Dallas ISD welcomes back students, teachers, and staff on Monday, August 14. Simultaneously, the legendary Lincoln High School is welcoming a new principal, Lance Williams. Dallas Free Press sat down for a conversation with Williams, a graduate of Skyline High School and Prairie View A&M, to learn more about his vision for the 2023-24 school year.
Williams has worked in Dallas ISD for over 15 years, most recently as the principal of E.B. Comstock Middle School. He is excited to return to Sunny South Dallas, especially given his experiences at Billy Earl Dade Middle School, where he worked with several educators who inspired him, such as Alecia Cobb, Tracie Washington and Rockell Stewart. Williams was part of the team who took Billy Dade from a No. 32 to a No. 3 rating. He says that through the staff’s passion and dedication, they were able to meet students’ needs, which in turn improved the school’s rating, and he hopes to replicate this plan at Lincoln.
“Having a certain passion and dedication to excellence is how we were able to do that,” Williams says. “We didn’t make excuses for kids’ home situations, we didn’t make excuses for what parents may or may not be doing, because it’s our job as educators to make inner school excellence that pours out into the community. It’s how we’ll be able to transform the community. … Having that optimistic and winning mindset, you can’t do anything but have wins as your outcomes.”
This optimistic attitude also inspired Lincoln’s theme for the year, the acronym “WIN,” which stands for “Winning Involves Necessary change.” Williams says by incorporating this theme into back-to-school professional development, the staff has built a promising instructional framework.
“As a person who has a winning mindset, I don’t look at anything as a challenge. I only see opportunities to be my best self,” Williams says. “I love turnaround work and I embrace any chance to get to steward transformation, especially in historically underserved communities, because that’s where it really counts.”
Williams takes the helm from Johnna Weaver, who led Lincoln for seven years and announced this summer that she had accepted a position in Dallas ISD’s central office with the school leadership team. She noted in her announcement that the new principal would “take the campus to even greater heights.”
For a school to succeed, Williams believes that education needs to incorporate “culturally responsive pedagogy,” where teachers tailor their instruction to the interests and experiences of their students.
“Being culturally responsive is simply engaging with the demographic of your audience in a relevant, meaningful and powerful way,” Williams says. “Two plus two is four anywhere, but the way I may teach it here in Sunny South Dallas may have a different flavor than the way I would teach it in Highland Park. We want to engage with our kids, and bring some of the things that interest them into the classroom. That brings learning to life.”
Williams encourages educators to not only set high expectations for students but also to show students that they believe in their abilities. Williams says this attitude was greatly influenced by his band director at Skyline, who encouraged him to write a musical composition involving full band’s instruments.
“Believing in your heart and your mind that [students] can actually achieve those goals lets kids live up to those expectations,” Williams says. “I had that experience when I was in high school, I wrote a whole band score, by hand, on manuscript paper, because I had a teacher who just didn’t make it a big deal. He said I could do it, and showed me how to do it, so I went home and stayed up all night and I did it.”
Williams says he wants the community to understand the school’s goals and to expect great things on the horizon as students return to campus.
“I want everyone to know that the vision of Lincoln High School is to champion an educational experience that prepares scholars to lead the way in a dynamic and global society,” Williams says, quoting his newly defined mission for Lincoln students. “Our model is that excellence is the only option here at the legendary Lincoln High School, so get prepared to see and hear great things from our scholars this year.
“We’re going to bring back the luster and cultivate the pride in excellence that the South Dallas community deserves.”