John Harris Elementary opened its doors in the fall of 1991. Originally created as a three section elementary, John Harris welcomed 500+ students and their families to the neighborhood school in the southeast area of Sioux Falls. The school was designed to a scale that fits a child, one that is comfortable and friendly. The 51,100 square foot building proved to be too small shortly after its opening. After less than one year, it was evident that John Harris needed to be a four section school. Five additional classrooms were added to the southeastern corner of the school in 1992. As one enters the multi-purpose room, brightly colored flags come into view, representing each year of its existence and the theme for each year. These flags have been designed by a student within the school and are a lasting symbol of each year.

Our school’s namesake is Dr. John Harris who served as superintendent of the Sioux Falls School District from 1968-1992. Dr. Harris led the school system with compassion and integrity, touching the lives of thousands of students, teachers and employees, and guiding the system to be one of the finest in the country. He is remembered for his gentleness, humility, graciousness, professionalism, intelligence, and his sincere interest in people. He lived his philosophy that human contacts are the key element to education.

On the first day of each school year, our John Harris School community meets at the flagpole to raise the flag and sing the school song, “Make A Difference.” Dr. Harris was present every year for the first-day-of-school flag raising ceremony to lead the pledge of allegiance until his death in February, 2007.

At a ceremony on August 30, 2007, a memorial plaque, purchased by the John Harris P.T.A., was dedicated. The plaque is mounted in the front hallway of the school to remind us all of the special man for whom the school is named. The plaque reads:

“Human contacts are the key element to education.
What we are really trying to do is open doors and expand horizons.
The horizons are different and the doors lead to different opportunities,
but what we are about has not changed.”

-Dr. John Harris

Data Information

Achieving our mission, to educate and prepare each student to succeed in a changing world, hinges on our ability to continually improve the effectiveness of our schools. Multiple factors impact student achievement and serve as indicators of effective schools. This Data Profile Directory is prepared to provide parents, educators, and the community with a data profile of various school effectiveness indicators. The directory should be used as one source of data for identifying a school's present status, assessing overall student progress, and planning for continual school improvement.


Each year the South Dakota Department of Education (SD DOE) releases a report card showing the performance of schools across the state. The report card includes information about academic achievement, student attendance for grades K-8, the graduation rate for high schools, and professional staff qualifications. These criteria are used to determine the school’s performance index or SPI.

Although the federal and state governments require building and district-level accountability measures, the District closely monitors the individual progress of each student to ensure that each student is being prepared to succeed in a changing world. By reviewing their student’s quarterly report cards, attending Parent-Teacher Conferences in the fall and spring, and contacting teachers with questions or concerns parents will have the best picture of how their children are progressing.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, state assessments were not administered, and therefore data for student performance, student progress, and school environment are not available for the 2019-2020 school year.

Based upon South Dakota's waiver approved by the U.S. Department of Education, the overall score was not calculated for schools for the 2019-2020 report cards, and the school support status is based upon school performance results from the 2018-2019 academic year.


All schools in the District are submitting their School Improvement Plan to the Board for approval prior to submitting them to the State. The Plans, developed by a team of parents, community members, and staff, serve as a roadmap for future planning and professional development and measure student achievement.

Each school has a building leadership team that meets regularly throughout the year to guide the development, implementation, and evaluation of the School Improvement Plan. Building leadership teams divide the larger plan into smaller segments with the following focuses: staff roles, goals, meetings summary, data processes, priorities and strategies, and the professional development plan.

This document guides the work in order to meet the District’s mission, priority statements from the Strategic Plan, and the achievement goals set by the South Dakota Department of Education.


Fall Enrollment


Welcome to John Harris

Kersten Dobberpuhl, Principal
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Hand in Hand We Learn

Three beliefs we practice daily:

  • Together we can make a difference
  • Make someone's day better
  • Be a friend to everyone.

Our Vision: To realize that the John Harris Elementary community has grown with a responsible sense of awareness and acceptance for individuality in education and the world around us.