Midwest boy comes to be Texas Prinicipal

Kris Wickerham, Principal at Johnson HS

Growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, Lady Bird Johnson High School Principal, Kris Wickerham, did not imagine himself as a school administrator.
“Like nearly everyone in St. Louis, I absolutely loved the Cardinals and spent many summer nights lying in my bed listening to Jack Buck call road games on KMOX,” explained Wickerham. “I dreamt of working in sports broadcasting and traveling with the Cardinals. Actually, I wanted to be a St. Louis Cardinal, but I couldn’t hit a curve ball. So, much of my undergraduate college search revolved around finding a school with a strong telecommunications program so I could be the next Jack Buck.”
Wickerham eventually settled on attending Eastern New Mexico University because of the school’s strong radio and television program, and the fact he wanted a unique experience different from his Midwest roots.
During those college days in New Mexico, he realized broadcasting or subsequent thoughts about law school were not really his calling and that he was destined for a classroom. “Aside from the days my children were born and my wedding day, the day I decided to pursue education as a career was one of the happiest of my life,” said Wickerham. “I felt free and at peace knowing I was going to do something I truly felt compelled to do. The fact that I fell in love with a San Antonio girl [his wife, Alison, who he met while in college] brought me to Texas.”
Wickerham’s teaching career in Texas started in 1995 at Kirby Middle School in the Judson ISD teaching seventh grade Texas History and eighth grade American History. He then became the Social Studies Department Chair at Woodlake Hills Middle School when it opened in 1996. He eventually moved to North East ISD in 1998 to teach social studies at Lee High School.
“Those years at Lee were a period of tremendous growth for me. I honed my teaching skills and became very involved with curriculum because, in the span of what was nearly four years at Lee, I taught six different courses at three grade levels. I basically developed a habit of taking on new challenges,” he said with a smile.
That interest in curriculum drew Wickerham back to Judson ISD in 2002 to serve as the district’s first Social Studies Curriculum Coordinator.
Wickerham remembers, “The old saying is ‘itching for a change’ and I was definitely in that mode. The curriculum job was a change and the kind of challenge I craved, particularly since it was a K-12 position and I had to learn a lot about the elementary side of education. Still, as much I appreciated the opportunities I had in that position, I realized I left the classroom and campus life too early.”
The yearning to return to a campus-based position led Wickerham to pursue a Master of Education in School Administration at Trinity University. He graduated from that program in 2004 and immediately accepted the role of Grade Level Principal at Judson ISD’s Metzger Middle School, another brand-new campus, the same year.
After only a year at Metzger, Wickerham was presented with the possibility of becoming Principal at the International School of the Americas (ISA), an international studies magnet high school on the Lee High School campus. His social studies background, ISA’s connection to Trinity University, and a desire to again be a part of the Lee community piqued his interest. He often describes being named ISA Principal in the summer of 2005 as the day he “won the lottery.”
Wickerham believes his good fortune was multiplied this past summer when he was named Lady Bird Johnson Principal. “You only get the opportunity to open a brand-new, full-size high school in the city’s best district once in your career. I was incredibly blessed to have been a part of opening two other new facilities as a teacher and an assistant principal, but to open Lady Bird as principal is an honor I can’t fully describe.”
When asked what other factors excited him about applying for the Johnson High School position, Wickerham quickly rattles off a number of ideas, including wanting to recreate the strong academic and extra-curricular traditions at Reagan High School, an appreciation for the dedicated parents and community he knew he would inherit, and the fact his own children live in the area and will attend Johnson.
“It’s definitely a bonus to live in the Johnson area. High schools are typically the anchor of any given Texas community and actually living in and sending your own children to your school gives you a profound understanding of the importance of your decisions.”
None of this means Wickerham is resting on his laurels. He keeps busy on a variety of district and campus projects. At the moment, he is helping the Johnson Mascot Committee finalize a ballot of suggestions to send to a student vote. He is also managing a full schedule of meetings with various neighborhood associations and area business leaders. At the same time, Wickerham and district staff recently began the search for campus athletic, band, and dance directors, along with a cheerleading sponsor, special education coordinator, and a variety of office staff. The search for a number of other positions, such as assistant principals, counselors, academic deans and, of course, teachers will begin in January.
Looking at his appointment book, Wickerham chuckled and said, “You normally think of a To-Do list as something that gets smaller. Mine seems to be ever-expanding. That’s okay, though. This is an exciting time.”