Kyle Richardson Photo by Can Türkyilmaz

When Kyle Richardson left Marsh Middle School to take over as principal of Woodrow Wilson High School last summer, he was faced with a school deemed “Unacceptable” by the Texas Education Agency, an enormous renovation and construction project, and just a couple of weeks to prepare for the school year. Now he’s made it to May. The former language arts teacher, who has served as a Dallas ISD principal for 15 years, sat down with us recently to talk about how the year went and his goals for the coming school year.

What was it like for you, taking over this school?

It’s been difficult. It reminds me of when I took over Marsh, which had different problems — drugs, gangs, low performance. We don’t have that here. This is just trying to get the pieces together to make it work academically.

What are your goals for Woodrow?

Well, my goal for any child is to graduate from university. That goes for every child here. Next year, we’re [academically unacceptable] anyway. The rating sticks with you for two years. Being a recognized school or exemplary is not in the cards next year. But we have a lot of work to do. Woodrow is a great school. It truly is. The faculty, parents, the kids are as good as you could hope for. We want to preserve the great tradition that’s in existence here, but we want the school to move forward in some new ways. We’re developing our academy system. We’re a school that’s wall-to-wall academies. We want to make sure that each academy is best educating kids.

What is it like to basically work in a construction site?

Part of my job now is working with construction. This morning, I was dealing with a situation with our air conditioners. They just refinished the gym floors, so I was trying to protect those from construction going on around them. Every day has been a new construction challenge. I feel really bad for the seniors because it’s a big year for them. They’re very resilient, but I wish they had a beautiful school to be in for their last year.

What are you looking forward to?

Having a full summer to plan. Last year, I got here in August, so there wasn’t a lot of time to plan and get things the way I want them to be. I’m looking forward to having our year planned out ahead of time. I want to make sure all the staff development is well thought-out and planned. You have to make sure you are giving them what they need to do their job. It is so important that teachers feel they have support and everything they need. When you do staff development and planning, it needs to make them feel it’s worth their time.

What are you doing to improve the school?

We’re looking at every area of the school to improve it. It’s not a broken school or anything. It’s just not quite where it used to be. There are so many positives. The main thing I look at is personnel. It is so important that the principal of the school make great hires. You can’t put a price tag on a great hire. So when we have a vacancy, that’s a big deal for me that a person that’s going to stand in front of our students every day will be the best candidate we can find. We want to track our students well and know how each one is performing. Tailor our educational plans around individual student needs. Every year that passes is a chance to see our academies mature. It doesn’t matter if we were an exemplary school. That would still be my focus. I would love to see all student populations perform extremely well. This is a school that should be at the top, and we’ve got a good chance to do that in the next couple of years.

Is there anything special about Woodrow, compared to other schools where you’ve worked?

Oh, yes. All the tradition that’s here, getting to work in this grand building. It’s such a special building, and this neighborhood that is just so involved, and they care so much about this school. The Woodrow Wilson foundation is an incredible group of people to work with. The Woodrow Wilson High School advisory board does so much for the school. You have people who have kids here that are working with you; the alums are very involved. And then you have a community that supports this school. There are all these structures that help you along. There are a lot of interests in having this school succeed.

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