At Union Grove Middle School Wednesday, new principal Dagmar Harris, center, meets with history teachers during professional learning community planning time in the school cafeteria.
Union Grove Middle School’s new principal, Dagmar Harris, listens in as fine arts teachers make plans for the new school year. Teachers and other staff across Killeen ISD are preparing this week for the start of school Monday.

By Danielle Church
Harker Heights Herald

Starting Monday, school is back in session for hundreds of students at Union Grove Middle School, but they’re not the only ones adjusting to a change.

Belton native Dagmar Harris, who is starting her first year as principal at the Harker Heights school, said she is looking forward to meeting the kids and parents.

Harris began her teaching career in 1997 in the Killeen Independent School District and was assistant principal at Ellison High School prior to taking a position at Union Grove. Her biggest challenge in transitioning from high school is not the duties or responsibilities of the job, but leaving behind the large “family” she had there for so many years.

“I had worked at Ellison for so long,” she said, discovering that her former leadership roles helped prepare her for the new position.

“The big thing here is leaving those relationships,” she said. “But the people here (at Union Grove) have really welcomed me.”

Harris said she’s always seen herself working with children and got “excited about education” after her daughter was born and she began running a day care from her home.

She received a bachelor of arts degree with a dual-certification in elementary education and special education from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton before attending Tarleton State University to pursue her master’s in school administration.

She met with her new staff Wednesday morning during professional learning time in the school cafeteria. She said this week’s welcome-back theme for teachers is “aloha.”

“(It’s) saying hello to the new and goodbye to the old,” she said.

“We’re working toward exemplary … continuing on the path of success,” she added.

Union Grove Choir Director Deb Barrick has been teaching at Union Grove since it opened about eight years ago.

“I think things are already running smoothly,” she said, referencing the transition of a new authority in the building.

“Our teacher community has always been strong … and (it will) continue on that path,” she said.

Science teacher Al Gonzalez said, “in general, people don’t like change.”

But he realizes that while there may be some administration changes within the building, his classroom or the relationship with his co-workers and students won’t be affected.

“(Former principal) Robin Champaigne was a good leader for the school (and) I think their styles are going to be similar. … They let us do our job without micromanaging,” he said.

Much like Gonzalez, Barrick also understands that change is difficult for anyone, but says that from what she’s already seen and been told, it looks as though it is going to be a positive change.

“It’s like a ripple versus a tidal wave,” she said.

Harris said she plans to spend her first year as principal getting to know the staff.

“I’m excited about the new year,” she said.