While replacing a high school principal in the middle of the school year may not seem ideal, Dallas ISD officials believe they found the perfect fit for an unconventional role.
In January, W.T. White High School principal Michelle Thompson left to become a coordinator in school leadership at the district office. DISD officials quickly set their sights on Elena Bates to lead the 2,300-student campus for the rest of the year.
“I was certainly weighing the pros and cons, but, ultimately, this is the job I always wanted,” Bates said.
Bates, a former ninth-grade transition coordinator, English-as-a-second-language teacher, and swim coach at WTW was chosen in large part due to her familiarity and positive rapport with the school, students, faculty, and staff.
“I know and am familiar with a lot of the student body, as I’ve been a part of this community and have worked in this school feeder system for quite some time,” she said.
Bates’ ties to the community surrounding White run deep. She has worked as a DISD educator for more than 16 years, including at Marsh Middle School. Her husband also teaches at Marsh, and her daughter is a fourth-grader at one of White’s feeder schools.
“Honestly, we wouldn’t have done this move if [Bates] wasn’t available,” director in school leadership Melody Paschall said. “It’s been a seamless transition with Bates now at the helm. Because of her experience teaching and coaching at the school, she has a tremendous relationship with students, parents, faculty, and staff. It was a win-win situation.”
The new leadership could become a long-term fit.
“We’ll continue to evaluate, but she’s doing a fantastic job,” Paschall said.
And, with new programs and the school petitioning for upgrades and additions, the job at hand is far more than a typical interim post. Bates is tackling those challenges head-on, helping to usher in a new era at WTW.
The school is one of 10 within DISD looking to open a collegiate academy in the fall, where students can earn up to 60 credit hours toward earning an associate degree.
WTW is also looking to add 30 new classrooms and upgrade the gymnasium, fine arts wing, and ROTC facilities.
While the list of goals and changes could seem daunting to a new principal, Bates is approaching them with confidence.
“We’re working for one common vision,” Bates said. “We just need to keep our positivity and move forward collectively as a team.”