DeSOTO — When the school bell rings Monday morning in DeSoto, a new superintendent will be there to welcome students.
Dr. David Harris takes the reins of the suburban district south of Dallas hoping to offer a new direction.
Strolling down the halls of Ruby Young Elementary in DeSoto ISD, Harris met his staff for the first time.
Signs of last week's STAAR exam are hard to miss, and so is the new superintendent's perception of the mandated exams.
"I think it is a little overrated, the STAAR testing, but that's the game that we're in," he said, adding it's a game he'll play to win.
The former associate superintendent for the Beaumont ISD is aggressive. "I don't like excuses; I don't want to hear excuses," he said."
Harris is a former college football player with a game plan to win over staff and students.
It starts with more technology in the classroom; a balanced education — including the arts; and incentives for teachers, with paychecks twice a month.
Harris replaces Dr. Kathy Augustine, who left DeSoto after she was linked to a cheating scandal in Atlanta. She worked one day and took a $188,000 settlement with her.
"Stuff that's in the past, you know we just need to move forward from that," Harris said. "That's not going to help us one way or another."
The new superintendent concedes that moving forward will mean more tough budget choices — even teacher job cuts.
"I've just got to be honest and tell you, we are not out of the woods by far, and we're going to be having to make some really tough decisions down the road."
DeSoto ISD gains a new leader who is rooted in faith. Harris is an ordained minister who wants to instill a positive culture in the classroom.
"Teachers are going to enjoy seeing their kids every day; students are going to enjoy coming to school," he said.
It's a message Harris will deliver on Monday.
By Friday, the self-proclaimed cowboy will be back in the saddle, wrangling more than answers for a district in need of a leader.
"After a week of good, tough, educating kids... talking with teachers, doing all that stuff... putting on my jeans — my Wranglers and my boots — and going for a long ride," Harris said.
Dr. Harris has three children who will enroll in Desoto ISD this fall. He already has plans to cultivate and keep good talent.
The new superintendent wants to offer a guaranteed job to one graduate in each class if he or she returns after college to teach math or science for DeSoto ISD.