Humble ISD principal prepares for deployment to Qatar in September
In a few months, Woodcreek Middle School principal Bryan Applegate will be heading to the Middle East, where he has been called to active duty.
Applegate has been in the U.S. Army Reserves for 22 years and is currently a Major. He serves as a preventive medicine officer.
“I essentially do medical investigations,” Applegate said. “It’s totally different than what I do here on the civilian side, but it’s a lot of fun. It’s pretty interesting. I get an opportunity to go in and help ensure that our troops over there are taken care of; in the right environments. So, I’ll do health inspections, making sure they’re in the right environments, and when they’re in austere environments, that they’re doing the right things to make sure they’re staying healthy.”
He has been deployed state-side once in the past, but this will be his first deployment overseas. His home base will be in Qatar, he said, which is a small peninsula country next to Saudi Arabia.
Applegate just completed his first year as principal at Woodcreek Middle School in Humble ISD. During his time in this role, he developed a strong relationship with students, staff and the community — something he intends to continue throughout his deployment which is scheduled to last from September 2018 to July 2019.
“Humble ISD has been incredibly gracious,” Applegate said. “They plan to reinstate me as principal as soon as I return. We want to make sure we’re providing some consistency for the community; making sure that I stay close to that community, stay close to the kids, the teachers. We’ve already started some great momentum this first year of me being principal here and we want to continue that.”
To the knowledge of Humble ISD assistant superintendent of middle schools, Melissa Hayhurst, Applegate is the first Humble ISD principal to be deployed to active duty service. Hayhurst is sad to see him go, but commends him for serving his country.
“He’s just a really great leader and great leaders do what is necessary and what they’re called upon to do, but it is a struggle,” Hayhurst said. “I respect and value what he’s doing. What he’s doing, not just anybody can do. He’s got special skills that the military needs right now.”
Applegate’s deployment has sparked the interest of his students. One of their frequently asked questions is whether it will be safe for him while serving on active duty.
“I’m going to be OK,” Applegate said. “I’m going to be in a pretty good environment, so I don’t think they need to worry.”
Another popular question that students ask is whether they’ll get to talk to him over the course of his deployment. Applegate assures his students that he’ll be keeping in touch.
“Absolutely,” Applegate said. “We’ll do snail mail for sure; some electronic mail; I can directly FaceTime or do WhatsApp so that they can see me and I can talk to them. We’ll try to connect with different modes of media, just whatever works depending on where I’m at and what I’m doing at the time.”
Hayhurst sees the potential for teachable moments in Applegate’s deployment and multiple schools in the district may end up utilizing this educational opportunity.
“I’ve already had an elementary school reach out to me and want to try to find a way for students to write him letters because if you think about it, it’s a great learning opportunity,” Hayhurst said. “They can practice their writing skills and they can learn some geography and history and all sorts of things. I look for Woodcreek Middle School to do some of those things as well.”
On top of staying connected with students during his deployment, Applegate said students can look forward to some additional plans he has up his sleeve.
“We’ve got a few surprises planned for them already,” Applegate said.
An interim principal of Woodcreek Middle School will be named for the 2018-2019 school year. Once the interim is determined, they will work together with Applegate and Hayhurst to ensure a smooth transition.
“We’ll need to be three minds that think alike to make sure the interim will be able to keep the momentum moving forward and make sure that we’re doing the right thing for our kids and our community,” Applegate said.
Hayhurst said that ideally she’d like to be able to recommend a candidate for interim principal to human resources by the Aug. 14 school board meeting so that the interim can work on campus with Applegate until his deployment.
“I want it to truly be as seamless a handover as we can possibly make it,” Hayhurst said.
Some qualities she wants candidates to display include an understanding of the age group’s general characteristics, the ability to continue implementing the structures and systems currently in place at Woodcreek and a propensity for community engagement.