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Administration, teachers transform Prosper ISD
October 12, 2022
Choir director Crystal Chamberlain, principal Nicholas Jones, assistant principal Lute Croy and tennis coach Brandon Womack have one thing in common — they’re dedicated to making Prosper ISD better. Apart from Chamberlain, the other three are all new to Prosper. These four PHS leaders have worked since the beginning of the school year to manage PHS’s growing population of students and make sure they feel supported. ENO reporters plan to continue to cover the teachers, leaders, staff and administration of PHS as they continue their journey in Prosper, so keep an eye out for upcoming articles highlighting other leaders and mentors in Prosper ISD.
Choir director looks back, forward at accomplishments
Crystal Chamberlain leads growing student team
The large classroom sits, filled with quiet. A piano claims space at the opposite side of the entry. Forty-three students come in and take their places on risers in the center. Then, they wait for words from their leader.
“Hey, Choir,” director Crystal Chamberlain calls.
“Yes…,” the students answer in a drawn-out, loud, but in-sync, reply.
In moments, Chamberlain takes her place at the piano’s keyboard, and harmonic voices fill the room.
Chamberlain knew that singing would be her lifetime passion – even in high school. This year marks her sixth here in Prosper and her third as the choir director. In college, she graduated with an undergraduate degree in music and music education from Dallas Baptist University. The choir, under her direction, is preparing for the Oct. 4 fall concert, and some students are preparing for auditions for the All-Region and All-State choirs. The first auditions happen today, Sept. 27. Chamberlain took other various jobs before she came to this school district.
“My first ever job was as a funeral singer,” Chamberlain said. “I had done other little jobs before, but it was my first job that I got, like, a paycheck for. I would always ask to go before the eulogy, though, because I was like, ‘I don’t want to cry.’ I didn’t want to cry, because then I couldn’t sing.”
Chamberlain said teaching was the right fit for her, career-wise.
“I always knew I wanted to be a teacher,” Chamberlain said. “I had some really amazing choir directors along the way that made me feel like this would be the best arena for me to teach. So I got really excited about teaching – and wanted to do something fun.”
Chamberlain said her students bring ongoing inspiration to her program.
“I want to be better for them,” Chamberlain said. “And, because they have so many amazing talents, I want to push them in the direction that they need to go – and make sure I’m doing all I can to get them where they need to be.”
One of her greatest professional accomplishments included her choir being selected to perform at a state convention.
“It’s a really big deal,” Chamberlain said. “And it made me really, really proud of them. But it’s also things like when we perform at a homecoming game, and it goes really well. And everyone can hear how great they are, or at a really awesome concert. Those are also pretty fun achievements as well, simple things.”
Chamberlain said concerts create some of her favorite moments as a teacher.
“When I’m conducting a concert, it all comes together, you know,” Chamberlain said. “Everyone is there, and we’re in the moment together. As a group, we are so connected and, like, we’re breathing together. We’re feeling the song together. That’s really fun.”
While Chamberlain said she rarely faces challenges, she relies on her own confidence when she does.
“Sometimes I can see the bigger picture,” Chamberlain said. “And, the students can’t. So, I am trying to encourage them to do something that might be outside of their comfort zone. It’s about encouraging people that it’s okay to fail. But, you might not fail, and it might be really a great thing.”
Choir student and junior Sarah Nafziger said Chamberlain does help students see their potential.
“The thing I like about Ms. Chamberlain is that she wants me to try my best, and she knows that I could push myself even though I think I can’t,” Nafziger said. “I’m surrounded with people who also have the same talent I have, and they make it fun.”
Junior Jaxon Tan said he appreciates the positive influence Chamberlain brings to the choir.
“Ms. Chamberlain is an amazing director,” Tan said. “She works hard to make sure everybody is included in the choir, and (that) we all work hard, and we are the best singers we can possibly be.”
Assistant choir director Tate Keen said he’s grateful for the time he’s had to work with Chamberlain.
“I mean, we have been working together for a little over three years now,” Keen said. “It’s been great. If you consider the times that we’ve had to go through, and the things we’ve had to adjust with, and how she’s led us through all of that, it’s incredible. It’s been great getting to work with her. She’s really been a mentor for me – to me – to be a better teacher.
Chamberlain said she’s excited about the choir’s growth this year. Last year the choir program had 95 students. For 2022-23, it has 125.
“This year, our program is growing,” Chamberlain said. “And, so we really want to showcase the students and make sure everyone knows how amazing they are and can be a part of what we’re doing. As a choir program, we really want to focus on the connection we have with each other – and continuing to get better as a group.”
New principal takes on ‘The’ Prosper High School
Nicholas Jones kicks off the school year with passion
Principal Nicholas Jones emphasizes the word “the” in front of Prosper High School as he repeats the cheer.
