‘I’m a product of Dallas ISD:’ Former student returns to make a difference in his community as a principal


Dallas ISD’s goal is to educate every single student for success. In order to make that mission a reality, district principals strive every day to provide equity, safety and excellent educational opportunities.

Each campus leader has a passion to help their community. They are the men and women who ensure day-to-day that our students receive a quality education, a secure environment and an opportunity for a brighter future.

Derek Thomas, the new principal at Adelle Turner Elementary, and Executive Director Sheryl Wilson talked to us about the greatest qualities of a principal the district’s rigorous hiring process.

Why did you decide to become a principal?

Thomas: One of the things that drove me to apply for the principal position was ensuring that we had a campus that was going to be there for the scholars and for the community. Making sure that we are a campus that’s all about excellence. Making sure that we’re a campus that is reaching its scholars, not just from the instructional and intellectual level, but also from a social and emotional level. We want our scholars to be great and successful in every way.

I’m a product of Dallas ISD: William Anderson Elementary, Longfellow Middle School and Skyline High School. I’m proud of my district and I want students to know that we can achieve greater heights than anybody else. That we have the best educators. That we have the best administrators. We have the best staff. We have the best scholars. I’m really excited just about being back in Dallas ISD and imparting the same knowledge that was imparted onto me by educators and all of those who have touched me along the way.

What are some qualities of a good principal?

Wilson: A strong leader is really concerned with all their students. They want to make sure that all their students receive the best instructions that they can receive.

The best principals that I know are principals who are forward thinking, who study their craft, who study content. Not just content of reading, science, math and social studies. Those are major. But they also study their students. You can’t serve who you don’t know. You can’t advocate for who you don’t know. The strongest principals that I know are relentless about the pursuit of excellence in all areas that it takes to run a school.

The Selection Process

Tell us about the Dallas ISD’s Principal Selection Process

Wilson: “What I value most about the principal selection process is the fact that first, we’re looking for principals and leaders who are going to ensure equity for all students. When we’re looking for that in principal candidates, we take our time to ensure that principals have leadership opportunities in campus, and then we take them through a robust process. Candidates are then placed in a candidate pool, put through different types of assessments so that we can see what skills they have and who the best fit would be. Not only does the executive director gets to see their strengths, but they get to add to that candidate. So we’re invested in that candidate before they even become principals.

What was your experience in the Dallas ISD’s principal selection process?

Thomas: The principal selection process experience is an enjoyable one. I enjoyed the collaborative nature. When you talk about impact from the hiring process itself, you’re looking at the interactions that you have with other assistant principals that are involved within the process, and also mentors that you team with to actually talk with and gain knowledge from their experiences that they’ve gone through.

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