Throughout his four decades in education, Jerry Dean Allen put thousands of students on the path to success because he never wavered from his belief that achievement was possible for everyone, no matter their ethnic or socio-economic background.
His relentless passion for improving the lives of not just students but also their families and the entire community have made him one of the most beloved principals in Northside ISD history.
Allen grew up in north Texas as the son of a school superintendent and was familiar with the world of education and the high expectations that came with it. His two older sisters became teachers, and it was no surprise when Allen decided he, too, wanted to enter the profession.
He started his career in Fort Worth and joined Northside ISD in 1975 as a teacher at Mary Hull Elementary School. He moved on to Locke Hill Elementary School, where he was named Teacher of the Year, and was appointed Principal of Glenn Elementary School in 1980. He had been serving as Principal of Colonies North Elementary School for four years when he decided he needed a new challenge.
When Allen took over as Principal of Lackland City Elementary School in 1986, the west side campus was struggling. Test scores, attendance, and parental involvement were poor, at best.
Allen took a multi-pronged approach to school improvement.
He implemented innovative, research-based programs that improved both learning and instruction and that ultimately garnered national media attention. He hired a social worker to address the basic needs of students and their families and established academic family nights and parenting classes. He worked to build unity and partnerships within the entire Lackland City community, reaching out to homeowners associations and neighborhood businesses and churches.
And he made sure he hired compassionate teachers. He could teach a teacher to teach, he always said, but he couldn’t teach them to have heart.
Over time, test scores, attendance, and parental involvement started to climb. From 2000 until Allen’s retirement in 2011, Lackland City was rated either Recognized or Exemplary by the Texas Education Agency.
During Allen’s tenure, Lackland City earned the distinction of being a “90-90-90 school,” meaning 90 percent of students were minorities, 90 percent of students were classified as economically disadvantaged, and passing rates on standardized tests were 90 percent or higher.
In May 2012, a year after Allen retired, the Northside ISD Board of Trustees voted to rename Lackland City Elementary after the man who spent 25 years transforming it from one of the lowest-performing schools in the District to one of the highest.
Allen and his wife Lupita, also a retired NISD teacher, enjoy reading, gardening, and spending time with their four children and four grandchildren. Allen passed away on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017