Prior to becoming the principal of Ballinger Junior High this year, Leslie Griffis was a Special Programs teacher in Shallowater, Texas, a small but growing community of about 2,500 people 12-miles northwest of Lubbock. Her and her husband, Will Griffis, have 3 children, Chase who is 6 years old, Gaines who is 7 years old and a foster son, Jonathan, who is 19 years old and attending college at West Texas A&M.

 Will Griffis has deep family ties to the area and graduated from San Angelo’s Central High School in 1995. His father is San Angelo attorney and respected philanthropist Don Griffis. Will is a lawyer as well and will be opening a branch of his law firm in San Angelo.

 Leslie was a pre-law major graduated from Texas Tech in 2005 with a degree in political science. But the field of law didn’t hold her true calling, “During my senior year in college I worked as a substitute teacher and fell in love with teaching.” Griffis eventually earned a Masters in Educatoin degree from Angelo State University.

 One aspect Griffis is looking forward to in Ballinger is the class sizes, “Shallowater is unique. We had about 80 students in a classroom a few years ago and now it’s grown to a large 3-A school with about 150 students in the class. I’m from a small town and was looking for a small town. Then Will’s law firm asked him to open an office in San Angelo. We looked for a small town close to San Angelo to live in because we didn’t want to live in another bedroom community. Ballinger is a true community of good people. I was raised on the plains but this is coming home for Will.”

 The Griffis’ were also looking to move to a town with potential, “We wanted to live in a growing community and Ballinger is a growing community. It’s hard to find a small town that is thriving the way Ballinger is. We’ve already bought a home here and are closing on it next month.”

 Griffis has been working to bring new and exciting aspects to attending junior high school in Ballinger. She has a lot of energy and some firm goals, “We want to change the atmosphere, we are all one team, the staff and the students. We all work together.” The school year will kick off with a red carpet walk at the junior high, “The staff will be wearing their favorite team gear and we’ll greet the students as they arrive.”

 There are other programs that she’s looking forward to starting, “We’ve decreased our class size in core subjects. We’re focusing on instructional strategies and starting a character-strong program that teaches character and resiliency. We want to teach the kids to be resilient from a young age, we want them to know that this isn’t just a place that they spend 8 hours at. Everyone here is positive and we’re on the brink of some great changes. The staff is focused and ready to take on the challenges.”

 A week before the school year began, the office at the junior high was abuzz with activity and energy. Griffis said that it’s a great time, “You can feel the excitement. The atmosphere here is great and the community supports the school and that is great.”

 Griffis was out there on Monday, August 19th, along with her teachers, to greet the students and have a red carpet walk.