Growing up in a small town in West Texas, there was never any doubt that Mike Waldrip and his younger brother would go to college.
“It was a non-negotiable as far as my father was concerned,” Waldrip said. “He didn’t really care what we did or where we studied, but we were going to college because he always felt like it was going to do things for us that he and my mom never had the ability to do because they lacked that kind of education.”
The Waldrip family viewed education as a gateway to success – a philosophy Mike carried with him and has shared with thousands of students over the course of his 35-year career as a school teacher, coach and administrator.
Now in the top job at Frisco ISD, many of the lessons he learned as a young person, such as the importance of hard work and personal relationships, have shaped the leader and educator he is today.
As a student in Post, Texas – a rural community founded by C.W. Post, who launched Post Cereals – Waldrip played every sport available, including football, basketball and track. He says his coaches, along with his fourth grade teacher, inspired him to pursue a career in education.
“I made that decision very early on that that’s what I wanted to do with my life,” he said. “I just remember thinking in middle school, it would be really cool to teach and coach because these guys look like they’re having a lot of fun doing what they’re doing.”
At a towering 6’6,” Waldrip played basketball for a year after high school at Angelo State University. He went on to earn his bachelor’s degree from Texas Tech University, where he studied physical education and biology.
After graduation, he took his first teaching and coaching job in in the south Texas community of Victoria, before moving on to Goliad and then west to Seminole. In all, he spent 16 years as a biology teacher and basketball coach.
“I always liked trying to create a situation in the classroom where kids could involve themselves in the learning and they could be inquisitive and ask questions and learn some things for themselves,” he said.
He went on to serve as assistant principal at Seminole High School and earned his master’s degree from Sul Ross State University in 2000. In 2002, a one-time rival on the basketball court – former Centennial High School and Clark Middle School Principal Randy Spain – recruited Waldrip to Frisco ISD, where he served first as principal at Clark Middle School and then as the District’s first-ever director of secondary instruction. Waldrip opened Liberty High School as principal in 2006, something he says was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of his career.
“Just being able to put a complete staff together, open a high school brand new and set the vision and course for what the school was going to be like,” he said. “I always said I wanted Liberty to be a place where kids enjoyed coming to school and teachers enjoyed coming to work and that’s what we tried to focus on to create that type of environment for everyone.”
Waldrip earned his doctor of education from The University of North Texas in 2008 and got the opportunity in 2010 to move to central administration, where he oversaw data systems, program evaluation and various Frisco ISD departments.
“I have always believed that you can’t make informed decisions unless you have some things to inform your decisions,” Waldrip said. “Data doesn’t necessarily give you all the answers, but it certainly helps narrow the areas where you need to look to find those answers.”
In 2014, Waldrip accepted the position of superintendent of schools in nearby Coppell ISD. He says the experience prepared him for the job in FISD, which now has more than 56,000 students and is still growing. The District is poised to soon become the third largest school district in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.
“I think being the leader of any school district, you see the importance of engaging the community in what you’re doing and telling your story,” he said. “It’s important to solicit the community’s input because it is their school district and you want to provide the kind of education that they want for their kids.”
Frisco ISD is home for Waldrip and his wife Lisa, who have two sons who graduated from Frisco ISD schools. He says he’s inspired by the District’s mission statement to know every student by name and need and believes families flocking to the area are too.
“I think they think, ‘Well that’s a place that I would like for my kids to go to school, if those people are really focused on knowing my child by name and knowing what their needs are,’” he said. “I think that’s a huge unifying factor for the school district, even though people come from different communities, areas and backgrounds.”
FISD leads the way in providing top-notch, personalized educational experiences and programs for students.
“Frisco ISD has a long legacy of providing a quality education and there is no reason for this not to continue,” he said. “We have educators up for the task and a community that desires and supports this type of education for their kids.”
Waldrip says he will strive to continue the District’s commitment to student achievement and keep FISD a destination district.
“I am very blessed to be able to lead Frisco ISD in that work,” he said. “My wife and I couldn’t be happier to be moving back to the place we call home.”
When He’s Not Working…
You might find Dr. Waldrip enjoying the following activities:
- Exercising or spending time outdoors
- Scuba diving
- Listening to live music, like classic rock and roll or the blues