Response Plan):
Flomaton High School – Peyton Myrick
WS Neal High School – Madison Simpson
5. Title I Jump Start Enrichment Programs’ Personnel (Academic Recovery Response Plan):
WS Neal Elementary School – Custodian: Doris Watson
6. Summer Literacy Camp Programs’ Personnel: Staffing work schedules will be based on student enrollment, student attendance, and need for student academic support, effective date May 31, 2022
Flomaton Elementary School – Teacher: Virginia Steadham
7. Summer Maintenance Custodians (Academic Recovery Response Plan):
WS Neal Elementary School – Jefferson Haughton
Turtle Point Science Center – Linda West
8. Summer Enrichment STEM Camp Personnel (Title I funds):
WS Neal Middle School – Teachers: Stacey Aaron, Jennifer Blaney, Tammy Bonds, Erin Howard
1. Kendria Jackson, teacher aide, Escambia County Middle School, to 6-Hour lunchroom worker, Escambia County Middle School, effective August 1, 2022 (replacing Denise Respress)
2. Spencer Kilpatrick, Academic Recovery Response Plan Summer Program student worker, Huxford Elementary School, to Academic Recovery Response Plan Summer Program summer maintenance custodian, Huxford Elementary School, effective May 26, 2022 (amended effective date 5/24/2022)
3. Shirley Prescod, instructional aide, Pollard McCall Junior High School, to Pre-K Program teacher, A.C. Moore Elementary School, effective August 1, 2022 (Amended)
4. Minnie Hassell, custodian, WS Neal High School to 6-hour lunchroom worker, WS Neal Middle School, effective August 1, 2022 (replacing Tiffany Gideons)
5. April Blackwell, English/language arts teacher, WS Neal High School, to social studies teacher, WS Neal Middle School, effective August 1, 2022 (replacing Emily Daly)
6. James Rogers, science teacher, WS Neal Middle School, to assistant band director, WS Neal Middle School, effective August 1, 2022 (replacing Emily Monson)
7. Jonathon Nelson, utility / groundskeeper, Brewton Maintenance Department, to General Maintenance Worker, Brewton Maintenance Department, effective July 1, 2022 (Replacing Jessie Guy)
8. William Mills, bus shop foreman, Atmore Bus Shop, to transportation/safety supervisor, Escambia County Board of Education, effective July 1, 2022 (replacing Forrest Jones)
9. Jamie Burkett, technology coordinator, Technology Department, to supervisor of technology, Technology Department, effective July 1, 2022
1. Brandon Wiggins, HVAC / electrician, Brewton Maintenance Department, termination of employment, effective June 6, 2022