Michael Niggli took over as principal of Bellaire High School in November following a nationwide search process by Houston ISD. Niggli previously served as principal at HISD’s Waltrip High School, and has also had stints at Austin High School and the Sam Houston Math, Science and Technology Center.

Niggli sat down with Community Impact to discuss how the first few months have gone and his goals for the upcoming school year. Responses have been lightly edited for length.

Before joining Bellaire High School, what did you do with HISD?

I started out at Austin High School on the southeast side [of Houston] in 1997. I was an English teacher there and a basketball coach. ... I went over in 2005 to what was called Reagan High School. Reagan High School is now Heights High School. I got into debate and started the debate club over there. Apparently, they still continued to have a lot of success.

In 2012, about halfway through the year, I had taken my administration degree and took a job as an assistant principal at the Sam Houston Math, Science and Technology Center. I stayed there for six years until 2018 in various roles—assistant principal, associate principal, dean of students—and then got my first principal job at Waltrip High School in 2018.

How do you plan to communicate with parents?

I realized that Bellaire has a history of strong academic performance. So, first and foremost, we want to keep it at that level. I’m making an effort to be visible on the campus, and I have received good feedback. I have already met with a lot of parents one-on-one [and] had some small group meetings, and being available is just really important.

I have a really good team around me as well. Together, we communicate a lot with parents, and I want them to feel like it’s a warm environment where they can come up here and get some questions answered or call if they need to catch up. And then, of course, with the student body as a whole, one of the goals is to look at how all kids are doing and help support that academic success for all of them.

What have been some of the biggest challenges since taking on this role?

I’m really passionate about making sure that all students are served here. It’s a good challenge; it’s not that this is like a problem challenge, but it’s just one of those things where it’s making sure that all kids are getting opportunities to be successful and to make it to that next level of wherever they’re going.

How has the transition been going from Waltrip High School to Bellaire?

Waltrip had about 1,700 students, and it’s actually the smallest school I have ever worked at. Bellaire, right now, enrollment-wise, is the biggest school in Houston ISD. So that kind of gives you perspective of the difference. We’re sitting at a little over 3,100 students right now. I think that everything is kind of magnified in that respect, where it’s like you have your different departments, they’re just that much bigger. And so that’s many more people to get to know, and it’s that many more students to get to know, and it’s that many more programs to get to know.

So it’s making sure that we have a really strong administration and counseling staff, all the support that’s around me, and then also making sure that teachers are well-outfitted to do their jobs. That’s really important in a big, big structure like this. I’m not going to do it all myself. Nobody is. It’s definitely a team effort. With everybody moving in the same direction, we can get it done.

What are the strengths in the student body?

I see a lot of self-motivated students, a lot of kids that have a purpose. I think they probably have a very strong vision of what they want to do after high school. I think that’s a strength to where we facilitate that for them when we open up opportunities and let them kind of go through those doors and take those chances and positive kinds of risks. It’s something that I see all over the campus, so that’s really neat—kids going to tutorials and working during lunch period, stuff like that, after-school enrichment programs that are so well attended. It’s like the kids are just really into the school, and it’s great.