Familiar face returns to lead Frisco ISD

An exclusive interview with new superintendent Dr. Mike Waldrip


Neha Perumalla

Having spent more than a decade in Frisco ISD from 2002-2014, Dr. Mike Waldrip returned to the district this summer as the new superintendent after serving in the same position at Coppell ISD from 2014-17.

Frisco ISD’s search for a new superintendent landed on a familiar face as Dr. Mike Waldrip was selected to replace the departing Dr. Jeremy Lyon. For Waldrip, it’s a return to Frisco as he previously served as principal at Clark Middle School before eventually being the first principal of Liberty High School.

Wingspan sat down with Waldrip on Tuesday for an exclusive interview to get his thoughts on the state of Frisco ISD.

Wingspan: You’ve been on the job for a little while now, what’s the experience been like so far?

Waldrip: “It’s been fast and furious. I’ve been to a lot of campuses, so it’s been really hectic.”

Wingspan: Frisco ISD isn’t new to you. What made you leave the district back in 2014 and what was it about Frisco that made you want to come back?

Waldrip: “Well I actually decided I wanted to be a superintendent so I started looking for superintendent jobs, and that was when I was hired in Coppell in 2014. I had actually planned on, I thought Dr. Lyon would be here for quite some time, but when I saw the opportunity to come back to Frisco I jumped on the chance. I’ve always felt Frisco was home, so I looked for the opportunity to come home.”

Wingspan: What’s your vision for the district?

Waldrip: “Frisco’s always had great opportunities for their students to prepare them for careers or college after they graduate, and I want to see that we continue along those same lines that students continue to have those same great opportunities when they leave us to prepare them for whatever is next in their life.”

Wingspan: During your time away, how much were you paying attention to the district and how did it change during your years away?

Waldrip: “Well actually, I was so involved in being superintendent of Coppell, and I did pay some attention to the school district, but when I was in Coppell I was superintendent of Coppell, but I always did keep a hand on the boards on what was going on in Frisco at that time.”

Taking over after the retirement of Dr. Jeremy Lyon, Waldrip started as Frisco ISD superintendent in the summer of 2017.

Wingspan: What do you think are some of the biggest obstacles facing the district this year and how do you plan on overcoming these?

Waldrip: “Well Frisco has always had the challenge of keeping up with student growth and growth of the community, and I think those are significant challenges that will continue for sometime for our school district. And then, maintaining the quality of our programs throughout that growth is always a challenge, but Frisco has always done a good job at that, and I want to continue those same things.”

Wingspan: This year’ budget was and has been a big topic as well as next year’s budget. With last year’s TRE vote being rejected fairly soundly, how will the district manage its finances and is there the chance at another Tax Ratification Election?

Waldrip: “Well we’re actually putting together a committee this fall to study long range plans for our school district, it’s a long range planning committee. It’s made up of community members who are also going to use a group of staff members from various campuses throughout the district and look at our vision and what we actually want as a community for Frisco ISD, so I think some of those answers will come out of the committee this fall.”

Wingspan: Facing a smaller budget than what would have been the case if the TRE passed, the district made some cuts and changed some things this year that have led to things being a bit different here. Class sizes are bigger, students are paying for parking, a fee for athletics, what’s been the reaction from parents on these?

Waldrip: “Well, I think overall, the community has understood what needed to take place. Obviously there are four campuses we couldn’t open this year because we didn’t have the maintenance operation funds to do so, but overall, the reactions have been pretty accepting of what took place because the decisions that were made going into this year with regard to the budget cuts came out of a priorities based budget committee that met for a number of months last year to determine exactly what the district needed to do to cover those shortfalls, budget, and expense.”

Wingspan: A committee is being formed to explore the small schools model and if this is something the district will continue in the future. Can you talk about this and what the district would look like if the small schools model went away? What would it take to keep the small schools model?

Waldrip: “Well, the small school model that we’ve had in place since for the last 20 to 25 years, to have smaller schools and neighborhood schools is a bit more expensive as a school district to maintain. Obviously if we weren’t going to continue along those same lines, we would have larger campuses, but that’s the work that’s going to come out of that committee this fall. Is it really what our stakeholders, our parents, our students, our community members still want for our school district? And if they do then we’ll determine at that time what it would cost to maintain that kind of model.”

Maddie Owens
With an enrollment of more than 55,000 students, Frisco ISD is one of the fastest growing school districts in the state.

Wingspan: Four new schools were supposed to open this year, but in a cost saving measure, they were not. What’s the status of these schools?

Waldrip: “We’ve done budget projections going into the next school year, and we’re absolutely certain that we can open those campuses going into the fall. The new high school, the new middle school, and the two new elementary schools. So plans are right now to open those campuses next fall to relieve some of the crowding and the growth in the campuses.”

Wingspan: Moving to the academic side of things, final exams were eliminated a few years ago as the number of state tests increased. However, the number of state tests has been reduced. Would Frisco ever consider bring back final exams?

Waldrip: “Now that’s something that’s always under discussion. I think we’ll probably discuss that issue this year, but I think there’s always a possibility we could bring back semester exams, and a lot of that will come out of discussion with our principals, our leadership teams, and our teachers.”

Wingspan: Is there anything else you would like get out to students, staff, or parents about the state of the district?

Waldrip: “I want to let everyone know that we’re going to do everything we can to listen to our community and to continue to provide quality education for the students of Frisco ISD.”