Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / From left, Dade Middle School bookkeeper Alicia Williams, bus driver Melisa Giles, Dade Middle School teacher Angelicque Melton and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jan Irons Harris steady the cargo as the bus moves through Trenton. Dade County Schools are delivering meals to students by bus at least twice a week while kids are out of town.

Jan Harris, the superintendent of Dade County Schools, has accomplished much in her life.

But one area where she has fallen short is retirement.

Harris retired from Cullman City Schools in Alabama in 2013 after spending nearly nine years at the helm, leading the system to elite status in the state.

"I failed retirement," Harris said Wednesday. "That's how I ended up in Georgia."

Harris took the job as superintendent in Dade County in 2016 after she and her husband agreed to retire early. When the job in the small community in Northwest Georgia opened up, she realized she missed working, being around students and keeping herself busy.

Nearly five years later, Harris has announced she is stepping down from her post as the leader of the school district.

"I let the school board know that I've completed my service and I'll be leaving Dec. 31," she said.

Harris said the coronavirus pandemic has made her focus on what her priorities in life are, and none are more important than family.

Her parents live in Florence, Alabama, and after recently buying a home there, she and her husband have been traveling back and forth nearly every weekend during the pandemic.

"The pandemic caused me to pause and consider my priorities," she said. "I never wanted to leave in such a challenging situation, so it was important for me to be here while we got school open and lead us through the storm."

Harris said she'll miss the children, is proud of the work she and the school board accomplished and is proud to work for such a supportive community.

She said leaving in December will give the school board plenty of time to find a replacement.

Carolyn Bradford, chair of the Dade County School Board, could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

Contact Patrick Filbin at or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.