Harris Says Doctorate Prepped Him to be VP of World-Class High School

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Jonathan Harris is vice president for academics at Herron High School, a tuition-free, public high school in downtown Indianapolis that provides a classical, liberal arts curriculum. Herron is one of two schools that make up an academic community known as Indianapolis Classical Schools.

Ranked among the top 1 percent of high schools nationwide by Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, and TheWashington Post, Herron received an “A” on the Indiana Department of Education accountability report card for 2012-2018, the only Indianapolis high school to earn the designation.

Harris says ‘Classical Schools Are Blueprint’

“Indianapolis Classical Schools is the blueprint for inclusive, quality, high performing, public schooling in the city,” says Harris. In recent years, 100 percent of graduates have been admitted to a four-year college or the military.

Harris recently completed Ball State’s doctor of education (EdD) in educational administration and supervision. “The work that I did on my EdD fully prepared me for this job,” says Harris, whose responsibilities span curriculum and evaluation for both of the Indianapolis Classical Schools. He also manages the heads of each school, six department chairs, head of special education, head of counseling, registrar, and director of student accountability.

EdD Blends Online, Face to Face

The doctoral program is a blended format of mostly online classes except for monthly face-to-face classes that meet Thursday afternoons in Fishers, just north of Indianapolis. Harris gives both online and on site classes an “A” grade.

“The online system was easy to manage and filled with valuable resources,” says Harris. “Class sessions were facilitated by experts. I am persuaded that they are truly the best in the business.”

Program Helped Him Mentor Colleagues

Ball State Online students frequently say they are able to apply course principles in the classroom the next day. Harris says this preparation made him an unofficial adviser to colleagues who were enrolled in other graduate schools.

“There were others who were going through similar leadership programs at the same time that I was,” says Harris. “I literally ended up teaching and mentoring them.”

While doctoral dissertations are pursued independently in most programs, EdD students work one on one with their committee chair and take 10 credits of course work dedicated to the dissertation.

Classes Provided Dissertation Support

“The two that were most beneficial for me was a class in qualitative research design and a class that was solely dedicated to preparing the dissertation proposal,” he says. “The insight and care that was provided by my dissertation chair and committee was second to none.”

Like many EdD grads, Harris also earned his master’s in educational administration and supervision through Ball State Online.

Since arriving at Herron more than a decade ago, Harris has also served as choral music instructor, graduation coach, advanced placement coordinator, assistant head of school, and dean of students.

Graham Finds Purpose in ABA Therapy When She Sees Its Impact

After finishing her bachelor’s degree, Melissa Johnson Graham was, in her own words, “looking for a path and a purpose.” That path brought her back to her hometown of Muncie, Indiana, and she found purpose when she began working at a local applied behavior analysis (ABA) clinic as a behavioral therapist.

“It was there I fell in love with ABA therapy after seeing the significant impact it had on behavior and how drastically it improved the quality of life for the kiddos and their families,” says Graham, who today is executive director of Muncie’s Engaging Minds Autism Services.

“Communities are struggling to keep up with the demand because so many families are in need,” she says. “[As of 2018], Delaware County [where Engaging Minds is based] has 1,952 individuals living with autism and 310 school-age children living with autism.”

In 2012, Graham met the parents of two boys with autism living in Kokomo, about 60 miles northeast of Muncie. Because of the lack of quality ABA therapy in their city, the family was driving four hours each day to find the intensive treatment they needed. After identifying the extensive need in their county, the parents founded Engaging Minds with Graham’s assistance in Kokomo.

Graham worked in that clinic as an ABA therapist for two years before returning to Muncie in 2014 to launch a second Engaging Minds as executive director and begin her master’s in applied behavior analysis.

“My primary goal is to support the people who make this happen,” says Graham. “That includes the staff, the clients and their families. We consider each person family, and we strive to treat them as we would our own families.”

When she first became aware of this need and the fact that ABA therapy is the only scientifically proven, research-based effective treatment for autism, Graham enrolled in Ball State University’s master’s degree in applied behavior analysis with an emphasis in autism. The program is offered fully online.

Studying online meant she could continue working full time in the field and get hands-on experience.

“I would not have been able to manage both work and on-campus courses at the same time,” she says.

Graham liked the idea that Ball State faculty worked in the Muncie area.

“Most of my professors were local and worked right here in the community,” she says. “I was able to learn ABA from those individuals impacting the families right here in my own hometown.”

The master’s degree that Graham earned gave her the course work requirements to become eligible for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst Examination (BCBA) and graduate-level certification in behavior analysis. BCBAs are independent practitioners who supervise BCaBAs. Ball State has one of the largest master’s degree programs in ABA in the country.

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