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Harper principal dedicated to helping students others have forsaken

2013 December 19
by HISD Communications

In this week’s I am HISD, which features district students, graduates, employees, and other team members, Harper Alternative School Principal Raymond Glass II talks about how he ended up in a position of leadership at the school where he first taught, what makes him so determined to support his student body, and why the campus café only appears to be named in his honor.

You’re the principal at Harper Alternative, which also houses the Crossroads program. The former serves special-needs students with behavioral problems, while the latter helps kids with issues related to drugs or alcohol. What is it about these populations that made you deliberately seek out a position serving them—one that many would try to avoid?

Raymond Glass II poses in front of the Glass Cafe

My first teaching job was at Harper and my grandmother had a gentleman she took care of who was mentally challenged. He was the son of one of her late friends and she took care of him ever since I could remember. We always got along, but as I got older and came in contact with other people like him, I really understood that they had a need for someone to help them—and I guess I became that person.

I tell all my new teachers, “Look, your reward doesn’t come your first day and it might not come from the kids you expect it to, but one day, someone will come in and say, ‘Yeah, I remember you. If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have done thus-n-such, or become who I am today.’” So you’ve just got to keep on working.

I understand your late mother also had a long and distinguished career in HISD, serving as a nurse, a counselor, and at one point, even the director of HISD’s Health & Medical Services department. How did her career influence your choices? Did you consciously set out to follow in her footsteps?

No. (laughs) When I was in school, I never thought I’d be a teacher. It was never on my mind. I was a political science major with a minor in biology, and my mother told me I needed to take some education courses. Initially, I was going to go to law school, but I decided to sit out a year before I did anything.

I subbed a lot in Special Education classes around the district, and I thought, “Hey, the kids aren’t that bad. With some help, and somebody to spend some time with them, they’ll do okay.” At that same time, HISD offered its first Special Education Alternative Certification Program, so I signed up. I earned a first-year teacher’s salary and benefits and a stipend to go to school. So I got my certification, and my first year I was assigned to Harper and really enjoyed it.

You served as a teacher at Harper for six years before moving into administration at another campus. How did you end up back at Harper?

I was the assistant principal at Stevenson Middle School, and the previous (Harper) principal was in the process of retiring. We had an auto mechanics program back then and I was in the shop working on one of my beat-up cars, and the teacher asked me if I was going to apply.

My thought was that if I didn’t help them, no one would. No one fights for the kids like the people at Harper. My battle cry is that these kids need support. Usually what’s happened is that by the time they get here, everybody has turned their back on them. But if they get enough support, one day, the door’s going to open, the light’s going to shine, and they’re going to get it. We have graduates who have gone on to become firefighters, butchers, nurse practitioners, master plumbers, ministers, and so on, so it’s not that they’re not capable. I’ve been here 15 years now.

Your school has a culinary arts program that got some good press last year. How long has it been in place at your school, and how does it help kids prepare for life after graduation?

The culinary arts program has been a part of Harper since its inception in ’85, when it became an alternative campus. But before that, the school was a vocational skills center, so it may have had its roots there.

The program has really flourished in the past couple of years. When we first moved to our current location about five years ago, we didn’t have a kitchen, so the kids spent the first one-and-a-half years working in a partitioned-off area, and other students would sometimes throw stuff over the wall. They said they felt like they were in a fish bowl, so when we finally got a kitchen area, they named it the Glass Café.

But our school has an agricultural program, too. There’s a garden on campus, and the students grow greens, squash, corn, broccoli, and other things. We joke that we teach kids how to grow the food and how to cook the food.

Are students still preparing lunch every Wednesday and buffalo wings for the Super Bowl? I understand the buffalo wings are such a hit that they sell out every year. Is there some secret ingredient in the sauce that you can share with me?

(laughs) No, I don’t know the secret to the sauce. But they’ll be making the wings again this year and people can pick them up on Friday, Jan. 31. We’ll also be having a barbecue cook-off on Jan. 17, and a dessert cook-off on Feb. 14, where students and teachers will work together to decide which ones they want to make. Those won’t have samples or anything, but they’re open to the public if people want to come watch.

If you know a graduate, student, employee, or other member of Team HISD who should be featured here, please email us at
4 Responses leave one →
  1. Melanie Davis-Sanchez permalink
    December 19, 2013

    You have my respect. I appreciate your dedication to the students you serve.

  2. December 20, 2013

    Great work with your students at Harper and Crossroads Mr. Glass. I believe that you are most fulfilled when you are living your calling, and the Good Lord has chosen you to be his humble servant for our community. Thanks for what you and your staff do everyday. There are no throwaway students!

  3. Tamara Brown permalink
    December 20, 2013

    Congratulations for being recognized for the outstanding job you do at Harper Alternative school!!

  4. Brian Etienne permalink
    January 6, 2014

    Way to go Glass!!

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