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RHS graduate to be new principal

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Manuel Wallace Warner, new Roswell High School principal, explains that he has taught at every level of education from elementary to college and as an administrator. (Alison Penn Photo)

The Roswell Independent School District has hired Manuel Wallace Warner to lead as principal at Roswell High School for the upcoming 2019-20 school year.

“The ability to give back to the community is something that us teachers work and strive for every day,” Warner said. “Starting off as a teacher in Grand Blanc, Michigan, I was able to really provide a lot of impact to those students.

“I never thought that I would ever return back home to where I grew up, where I graduated and have the opportunity to impact kids here. It never crossed my mind. The opportunity came up and I jumped at it. And I can’t be more happy, can’t be more excited, about joining the team here at RISD and making a bigger and larger impact.”

Warner, 42, graduated from RHS in 1995 and lived in Roswell for about 16 years. He said he has returned to Roswell and his alma mater to provide support, leadership and “fresh ideas.”

“I believe with my experience, my vision that I am the best person for the job,” Warner said.

Arriving in Roswell on Thursday, Warner moved from Chicago where he was an assistant principal for the past two years. Warner has 15 years of experience in education. He began his career as a third-grade teacher, taught at every level of education from elementary to being a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and worked his way up to administrative positions in high school.

He has his bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Michigan and his master’s in elementary leadership and counseling from Eastern Michigan University.

RISD Superintendent Dr. Ann Lynn McIlroy said the hiring committee was “very impressed” with Warner after his interview.

“I think based on the work he has done in the past — it really fits with the philosophy of what we’re trying to create here. …” McIlroy said. “Kids come to us from a variety of different situations and we need to begin addressing old problems with new solutions. And I think Manuel has clearly demonstrated his ability to be that kind of thinker, of finding new solutions and that to me is a unique ability.

“I love the fact that he is a Roswell High graduate, so he has a vested interest in making that a phenomenal high school — and just seeing more and more kids be successful — and having that impact to have more kids be Roswell High School graduates, too. And so, hearing about that passion is important and seeing it in the work that he’s done. …”

McIlroy called him the “perfect complement” to the existing leadership at RHS that includes assistant principals Pilar Carrasco, Travis Ackerman, Breezy Gutierrez and Andrea Batista. She said she looks forward to the “innovation” of this team in the upcoming school year.

From his own experiences as a student, and later in working with students as an assistant principal, Warner is the founder and executive director of The Warner Project, established in 2017, that assists students with housing, educational support and more. More information on the project can be found on its website: warnerproject.com.

He said his Chicago-based nonprofit “directly targets kids from impoverished areas” to give them remedial and support services and to ensure those students “receive equal access to quality education and instruction.” He plans to continue this work here in Roswell.

In Chicago, Warner said the demographics reflected a “melting pot” of ethnicities and leadership from admin to teachers.

“When you come to an area, you see what the city has predominantly,” Warner said. “And so, I believe that me being a black educator — a black male educator — definitely stands out and provides a new look into leadership, a new glance, a new vision.”

Beginning in May, teachers and students rallied at the last few RISD school board meetings to show their support and requested reinstatement for former RHS Principal Ruben Bolaños, who will be at the district’s central office as work-based learning liaison. Some of the speakers shared their opinions that Bolaños represented the Hispanic community in RISD.

McIlroy said there is “some truth” to Hispanic community being underrepresented in leadership roles at RISD based on numbers alone. She said both the community and district both want “the best leader” and person for the job.

She said having Warner at RISD presents “another opportunity for our students of color to be able to see an example of success that looks like them.”

Addressing the graduation rate is one of Warner’s priorities at RHS to ensure students that begin as freshmen will earn high school diplomas. He plans on working on that by providing systems to keep kids in schools and involving the community in the process.

“… Anyone that has concerns about new leadership, they should know that I love all kids and I want to see all kids succeed,” Warner said about stepping into his role at RHS. “And when one kid fails, it really, really, bothers me — because I believe that with access, I think we can provide the tools that every kid needs to be successful, and as educators, we have the abilities to provide those things.”

Warner is a father of two sons and a daughter. In his free time, he enjoys sports such as basketball, football and soccer.

He was born in Columbus, Ohio, and is a Cleveland Browns fan. Other than Chicago and Roswell, he has lived in Topeka, Kansas; Flint, Michigan; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Albany, New York.

“I’m passionate about the kids — kids first …” Warner said.

City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.