A Woman Rules the School: Lincoln High School Has a New Principal

October 27, 2011  

BEYOND THE BUBBLE

By Molly McKone
mmckone@smu.edu

Principal Leslie Swann the first female principal at Lincoln High School. (Photo courtesy of Leslie Swann)

Leslie Swann wants to be known as the principal who knows everyone’s name. She is young, determined, intelligent, compassionate, and driven.

Swann, 40, is the first female principal of Lincoln High School. Ms. Swann is a West Texas native who grew up in Midland and graduated from Texas Christian University.

The school, located in south Dallas, is considered low performing by the state. LHS has an all African American student body, with many of the students coming from disadvantaged and low incomes families. Standardized test scores are low. But Ms. Swann is out to see that the young people in her charge change their mind set and become high achievers.

“In the next three to five years, I want this campus to be a blue ribbon campus,” Ms. Swann said in an interview from her organized office. “I want excellence to be the normality.”

Shauntai Wooten, the senior student body president, has known Ms. Swann for the last four years and admires her because “she keeps us grounded and she keeps us organized.”

“Ms. Swann reminds us in student council meetings that if one of us does not do our part, it brings our entire team down,” Wooten said.

Wooten realizes that LHS’ standardized test scores are low, and she is encouraging her fellow students to do something about it.

“Even though I might do well on my tests and keep my grades up, the school itself is still failing because we all are not doing our part,” Wooten said.

Ms. Swann is requiring that students have an advising period before lunch to study different subjects. The period will last 45 minutes and each student must focus on one particular area so that they master their skills.

Ms. Swann is also calling for more student involvement. This includes students tutoring fellow classmates. Wooten, currently studying calculus, is participating in the program to help her colleagues.

During an interview, Ms. Swann proudly wears a purple blouse that represents her school’s color. Her hands wave up and down as she enthusiastically talks about her goals and aspirations for LHS.

Before Ms. Swann became head principal of LHS, she was the associate principal of the Humanities and Communications Magnet of LHS for six years. The magnet program offers students courses in radio, television, and film, as well as courses in print journalism and humanities. She left LHS in 2010 and was the associate principal at the Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School.

Ms. Swann returned to LHS in 2011 and is once again a proud “Tiger”. Her favorite aspect of being back is the familiarity of the campus, the families, students, and staff.

Jerry B. Chambers, 74, has been working at LHS as a historian and part-time liaison for 45 years. Chambers proudly shows visitors a classroom, which bears his name over the door’s entrance. His picture hangs in the classroom as a reminder of how long he has worked for the school.

Mr. Chambers said that he has seen principals come and go, but that,“Ms. Swann is the kind of principal people need.”

Mr. Chambers believes that Ms. Swann and the staff of LHS can teach the students “more things than the books can.”

Ms. Swann reminisces about when LHS was one of the top high schools in the entire nation. In 1995, LHS was a featured story on “Good Morning America,” and in 1996, it was featured in the magazine Redbook, and received an award for overall excellence.

Mr. Chambers was on the LHS school staff when “Good Morning America” came to film at the campus. Although test scores are lower than they were in the 90’s, Mr. Chambers believes that Ms. Swann has the tools to improve the school.

Ms. Swann believes that everyone at LHS is part of the same team. No person is better than another.

Ms. Swann said she was walking through campus one day and realized that the janitors were cleaning up and getting ready for lunch hour. She noticed some trash on the floor and without hesitating she picked it up. Immediately one of the janitors told her to stop what she was doing.

“I looked at him and explained that we are all on the same team. He looked back at me and gave me the biggest smile,” Ms. Swann said.

Ms. Swann realizes that even the small things are important to improving the success of LHS. If the campus is unkempt, the students and faculty will feel unmotivated. If the teacher’s do not feel like teaching, the students will not feel like learning.

“We all have to do our part,” she said.

One of LHS’ proud alumni, Hilari Younger-Powell who graduated in 1999, is now an entrepreneur, running her own successful interior design business in Dallas. Powell believes that LHS gave her the necessary principals and values that made her successful in her life after graduating.

Ms. Powell describes how influential and defining her four years were at LHS and how her experience shaped and molded her into the person she is today.

“If I had gone to any other school, I would not have had the same experience. When I went to college, I was so prepared,” Ms. Powell said.

Ms. Swann wants the 2012 graduating class to feel the same way Ms. Powell did when she graduated. Ms. Swann wants them to feel exposed, educated, proud, and filled with lessons that will allow them to go on and be successful with whatever career they take.

“Lincoln has such a rich history. I want my students to know that we stand on the shoulders of greatness,” Ms. Swann concluded.

There are now eight paintings hanging behind a glass case in the middle of the schools hallway. There is one empty spot right in the middle of all the distinguished men to have been principal. It is already perfectly measured for another frame, for another picture, for another principal.

The space is reserved for Ms. Swann.

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