Photo by Danny Fulgencio
Holly Wallace grew up on a small Missouri farm as the daughter of a coach and principal. After 22-years in education including stints as principal at Herbert Marcus Elementary and E.D. Walker Middle School, she’s the new principal of W.T. White High School. Her daughter, Kennedy, just completed her freshman year at Texas Christian University. In her free time, Wallace enjoys cycling on our city’s trails.
Why is W.T. White important to the community?
It’s such a pillar to the community. I’ve spent five years pouring into the community. I want to build on the things that are already going really well. It’s going to be great to close the loop with some of those students that I’ve had since elementary school.
The kids who were in fifth grade when I was at Marcus will be seniors next year at W.T White. Then my first group of E.D. Walker students will be juniors. I believe in education’s triangle — the school at the top of the triangle, families on one side and the community on the other.
What plans do you have so far for the school?
I’m excited about the construction finishing up and building on the success that they’ve had in the past. I spend time reading the history of the school and learning about the community. The plans I have are to grow the Collegiate Academy. I’m really excited about the Fine Arts Collegiate Academy. You get to see high school students blossom into young adults and watch all their talents come forth. I want to increase AP numbers on the comprehensive side.
What should neighbors know about you?
I’m passionate about education and have high expectations for myself and for those around me. I want to create productive citizens.
What career accomplishment are you most proud of?
When I left Herbert Marcus to go to Walker, the community had bought into what we were doing there. We took it from a failing school to one on its way to a B, and it has sustained the success. I’m really proud of the work that we did there as a team and that it’s just continuing to grow.
What’s the most challenging thing you’ve overcome?
Being a single mom and trying to balance my job. My daughter and I have overcome so many challenging things and grown together.
What were you like in high school?
I was pretty mischievous. I’ve always colored outside the lines. I’m from a really small town — Neosho, Missouri. I played tennis and basketball. I was a waitress at Pizza Hut. I raised, bottle-fed, then sold cattle. That’s how I bought my first car. I worked at the pool as a lifeguard in the summer. I was one of those underdogs. I love underdog stories. When people feel like I can’t do something, it fuels my fire to work at it even more.
What advice do you have for students?
The hardest thing is just staying positive. I know it can seem as if this is devastating, but the resilience and grit that they’re going to learn from this is going to make them stronger.
How can neighbors support you in your new role?
Some think that as their kids get older, schools don’t really need you. I want to build the PTA and business partners for the school. I have a three-tier business plan. People can come in and volunteer at big events, mentor or bring water for the teachers’ lounge. I want to build that sense of community. This is my dream job.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
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