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Hometown Proud: Seth Harrell, Principal of JHS

Hometown Proud features a person each week who helps make the community better.

Seth Harrell is the principal for Jackson High School, where he graduated in 2002. Harrell is starting his second year at JHS, after working at Sikeston schools. He is currently pursuing a doctorate in educational leadership and policy analysis.

What drew you to education?

The teachers I’ve had along the way. I went to school in Jackson, and I was around some amazing teachers and people. They served as great influences to me.Then as I got into playing sports in high school, the coaches had a huge impact on me. Just seeing how much fun they had and how passionate they were in their profession as coaches but also as teachers in the classroom.

Coach [Steve] Wachter was the head wrestling coach but also taught history, and that was something I enjoyed. And then Coach [Carl] Gross, the football head coach, also taught science. They were guys that truly were in the classroom teaching, and I saw how much they loved their job. So that was something that interested me and ultimately was the career path that I chose.

How did your career land you back at Jackson High School?

Of course I went to college and played college football. I took some education courses, and like anybody you kind of bounce around to find what interests you the most. I fell in love with most of the history classes. Also psychology and sociology, things like that were more interesting to me than anything else.

I got my first teaching job in Sikeston. I coached wrestling and football, as well as taught there, for nine years.

I spent the most time in a classroom teaching seventh grade world history. I really enjoyed that, and then became assistant principal and worked up to be head principal there at the junior high, then principal at the high school and then transitioned to here.

What does a typical day look like in your position?

I always start in the morning being in the most populated areas. I like to try to greet students at the door, as they come in, back by the cafeteria. I spend that time walking around trying to engage with as many students as possible.

Once they’re in class, I typically spend first hour getting caught up on some office stuff — emails, maybe some holdover paperwork from the day before.

Then, I try to squeeze in as many classroom visits as possible. Trying to get out in the halls at every bell change.  Trying to be out and visible during lunch shifts. And again, trying to spend some afternoon time in the classrooms, always sprinkling in meetings with teachers.

There are just certain things that teachers or staff or students might have questions about.

There is something always going on, so I always build in time in my day to meet with people as soon as possible. I don’t like to drag things on; I don’t like to schedule too many meetings down the road. I just assume to have it taken care of right away. You just kind of address those things as they come up, and most importantly make sure you are giving everyone the much-needed time they deserve.

Ultimately, being visible and being available to support people are the most important things in being successful in this position.

What aspect of being principal do you find most rewarding?

Being able to work with others, all types of people — all different ages, people of different backgrounds, people that have different aspirations in life. Trying to be a part of that as much as I can.

Getting to know people, and helping people along the way. I think that goes for anyone. I think that goes for students and staff. Trying to be as connected to the people that I engage with, as much as possible.

What do you like most about the area?

The great people within the community. From the city of Jackson itself and the people who live within the city, I just think there are great people here. There’s great families, there’s great businesses. I think the area is great.

I’m fortunate to be able to raise my kids here. I was raised here, and it was such a great experience for me — living here and growing up here. I know many others who feel the same way, so I think it’s a great area to have a family and raise kids

Is there anything you would like to still do?

I ultimately want this to be the best high school in the state. I don’t know what that means, but I want people that experience their education here to get the most out of it as they possibly can.

Their high school years are so important, because this is kinda the end of the road of their educational career as far as the Jackson school district.

There are so many people in this school district that do a great job at all the earlier levels and then they get to us and we put the final touch on preparing those students for the real world, whether that be continuing education or the workforce.

We try to help them be successful whatever route they choose. We try to give them all the tools, resources and support we can to get them there.

I just want this high school to be a great experience and then work well with the community to ensure our schools are doing everything we can to prepare our students for this community and for the real world. I think every great community has a great school system, and every great school system has a great community.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past five years. He can be reached at

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