Posted on 02/29/2024

Streamers and cheer filled the hallways as Pasadena Independent School District (ISD) Superintendent Dr. DeeAnn Powell and other district administrators surprised Morris middle school and J. Frank Dobie High School with the announcement of their 2024 Elementary and Secondary Principals of the Year. 

Pasadena ISD selected Allison Lewallen of Morris Middle School and Dr. Jorly Thomas of J. Frank Dobie high school as the 2024 Elementary and Secondary Principal of the Year.

This honor reflects the impact these two leaders have made on their students, staff and community. Their dedication and commitment to maintaining high standards of education has led to strong ratings, state recognition and positive learning outcomes. 

With Lewallen’s leadership, Morris Middle School became an A rated school under the state’s accountability system, has been named a “Schools to Watch” campus, won the CREST Award for their superb counseling program and was designated as a Model Professional Learning Community School. 


Lewallen pictured with Morris M.S. Students


“Lewallen exhibits a strong sense of responsibility in fulfilling her duties as a principal. She consistently demonstrates genuine care for her staff's well-being, fostering a positive and supportive work environment, and her leadership is characterized by empathy, understanding, and a proactive approach to addressing the needs and concerns of her school community,” said Alyta Harrell, Pasadena ISD associate superintendent.


In his short time as Dobie High School Principal, Thomas has displayed the characteristics of a strong leader by offering support for all of those around him through the capacity of coaching, mentoring and opportunities for faculty and students. He is known to take extra time to meet with his staff individually to hear their concerns and gives feedback on growth. Thomas has upheld Dobie’s culture of excellence and most recently received the Texas CREST Award for their outstanding counseling program. Additionally, Thomas completed his Doctor of Education in 2023.


Thomas pictured with Associate Superintendent, Alyta Harrel, Deputy Superintendent Toni Lopez, Superintendent Dr. DeeAnn Powell and Deputy Superintendent Dr. Troy McCarley  


“Dr. Jorly Thomas has a gift for inspiring individuals and helping them find their strengths to grow professionally. He is in tune with his students and has a true open-minded spirit about him. He is very strategic and approaches decision making by asking the right questions, creating a plan of action, and looking at the positive impact any initiative will have on the students they serve,”continued Harrell.


Nominations for the annual recognition are submitted every January from Principals, District Levels Executive Directors, Directors, Specialists, Managers, Coordinators and the Superintendent's Cabinet members. 

Later, a committee of principals who were previous honorees meet to make a final selection for the Elementary and Secondary Principals of the Year.


Lewallen and Thomas will go on to represent Pasadena ISD in the Region 4 Principal of the Year competition by the Texas Association of Secondary School Principals later this spring.

More on the 2024 Principals of the Year:

Allison Lewallen

Elementary Principal of the Year

Morris Middle School

Allison Lewallen serves as the principal of Morris Middle School in the Pasadena Independent School District in Houston, Texas. Mrs. Lewallen brings a wealth of experience to her leadership position as she has spent her career working with at-risk students as a high school teacher, instructional specialist, assistant principal, and now principal. Allison believes in the power of a growth mindset, innovative thinking, and focusing on growth as a measure for success. Throughout her career she has worked on developing this set of beliefs in her school community. The consistent focus on this vision, along with refinement of systematic processes focused on school growth, strengthened her campus teams, and ensured equitable learner outcomes for all students.

During her tenure at Morris Middle School, Allison has been instrumental in fostering a collaborative environment that strongly emphasizes every student's holistic development and every staff member’s unique value. Under her leadership Morris Middle School has been recognized as a Model Professional Learning Community (PLC) at Work® Campus through innovative scheduling, a focus on professional development, and the establishment of a cohesive staff.

Believing that character-building is an ongoing process rather than a final destination, Allison actively promotes virtues among her students through engaging community building activities, initiatives to boost school spirit, and encouraging a sense of ownership and belonging within the school community. Her campus efforts around teaching students social and emotional skills, have created a sense of belonging, and led to a continuous increase in positive behavior and provided student voice in various clubs and activities.

Dr. Jorly Thomas

Secondary Principal of the Year
J. Frank Dobie High School

Drawing on 25 years of education expertise, Dr. Jorly Thomas challenges the notion that talent is fixed. Instead, he emphasizes deliberate practice, feedback, and continuous learning to unlock one's full potential. By nurturing curiosity and character skills, he positively impacts students' lives. Dr. Thomas's educational journey began as a history teacher at North Shore High School in 1998. He later transitioned to a counselor at Spring ISD, where he worked with teenage fathers. His career progressed to Lake Olympia Middle School in Fort Bend ISD, followed by roles as assistant principal at Beverly Hills Intermediate and J. Frank Dobie High School before assuming the principalship of Fred Roberts Middle School. