Glenn High School’s first class of seniors will graduate at the end of this school year. Principal Arturo Lomeli reflected on creating the “Grizzly Nation” environment at the new Leander ISD school.
1. What are your core goals as a principal?
My goals each year are very simple: 1) Keep our students and staff safe each day; 2) Create high levels of teaching and learning in every classroom; and 3) Create a school culture that our students, staff, parents, and community can be proud of. These goals guide our decision making each day and help us to stay focused on what is most important as educators.
2. You were Glenn High School’s first principal. What was it like starting a new school?
Opening a school is very exciting and rewarding. Of course sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming and challenging at times. From hiring over 70 staff members each year as we added a new class of students, to tweaking how the lunch lines operate … there is just so much to think of and develop systems for. The reality is that starting a new school simply takes time and an opening really takes three-five years. It’s been tiring, but I love it and am happy for our students.
3. Is it true that you’ve worked to create the “Grizzly Nation” and family environment at Glenn? Please explain what that means to you and how you have encouraged this at your school.
Absolutely. From Day 1 we tried to build a strong culture within our building and extend that throughout our community. Within our school we try to build spirit and loyalty for one another through living up to our school motto of having GRIT+3: Global Mindset, Risk-Taker, Integrity, Tenacity, and Go Above/Beyond. GRIT+3 drives us academically, athletically and in fine arts. It also extends to our parent organizations as well. We also consider ourselves a “community school” where we are actively engaged and build partnerships with businesses, our faith-based community and the city of Leander. I grew up in a small, one high school town. We try to create that same “small-town” feel even though we know that our community is growing rapidly.
4. What makes Glenn stand out? What are some of Glenn’s special qualities?
Our staff. The quality of individuals who have come to Glenn from within Texas and all over the country has been extraordinary. They are truly exceptional educators and people who work tremendously hard. They are focused on meeting the needs of students. While we are not perfect, and we continue to have areas to grow, I do not question where people’s hearts are. Our staff, students, and parents are special.
5. You were honored in February during Leander’s Black History Month celebration as a community leader who is a minority. How have your experiences shaped you as a leader and a teacher?
My background, family experiences, successes and struggles all impact me as a leader and teacher every day. I understand and went through many of the unique struggles that many of our students face. As a leader it is important that I create an environment where we recognize and honor each other’s stories, which includes ethnicity, social-economic status, gender and more. We all have a story to tell, and we want our students and families to feel comfortable to share their stories if they choose to. This allows us to do all that we can to support them feeling welcomed and successful at Glenn.
6. According to TEA data, almost 50% of Glenn’s students are minorities, and the first element of the school’s mission statement is “to embrace the diversity of our community.” How do you implement this mission?
Our diversity is one of our greatest strengths and assets. You can see, feel, and hear it as you walk the halls of Glenn. As our teacher leaders worked to develop our mission statement last year, it was important to them that we recognize this diversity as an asset that we build upon in the classroom and throughout our community. We do this by making content relevant to diverse learning in classrooms, by honoring each other’s stories and by embracing our differences.
7. Glenn’s first graduating class of students is set to graduate at the end of this school year. What can you tell us about the inaugural class? What have they taught you?
We have been extremely blessed to have a senior class of students and their parents who have embraced what it means to be a Grizzly from Day 1. Often a first class at a new school can be difficult or a struggle to win over because their freshman year was on another campus where they had already built loyalty to. That has not been the case for our seniors. They live out what it means to have GRIT+3 and model what it means to be a Grizzly. They are a very special class and graduation will be a celebration of their accomplishments.