Administration Shake-Up Fosters Schoolwide Change

In society, the word “change” holds a negative, and oftentimes threatening, connotation. Change is, with fairness, often met with fear and ambiguity. However, through time, change can bring along the opportunity for a clean slate and an era of new beginnings. Towards the end of the 2018-2019 school year, news broke that there would be a new principal and administration team for the upcoming school year, which was met with mixed emotions. Some students were sad, some happy, and some obviously wondered who the new principal would be.

As August rolled around, many students entered the new school year with whispers about the changes on campus from new doors to a stricter ID policy but, most notably with the new principal, Michael Arreola. Who was he, and why is so much changing at school?

“Since being part of the Principal Advisory Council (PAC), I liked Dr.Williams and did not envision another principal as caring as her,” said senior Mary Cabaña, who is the PAC member for the class of 2020. “With the arrival of Mr. Arreola, he went above and beyond my expectations.”

Previously teaching and administering Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District, Arreola began the new year with big and engaging ideas and dubbed it “the year of the Raider Revolution”.

“I’ve always been very passionate about being involved in helping set a good example for my students,” Arreola said. “I know that it takes making sure the school is running right, making sure teachers are teaching well, that it takes more than that to really make a difference in a school. You need to be involved. The kids have to know who you are. They have to know that you are there for them.”

Raised on the southside of Dallas in Oak Cliff, Arreola and his two older sisters were raised by their immigrant father who knew little English. Living in an underserved community, Arreola found his high school years challenging and had no clear direction following graduation.

“[My father] trusted that the school was going to take care of everything that we needed to know and everything we needed to do,” Arreola said. “They didn’t do as good of a job as I would’ve liked, because they didn’t talk to us about college. They didn’t talk to us about scholarships and things like that. They just wanted us to graduate from high school, and so it made me want to do more for other people, because there’s so many opportunities out there.”

After high school, Arreola enlisted in the Marine Corps and planned to serve for the rest of his life. However, an injury led to him being discharged, and Arreola found himself lost. A friend recommended he enroll at El Centro Community College, which led to him tutoring students at North Dallas High School.

“The first day, I sat down with a student and answered some questions for them and helped them figure something out. It was just kind of like an epiphany,” Arreola said. “I realized that I had a passion for it, so it kind of became my life.”

After finishing his major at El Centro college, Arreola enrolled in a bilingual ESL education program at the University of North Texas and was accepted with a full ride. After receiving his bachelors at UNT, Arreola went on to get his masters at Lamar University and is currently working on his doctorate at UNT. He began working it Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD as a teacher, coach, and administrator.

With these experiences, from not knowing where to go after high school to being discharged from the military, Arreola went through many obstacles to get to this position. Cabañas also believes Arreola is able to represent North’s Hispanic majority population at school both culturally and through perspective.

“When it comes to the change in leadership, I believe Arreola will not only represent the Hispanic culture well, but he will strive for all cultures to be equal,” Cabañas said. “As a Hispanic, I’m very overwhelmed [because] he sends reminders in Spanish to all parents who don’t speak English, and this is one way he is able to fluently communicate with Hispanic parents on the importance of his or her child’s education.”

Similarly, Arreola recognizes the importance of representation, with close to 60 percent of the school being Hispanic, and uses that to further his work.

“Some people have some views or have certain beliefs about stereotypes, and so, for me, it’s letting people see that we’re productive,” Arreola said. “I’m just trying to do the best that I can to have a positive influence and be a positive representation because our community is a great community with a lot of pride and a lot of traditions.”

The new administration has many goals, both short- and long-term. The overall goal is to get North an A on the Texas Education Agency (TEA) annual report on school quality. In past years, North has received an 89 percent overall, with literacy skills scoring the lowest compared to math and science. Arreola hopes to encourage more reading and writing skills, not only for the TEA report but to help open doors of opportunity for more students.

“There are a lot of issues with the [TEA] system because our school has 60 percent of our students on free and reduced lunch, and so most schools that have a percentage like that won’t get an A,” Arreola said. “It’s just going to be very difficult for that kind of school to get an A, and the fact that we’re so close means we can be the school that breaks through. We can do it this year, and we’re going to do it.”

Other goals include increasing the safety of the school by limiting the number of entryways and keeping an eye on students to make sure they are OK. Arreola also hopes to expand academic programs like MST and HST.

A new addition is coming next year called PTECH, a program that will allow for college certification in the health science field. The program works with Dallas County Community College and UT Southwestern.

With these new goals in mind, Arreola hopes to foster effective change in the school over the years.
“I’m very excited to be a North Garland Raider,” Arreola said. “I think people don’t know that they go to the best school in Garland ISD, but they need to realize that really quickly.”