A still of Michelle Thompson from video by Benjamin Hager about Lakewood Elementary’s learning garden.

W.T. White is starting the new school year with a new principal. As we reported last week, Michelle Thompson is taking over the position after seven years as principal at Lakewood Elementary, a TEA-rated “exemplary” school. The Kansas City native has almost 24 years of experience in the education field, 22 in Dallas.

Thompson replaces Anita Hardwick who has been named an executive director in Superintendent Mike Miles’ new School Leadership Department as part of his restructuring of Dallas ISD. The new strategy mobilizes 20 executive directors across the district who monitor principals and operations at schools within each feeder pattern. Hardwick, who served as W.T. White principal for two years, will provide resources and support throughout the W.T. White feeder pattern. Thompson says she’s excited to be a part of it.

“It offers more opportunities for formal dialogue among the schools,” Thompson says.

Although she has spent recent years leading at the elementary level, Thompson previously served as an assistant principal at McArthur High School in Irving and North Dallas High School where she worked in special education. As a teacher, she specialized in reading and language arts.

Thompson says that while the challenges are different, high school and elementary school share some common themes.

“There’s nothing like seeing a 5-year-old on the first day of school — wide-eyed, a little nervous and excited,” she says. “And, there’s nothing like seeing a freshman on the first day of school — wide-eyed, a little nervous and excited. Many people look at high school as the end, but I see it as the beginning of young adulthood.”

In addition to her professional experience, Thompson also has been a parent in the feeder pattern. Her daughter graduated from W.T. White in 2008, having also attended DeGolyer Elementary and Marsh Middle School. Thompson knows first-hand W.T. White’s positive reputation as the highest performing comprehensive high school in DISD with a TEA-rated “recognized” status. This year, W.T. White was named one of the best high schools in the nation on lists in the U. S. News & World Report and the Washington Post, ranking near the top 3 percent and top 1 percent, respectively, among 22,000 high schools in the country.

“They must be doing something great,” Thompson says. “I just want to build on that foundation.”

Don’t forget: There’s a meet-and-greet with Thompson at 7 p.m. tonight in the library at W.T. White.

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