Long-ago campus colleagues reunite as 2017 Principals of the Year

A couple of decades ago, when they were teachers, Danielle Petters encouraged and mentored Laura Garza at the campus where they worked. On Wednesday, Dec. 13, the two shared time in the spotlight as Dallas ISD’s 2017 Principals of the Year.

Garza, principal at Annie Webb Blanton Elementary School, said being a finalist with Petters means a lot to her. “Twenty years ago, she took me under her wing,” Garza said. “She’s the reason I’m still in education.”

She also credited her mother, who was in attendance at the luncheon. “She is the reason I can do all this,” Garza said. “She’s helping me raise my children.”

Petters said that being named a finalist for Principal of the Year was initially a shock. “For two full days, I was in a fog,” she said. “I decided the emotion I felt the most was humbleness.”

Petters and her six siblings graduated from Dallas ISD, as did her two children. Further, she earned her alternative certification to begin teaching and her administrative certification to become a principal through the district. She has been a Dallas ISD principal for 16 years.

“It’s been my life,” she said. “There are so many people in this room that I have learned from and learned with.

“I’m very grateful for this.”

Superintendent Michael Hinojosa said believing in the district enough to send your own kids to Dallas ISD takes commitment. Likewise, his children attended and graduated from district schools.

“We put our kids in the system,” he said. “In fact, Laura put her own kids in her school that was about to be shut down by the state.”

Of Petters, he said she voluntarily applied to lead H. Grady Spruce High School, which has had a revolving door of principals before her tenure amid many challenges. “When you step up like that, it makes it that more meaningful, to stand up in a tough situation.”

Chief of School Leadership Stephanie Elizalde said being a principal has become an increasingly difficult position.

“The principalship is not a job, it’s a calling,” Elizalde said. “And that calling requires an additional three Cs. You must be confident, even when you stand alone; you must be compassionate, to the needs of all; and you must have courage, every single day to make really tough decisions.”

See the other finalists for Elementary and Secondary Principal of the Year here.

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