“Remember, you go to the Prosper High School, the flagship Prosper High School!”
Standing and speaking in front of around 3,400 students may scare many people — but this nerve-wracking idea definitely does not intimidate this principal. In fact, that’s where he thrives. Since Jones took over and started the school year Aug. 10, students, teachers and other administrators have noticed his work to create a culture and passion for the school.
“My purpose is to build a team that gets kids to want to show up to school,” Jones said. “I love being able to do cool things to make kids excited to be at school. If kids are excited to be at school, they’re going to do better in class. They’re going to do better in extracurriculars, in UIL and athletics because they want to be here right now.”
I would just describe him as a leader who strives to connect with kids.
— Ginger McClendon
Although Jones is new to PHS, he is not new to education, or Prosper, as he is starting his 21st year in the field and 17th in Prosper ISD after graduating from the University of Texas at Austin.
“I started out teaching history and coaching football everywhere,” Jones said. “I started at a high school called Pflugerville in North Austin, I was in Grand Prairie then Frisco for a little bit, and then I came to Prosper to coach football. I coached at the high school for six years and taught history. I was in central admin for three years after that. I was an assistant principal for a few years, and I’ve been a principal for four years.”
Jones began at Hays Middle School as the principal for the 2019-2020 school year, where he began creating a culture within that school as soon as it opened.
“He made an effort to know who we all were,” freshman Payton Robertson said. “He knew a lot of names and actually cared about us.”
Robertson went to Hayes for all three years of middle school under Jones’s administration and noted some things he made an effort to do.
“He always did pep rallies,” Robertson said. “He gets really excited about school spirit. For example, every time we played Rogers or Reynolds in a sport, he went on the intercom and made an announcement.”
Not only has Jones created an environment of school spirit for the students, but he has also made an effort to create a different culture for teachers.
“His focus – that was very clear when he came in – was family first,” the Nest’s Future Ready Designer Ginger McClendon said. “For example, when we have teacher workdays, he’ll say something like if you have a kid and something happens with the babysitter, you can bring your kid up here. Your family is your priority. And, being a mom, that makes me feel so good.”
McClendon, also a mother to a junior and senior at PHS, said that she has noticed changes in her children’s attitudes toward school, as well as many others.
“I feel like the kids are ‘all in,’ and having kids of my own here, it’s important to me to feel like you’re part of something,” McClendon said. “I feel like this year, even though I have the senior, he feels like he’s part of something. I watch him at the pep rallies just get so fired up when Mr. Jones comes out.”
Although Jones does have a heavy emphasis on pep rallies and school spirit, he said a large part of his mission is to make every student feel like they have a place.
“You’ll hear my announcements about pep rallies — and I love pep rallies — but every time I announced one, I always say something like, hey, if you don’t want to go, that’s okay,” Jones said. “If you’re into something else, for example, let’s say you’re in AP Biology, and that’s your thing, and you want to and you need time to study for AP Bio, we’ll have a study hall for you, and that’s okay.”
Making every student feel involved is something high on Jones’ priority list, however, he cannot do it alone.
“The key is there are 297 adults that work here, and that’s not including like custodial crew or lunch crew, that’s just teaching and people that are working with kids,” Jones said. “In a smaller school my job would be more direct with kids, but what my job is now is helping adults be able to influence kids in direct ways. I’m not with kids a ton, but I am spending my time working with assistant principals, who are working with teachers, who then have to work with kids.”
Jones also has a secretary, Heidi Starkey, who helps him with his scheduling and appointments throughout the day, who he said is a big help and makes his day easier.
“She helps me run the organization of the day, which is great,” Jones said. “So then, I can spend my time directly working and leading teachers and APs, and I don’t have to worry about the organization part.”
The past month of school being in session has allowed students and teachers to connect with Jones, but has also given him the chance to show what the following years at PHS will look like.
“I would like each individual student to know that Prosper High School is a safe place for them to be. No matter what they’re into, everybody has a place here,” Jones said. “(PHS) is the best high school in the district. We have the best kids in the district, and we are very proud of that.”
This article received updates for journalistic style Sept. 16 and Sept. 23.
New assistant principal achieves several firsts
Dr. Lute Croy sets goal to be role model
Whether he’s moving desks or earning degrees, Lute Croy, a new assistant principal, gets the job done.
Dr. Croy shares his journey about the pathway from Abilene Christian University to Prosper, and how he’s leaping into setting goals for the district in the future.
Dr. Croy set a goal to be a role model for his kids, as he was the first member of his family to graduate with not just a high school diploma, but also a masters degree.
