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Independence Secretary Shannon Slade swaps a T-Shirt with a student from Centennial High School.

Will a suit of armor hold pride of place at the new Independence High School? Will the mascot carry foam swords and shields to football games? What will be the IHS official school team slogan and hand signal?

These are the sorts of questions Principal Alan Waligura has been asking future IHS students at meetings across the District.

What does a Frisco ISD student think a knight represents? 

Waligura has gone straight to the source – visiting with students who currently attend Centennial, Heritage and Liberty high schools, as well as Maus, Roach, Scoggins, Vandeventer and Wester middle schools.

As principal, Waligura wants the first IHS students to have a voice in determining what a knight will stand for, what a knight’s shield will say and what a knight will defend. After all, it’s the students who chose a knight for the school’s mascot in January.

Waligura is asking students for their ideas about honor, character and potential school traditions. He brings samples of future letter jackets, free T-shirts and an open mind to listening to their opinions.

“They all want more pep rallies,” Waligura said.

His meetings have also revealed that students like to have banners and posters around school. It turns out, they do read them. Some students have envisioned banners hanging from the second floor almost as they would if one entered a medieval castle.

“They want the walls of the school to be spirit-oriented,” Waligura said, noting that aligns with his vision of the campus. “The students have expressed this and I agree. We want a campus that supports all activities - sports, Ac Dec, band and more - a school that brings everybody together.”

Independence will be the seventh high school to serve Frisco ISD students when it opens in August. The curriculum will be the same as FISD’s six other high schools and the student handbooks will read the same, but these first students and eventually the first faculty members will have the responsibility of establishing the school’s personality, its honor and character.

During a meeting at Centennial High School, Wagilura posted several words such as character, honor, honesty and more and asked students to break into groups and determine which eight would best represent IHS. Then he asked them to think of a shield and determine the best four words of the eight that could be placed on the knight’s shield. He did this at several schools with a variety of students to gauge which words best describe the personal code of honor in the incoming student body.

“I want the students to drive the development of the campus climate,” he said. “It is what they want to see in their school. So far, the things they want are the things we want to see anyway. Kids get it.”

The look of the knight is of great interest to all students. At Centennial, one table had already begun to envision the knight riding in on a horse at the beginning of games. One student had gone so far as to name the mighty steed.

“His name should be Cornelius,” said Matthew Boensch, who will be a sophomore when Independence opens.

Waligura certainly made no promises about providing the school mascot with a horse, though he agreed with students that it would be really cool and that other schools and colleges have had live animals as part of their traditions. He also brought up the care and feeding of the horse and questioned whether the District would approve of such an expense.  

But the retreats were all about ideas and dreams of the future so he encouraged students to “write it down” for later reference.

Waligura and his team are thinking about spirit wear, booster clubs and an event to kick-off the school year. Summer camps and band practice will be scheduled, and students have already been trading in their old school spirit wear for a new purple Independence T-shirt. 

The IHS team will be visiting campuses throughout April to give students more opportunities to do a T-shirt swap. The swapped shirts will be donated to Frisco Family Services.

Meanwhile, the staff at Independence continues to grow and hiring will continue. So far, the team includes campus secretary Shannon Slade and four assistant principals: Chakosha Powell, currently an assistant principal at J.J. Pearce in Richardson ISD; Stephanie Sipes, currently an assistant principal at Shepton High School in Plano ISD; Hector Garcia, who will move from Lone Star High School; and Eric Green, who will move from Heritage. Other campus leaders include Heather Holmes, lead counselor; Kyle Story, athletic coordinator; and Chris Cansler, band director.

In traditional medieval times, no one became a knight quickly. It was a position that was earned. Children began training at the age of seven. They developed skills and earned responsibility as they moved up to being a squire and then a knight.

The IHS student body has been training to be high school leaders for many years – first in elementary school and then middle school. The students of Independence are ready to accept their knighthood.

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