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Harris, longtime advocate for teachers, to retire this month

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Dorsey Harris, staff advocate for the North Carolina Association of Educators for northeastern North Carolina, speaks to the Hertford Rotary Club in this file photo. Harris announced recently that he will be retiring from the NCAE at the end of this month.

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By Reggie Ponder
Staff Writer

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

After 15 years as a full-time advocate for public schools and public school teachers, Dorsey Harris is retiring from his position with the N.C. Association of Educators at the end of this month.

Harris, an Elizabeth city native, is currently a staff advocate with the NCAE for northeastern North Carolina. His co-worker, Deborah Harris-Ivery of Roanoke Rapids, will be assuming Harris’ duties until someone else is hired. Harris’ retirement will be effective June 30.

After teaching school for 27 years — most of them in the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools after getting his start in the Halifax County Schools — Harris took early retirement in 2001 and went to work for the NCAE in January 2002.

His first assignment with the NCAE, a statewide organization that represents teachers and advocates for public education and public school teachers, was in Raleigh at the Center for Teaching and Learning. But Harris said he missed home and asked to be assigned to field work in northeastern North Carolina.

“My job is to advocate for public education and to advocate for our members,” Harris said of his work as a staff advocate.

He said he has enjoyed his work with the NCAE.

“It was a lot of fun,” he said, adding he especially enjoyed traveling across the region and meeting members and leaders.

The most rewarding part of the job, he said, was helping teachers when they encountered a problem or challenge.

“I enjoyed helping members,” Harris said.

During his career as a teacher Harris taught mainly middle school English and language arts. He became a national board certified teacher in 1999;

“I was one of the few people who enjoyed middle grades,” he said, adding “I still miss the classroom.”

He might not miss it for long, though, since he has put in an application to do some substitute teaching.

‘I’m not very good at just sitting home,” Harris said.

He also plans to remain involved as a volunteer with clubs and organizations such as the Currituck and Perquimans chapters of N.C. Retired School Personnel, Currituck Education Foundation, League of Women Voters, SPCA of Northeastern North Carolina, Sierra Club and the N.C. Wildlife Federation.

Harris also is the education chairman for the Pasquotank County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. He said he plans to continue working with the Pasquotank NAACP as it seeks to work with the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools and provide support for the school system.

“We want to be a support to them and help them,” Harris said of the NAACP’s work with the school district.

The biggest frustration in working with the NCAE, Harris said, is hearing from school personnel who think the organization’s dues are too high. He said beginning with the recession a few years back many teachers discontinued their membership, citing the cost of dues as a reason.

It’s frustrating, Harris said, because teachers need the NCAE to speak up for them. For instance, it was the NCAE that won back due process rights for teachers in the state, he said.

Harris called his retirement from the NCAE post “bittersweet” but said he felt like the time was right.

“They always say ‘you will know when it is time’ and I guess I felt like it was time,” Harris said.

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