Milwaukee Public Schools
Press Release

New Rufus King, Riverside high school principals coming back to familiar places

Jennifer Smith is a graduate of Rufus King, Michael Harris graduated from Riverside

By - Sep 26th, 2013 09:12 am

MILWAUKEE (September 26, 2013)  Jennifer Smith and Michael Harris may be new to their principal posts, but they are not strangers to the schools they are serving.

The new principals at Milwaukee Public SchoolsRufus King International School – High School Campus and Riverside University High School are graduates of the schools they now lead, joining the many MPS graduates who serve the community as teachers, principals and support staff.

MPS Superintendent Gregory Thornton said the presence of MPS grads in district schools is a reflection of the critical role the school system plays in the community and the positive impact MPS has had on hundreds of thousands of children.

“It’s an honor to come back to the place where I was provided so many opportunities,” said Harris, Riverside principal and a member of the school’s graduating class of 1986.

Riverside has, of course, evolved over the last 27 years. The school is now home to Project Lead the Way pre-engineering and biomedical sciences programming, for example. But Riverside’s rigorous college preparatory curriculum has not changed. The school boasts countless Advanced Placement coursework offerings and a four-year graduation rate above 90% besting both MPS and state averages.

After graduating, Harris went on to college and received a master’s degree in educational leadership from Marquette University. He began teaching at Lincoln Center of the Arts Middle School in 1997, eventually becoming an assistant principal in the School District of Menomonee Falls and later a principal in the Mequon-Thiensville School District before being named principal at Riverside this year.

“Being in the building now brings back a lot of positive memories of community and celebrating diversity,” the Riverside principal said.

Dr. Smith, the new Rufus King International School – High School Campus principal, graduated from the school in 1988.

King’s International Baccalaureate program helped her earn enough college credits during high school to graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in three years. Dr. Smith, who earned her doctorate from Walden University, was a high school teacher in MPS before serving as principal of Milwaukee School of Languages and being named Rufus King principal this year.

The International Baccalaureate program is still critical to the mission of Rufus King, which won a national ACT college and career readiness award this year and was rated the #2 high school in Wisconsin by both U.S. News and World Report and The Washington Post.

“The first emotions that come to mind are pride and gratitude for the opportunity to give back,” she said. “High school was a turning point in my life and an extremely positive experience for me.”

Dr. Smith has been back to the building many times since graduating, but one thing still stands out as surreal: seeing herself in Rufus King tennis team pictures that still hang on the school’s walls.

“That’s the crazy part,” she said.

About Milwaukee Public Schools
Milwaukee Public Schools, Wisconsin’s largest school district, is expanding college and career readiness efforts and continuing to implement innovative reforms that give every student the opportunity to succeed. MPS’ high-quality school options for 3-year-olds to high school seniors feature school climates in which positive behavior is reinforced; certified, highly-trained teachers; 21st-century learning technology for students; and curriculum aligned to the rigorous Common Core State Standards, which set a clear, high bar for the topics students must master at each grade level. MPS’ graduation rate is 14 points higher than the rate for the Class of 2000, its Class of 2013 earned $24 million in scholarships and the district is home to some of the state’s best high schools according to the Washington Post and U.S. News and World Report. More MPS news is available at

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