Gilbert Aims to Bring Stability to HPISD Athletics

District opts for administrative familiarity over coaching experience

After overseeing his fourth Highland Park High School graduation ceremony, Jeremy Gilbert returned to campus to clean out the principal’s office. But he didn’t have to move far.

Gilbert acknowledges he’s not a traditional choice to lead the Highland Park ISD athletic department. He doesn’t have coaching experience or a sports pedigree.

Yet he brings 16 years of experience within the district to his new job as athletic director. He’s been an administrator at multiple levels. And perhaps most of all, he brings a sense of stability and familiarity within the district and the community.

“When I announced his name to our football team, they all cheered because of his relationships with our players,” said longtime HP football coach Randy Allen. “As a principal, he’s been at as many athletic events as he can.”

Gilbert replaces Lonnie Jordan, who left this spring for Plano ISD after being with HP for one year. That followed a similar tenure for Rodney Webb, who returned to football coaching in Rockwall ISD.

When he met with HPISD superintendent Dr. Mike Rockwood this spring about envisioning what they wanted in the ideal candidate amid the recent turnover, Gilbert’s own name came up.

“This is a unique opportunity for me — both in my professional path and seeing the role that athletics plays in the lives of my kids,” Gilbert said. “I’ve been a fixture at pretty much all of the games in all of the sports. Seeing that there had been so much transition, I thought, why don’t we take a known commodity?”

Gilbert had never been an administrator at the high school level when he was promoted to HPHS principal in 2020. So, he’s not afraid of trying new things — in this case, managing coaches without having been one himself.

“In some ways, that will be an area where I’ll have to earn credibility with my coaches,” Gilbert said. “That part doesn’t scare me, because I acknowledge that this is a unique path.”

That’s why his first priorities as the new AD are learning and networking. He already knows all of the coaches within the district, but will meet with them to learn in-depth about their programs. And he’s also reaching out to fellow athletic directors about the nuances of the role.

Gilbert understands the HP traditions, students, coaches, and community organizations. He wants to build on those relationships and partnerships to enhance the athletic experience for everybody.

“I’m not going to make wholesale changes and shake things up. Highland Park Athletics is high functioning. I’m going to do my part to support it,” Gilbert said. “I have a lot of energy and I’m very positive. I just want to bring that enthusiasm for the role that we get to play in the lives of these kids.”

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