Conroe ISD cheer coach took a job in the community she grew up in. Now, she’s a principal.

ByLavinia E. Smith

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Ten years ago, Shalanda Burks joined Conroe ISD as a cheer coach at Conroe High School. Last month, Burks was named the new principal of the Oak Ridge High School ninth grade campus.

Burks started her teaching career at her alma mater in Cleveland, Texas as an English teacher and a cheer coach. After three years in the district she grew up in she began looking for other opportunities and she took a position at Conroe High School as the head cheer coach and began teaching English again.

“I was looking for a change and to grow myself,” Burks said of moving to Conroe ISD 10 years ago. “I was really grateful and blessed to be able to come in and do cheer but then also I feel like I grew so much as a professional and as a teacher when I came to Conroe.”

Since then, she has moved into multiple administrative roles in the district including a campus RTI interventionist, a district instructional coach for student support services, and an assistant principal position, before she was named principal of Oak Ridge ninth at the June 21 CISD board meeting.

Becoming an administrator was not specifically part of Burks career plan, she said. Her plan was to “always be in a position where I can impact and inspire kids.” She saw more opportunities to make an impact as an administrator. She was encouraged by various mentors in the district to pursue an administrative path.

“I’m really excited,” Burks said of stepping into her new position as principal. “Some of it is nervous, but more is that I’m really grateful. I’m grateful to have the opportunity because I have worked with a lot of amazing leaders around this district. So, to have the opportunity, to be chosen and selected to lead in this capacity means a lot to me.”

The Oak Ridge ninth grade campus is relatively small and Burks is excited to be able to get to know her students and their families. The opportunity to get to know students more personally was one of the motivating factors for Burks to apply for the job.

Former Oak Ridge High School principal AJ LiVecchi has been named the new principal of CISD’s new online campus, and former Oak Ridge ninth grade principal Shawn Almond will be his successor. Burks said she and Almond already have a good relationship and she’s excited about starting the new year and working with the campus staff.

“I’m really excited to work with Shawn (Almond) to make sure we’re a unified force, which is what we’ve been talking about, being unified and hitting the ground running,” Burks said.

She’s a high-energy people-person — which served her well as a cheer coach — and she wants to see kids and staff reach their fullest potential. While she is no longer officially involved with a cheer team in the district, she still judges cheer tournaments independent of her position in CISD.

As a person, she wants her new community to know that she leads with her heart. She has a niece that sets the bar for how students and kids should be treated.

“If it’s not good enough for my niece, then it’s not good enough for anybody else’s kid,” Burks said.

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