“I’m the first person in my family to graduate from high school, the first person to go to college, the first person to get a master’s degree, and all those things — so it feels great,” Dr. Croy said. “One of my kids gets to see that change — where I grew up to where I am, and that my family gets to celebrate in that as well.”
Receiving his doctorates was strange yet rewarding process to Dr. Croy. It was a time to focus on something he was truly passionate about.
“It’s hard to get the motivation to do assignments you don’t really care about,” Dr. Croy said. “Going through this program, I knew I wanted to focus on this particular thing, so it stayed interesting the whole time.”
The process of building relations along the way made assignments easier for him to achieve.
“You’re taking courses, and you’re learning about a wide range of things. And then, it starts to narrow as you go along,” Dr. Croy said. “And, if you don’t build relationships along the way, then you’re kind of just cold calling.”
Dr. Croy’s philosophy is to never gives up on the process – no matter the goal nor the position.
“I want to be a part of helping develop the next generation of leaders to step into those positions. Part of that is just in investing in our staff here, but some of us are brand new here in this building,” Dr. Croy said. “We help each other grow as leaders.”
Dr. Croy wants to improve relationships between students and teachers.
“We need to be able to provide intervention and to the students who need it most,” Dr. Croy said. “We’re gonna be able to do that with the structure that we’re going to be using Eagle Time for.”
Dr. Croy aims to be a model PLC school district with the help of all PISD Alphas. Each assistant principal is assigned a group of students to work with, depending on the students’ last names.
“Our teachers all kind of grow together and learn from each other,” Dr. Croy said. “We help each other grow as leaders.”
Other administrators express appreciation towards Dr. Croy’s ideas.
“I have been just completely impressed and amazed at the way he cares for students,” superintendent Holly Ferguson said. “And his work ethic. He has really gone above and beyond.”
Dr. Croy works efficiently with students in meetings.
“He was very willing to listen and take initiative to the issues involved,” Senior Kristyn Mackenzie said. “He responded quickly and did his best to help out.”
Dr. Croy rushes to help other educators.
“He came running in to help the teachers near me,” Journalism and Digital Media teacher Lisa Roskens said. “Mr. Jones was also working with him. They seem to make a really good team.”
This article recieved updates for additional clarity from Jake Radcliffe and Juliana Cruz. It was last updated at 5:24 p.m. Sept. 7.
New coach aspires to help students reach their goals
Coach Womack has helped me to get closer to reaching my goals by encouraging and motivating me to push myself to my limits. Pushing myself every day at practice has allowed me to take my mental and physical tennis game to another level this season.
— Ridge Daniel, senior
When he registered for an FRA class his sophomore year of college, Brandon Womack knew he was destined to be a tennis coach.
Brandon Womack, Prosper High School’s new assistant tennis coach, has coached tennis full time for 11 years, and spent the past six at Plano Senior High.
Coach Womack has helped me get closer to my goal by giving me lots of feedback. He has inspired me by his way of coaching, how passionate he is in his job and how much he cares about tennis.
— Mari Avendano, junior
“Rather than simply being a student as intended to get an easy (college) PE credit, the teacher asked me to take over,” Womack said. “(He asked me to) teach during the first week of class due to my experience.”
Coach Womack has been pushing us to become the best versions of ourselves possible, on and off the court. Not only does he want us to be great tennis players, but he inspires us to be better people, and that inspires me the most.
— Nicole Steel, sophomore
Tennis has allowed Womack to create lifelong friendships and memories.
“Tennis was the last sport that I started growing up, so it was a different technical challenge that I had never encountered before,” Womack said. “Throughout learning this game, I made lifelong friends in a lifetime sport that has now paid my bills for 11 years and counting.”
Womack shares his passion for tennis with the PHS tennis teams every day of the week.
“We prepare our athletes for practice and tournaments with a solid mixture of character building,” Womack said. “Stretching and conditioning, technical drilling, match play and game drills.”
During practices, one of Womack’s goals is to help students find their true potential in the sport.
“My goals are to help build an athlete’s character through consistently teaching accountability and integrity to help them realize their purpose,” Womack said. “ (Also), to help them grow to reach their full God-given potential.”
With success, there also comes obstacles that Womack has faced throughout his coaching career.
“One of the biggest obstacles is helping athletes realize their purpose,” Womack said. “And, (their) true potential in the sport.”
Womack has dedicated his time to helping students become better athletes and people. He described tryouts as another difficult challenge since there is only room for so many.
“The hardest thing about being a tennis coach is having to cut kids in tryouts,” Womack said. “There simply isn’t enough space to keep everyone.”
Throughout the year, Womack hopes to continue the legacy of the PHS tennis team.
“The best thing is the joy of seeing an athlete achieve their goals,” Womack said. “No matter the size of those goals.”