Meaker prioritizes safety, enrichment, smooth transition to new site
Walnut Hill International Leadership Academy is under new leadership and will move to its new, rebuilt campus Jan. 1.
Dr. Philip Meaker joined the Walnut Hill team July 18 as principal.
Now in a new school year, Meaker plans to lead the campus of 11 age groups and about 400 students by focusing on safety, integrating into the new campus, and encouraging success both inside and out of the classroom, specifically through leadership-specific teaching.
“We try to teach them and encourage them that all students can be leaders, we just lead in different ways, whether that’s vocal, or that’s leading by example, or that’s leading in art […], so every person has a form of leadership that they do,” he said.
The classes at Walnut Hill are smaller than other campuses so teachers can have a closer connection with teachers, Meaker said. In addition to general education, the campus has enrichment systems such as a gifted and talented curriculum and a dual-language program where students alternate between learning material in English and Spanish.
Meaker comes from Woodrow Wilson High School, where he served as assistant principal for three years. On that campus, the involved parent base is similar to the one at Walnut Hill, Meaker said, equipping him to interact with families in a similar way. He also supported a new wing of Woodrow Wilson’s building that involved helping teachers and students navigate the move to a new space, which will translate when the new Walnut Hill campus opens in January.
Before his time in Dallas ISD, Meaker served as assistant principal, teacher, and coach for schools in Princeton, McKinney, and Weatherford ISDs. He came to Dallas ISD because he wanted to “get involved with more of the inner-city students and help our students who need more role models, need more support, and just need better people to care about them.”
“My passion for education really started as a student,” Meaker said. “I loved extracurriculars. I went to a small school, similar to Walnut Hill.”
His relationships with sponsors made him want to give back while he was a student. So, he became a coach. He spent five years teaching and coaching, then switched to educational leadership at Shirley Hall Middle School as assistant principal in 2018.
“[I] changed to the administrative side because I thought I could make more of a difference at a higher level by also supporting and helping grow other adults in how they teach, so they can be better in the classroom to better support our students,” Meaker said.
Since the October 2019 tornado that demolished the previous campus, Walnut Hill has been housed at the old Tom Field Elementary campus, but the new building will be located next to Thomas Jefferson High School.
“Moving and transitioning back into the neighborhood is going to be very exciting because we’ll be closer to the children’s homes, we’ll be closer to the feeder schools that we connect with, but also getting a new building with new technology, new books, new furniture, and a state-of-the-art middle school competition gym as well as an elementary gym.”
Editor’s note: The new Walnut Hill campus will be located at 3978 Killion Drive.