Region's Top Administrators Serve in WFISD
Region’s Top Administrators Serve in WFISD
Texas Association of Secondary School Principals honors Rider’s Dee Palmore, Barwise’s Cody Blair
Rider Principal Dee Palmore; Barwise Principal Cody Blair
If you want to find some of the region’s top administrators, you don’t have to go far. The Wichita Falls ISD has two of them.
The Texas Association of Secondary School Principals named Rider High School Principal Dee Palmore as its Region 9 Outstanding Principal of the Year. It also recognized Barwise Principal Cody Blair as a Region 9 Outstanding Assistant Principal of the Year. The award for Mr. Blair is a nod to his prior service as an assistant principal at Rider High School.
In this competition, school administrators are nominated and chosen by their peers. Nominations are based upon exemplary performance and outstanding leadership, according to the organization. Both are now eligible to compete for their respective state titles.
Dee Palmore came from a family of educators who tried to talk him out of following in their footsteps. “They said, ‘Go out there and make some money,’” he said.
But the coach with a talent for math chose education in spite of them. “It just happened,” he said. “That’s where I was supposed to be.”
He began his teaching career in 1989 at the school where he is currently principal: Rider High School. He started out teaching the Fundamentals of Math class to students who struggled with the subject. Then he developed a course called The Math of Money and taught it for three years. He spent four more years giving accelerated instruction to students who had failed the state’s TAAS test. His strategy was so effective that Rider earned the state’s top Exemplary banner for two consecutive years.
He also coached basketball and football.
But when former Rider Principal Randy Byers needed help in the office, he brought Mr. Palmore into administration. Mr. Palmore served at Rider for three years, then at five different WFISD schools before returning to Rider, where he is now in his third year as principal.
The top administrative post at a school is far different than teaching or serving in just about any other post, said Mr. Palmore. “This seat is huge. All those other things, there’s always someone else to go to. In this seat, it all comes back to you. In a positive way, you’re helping kids. But now you’re trying to help a lot of kids. And you’re helping teachers help kids. It’s not just the little area you’re working in.”
One thing that hasn’t changed all these years is the importance of building relationships with kids, which is his No. 1 priority, he said. “If you build relationships with students, they will do whatever they need to do to achieve their goals.”
For him, that means greeting kids as he walks the halls between classes and attending their events after school, too.
“I try never to miss a ball game, a choir or a band event,” he said. “I’m going to be there, no matter what. That’s just me. Last night I cooked fish for the ag kids, then made it to the last two games of the volleyball match. Those kids know when you’re there and when you aren’t. They appreciate it when you come watch them.”
Mr. Palmore earned his bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s degree in PE and School Leadership from Midwestern State University. He is also the recipient of the prestigious West Teaching Excellence Award.
Cody Blair grew up in Abilene, Texas. Back then, Wichita Falls was just a city he visited to play ball games. He never dreamed he would live here one day.
But after starting his education career in 2007 as a junior high math teacher/coach in Arlington, he moved to Wichita Falls to teach math and coach at McNiel Junior High. After three years, he moved on to Rider to teach algebra and coach softball and basketball.
Then he served as Rider’s assistant principal for three years, which won him top honors with the Texas Association of Secondary School Principals.
He has since been promoted to principal at Barwise Middle School.
Mr. Blair’s various roles in the schools have dovetailed with his original desire to work with youth, he said. Mr. Blair had earned a bachelor’s degree in youth and family ministry from Abilene Christian University but eventually got his alternative certification that opened the door to the classroom.
“I had teachers and educators in my family, but I didn’t realize that’s really where I was supposed to be,” said Mr. Blair. He went on to complete a master’s degree in education administration at the University of Texas at Tyler. He is working now on a doctorate through the University of North Texas and will graduate in May 2017.
“This role really fits me because my job is to support and help teachers do their jobs better,” he said. “As I do that, I still get to work side-by-side with kids. I get to know kids, be at the things they’re doing, see them in the classroom, be at their concerts and play productions. I get kid interaction – but my main job is to coach and teach and support my teachers. They’re on the front lines with kids every day. I want to make their lives easier and set them up to be successful.”
The challenge? Helping students and teachers see their potential and the capacity they have to grow, improve, and step out of their comfort zones, he said. “It’s easy to get caught up in putting out fires. The good and exciting thing of being an educational leader is trying to build this team of people, focused on the same goal, and get people excited about accomplishing some great stuff for kids.”
The key is building relationships, he said. “Saying people’s names, having that personal touch with them, being invested and interested in them is huge,” he said.
Both Mr. Palmore and Mr. Blair will be recognized during the Josten’s Night of the Stars Awards Dinner on June 13, 2017 at the Hilton Austin Downtown Hotel. They will also be included in a commemorative booklet titled, Texas Principals, Texas Heroes.