As Garden Oaks Montessori Magnet (GOMM) principal Lindsey Pollock noted in a recent letter to her school community announcing her retirement from Houston ISD, when she arrived at the school in the summer of 2008, it was a traditional campus with a small Montessori program. There were 405 students and Garden Oaks was on a list for possible closure.
As Pollock is leaving to work at Houston non-profit TEACH (To Educate All Children), the situation is much changed.
“Today we have 819 students enrolled and project that we will be fully enrolled again fall of 2021,” Pollock said.
During her 13-year tenure, GOMM added an Environmental Science emphasis, improved security at the campus and installed the fence around the school playground, which is a City of Houston Spark Park.
When HISD announced that Garden Oaks would become an all-Montessori campus, Pollock worked to secure a $3 million Magnet Schools Assistance Program grant to transform the school. They also partnered with the National Tennis Association to install the Quick Start Tennis Court.
Pollock was at the forefront in planning before and after the school received a taxpayer-funded $30 million bond in 2012 to add 65,000 square feet and completely renovate all remaining existing spaces. The construction started in 2016 and wrapped up in 2019.
In 2013, Pollock and the school were recognized by the Human Rights Campaign with a leadership award for work implementing "Welcoming Schools" to embrace LGBTQ families and students.
“Our work campus-wide became a national exemplar for social justice,” Pollock said.
Of all the school’s successes, Pollock said right at the top is the fact GOMM was the first Montessori-accredited public school in Texas.
“All of these accomplishments represent the teamwork and dedication of the staff and parents at Garden Oaks and the support I have received to accomplish these milestones,” she said. “Garden Oaks is filled with supremely talented people with whom I have had the honor to work alongside. I am eternally grateful for this chapter in my life and look forward to the next adventure.”
Pollock has been an HISD employee for 20 years and spent 25 years in public education. Before coming to GOMM, she was an assistant principal at Park Place Elementary. She also worked as a first-grade teacher in HISD.
In her new role, Pollock said she would continue to support public educators in HISD. Her last day at the school will be the end of May.
The end is bittersweet for the longtime educator.
“I will miss our students, families, teachers, staff and our Garden Oaks community,” she said. “I will miss our beautiful gardens and the sound of children laughing and playing and recess and visiting classrooms throughout the day. I'll miss the chickens crowing outside my office window and working alongside our families on workdays.”
Pollock said she has made recommendations about what she thinks are important qualities in the next principal. A search is underway.
“I trust that HISD is working with our campus' selection committee to find the next principal,” she said.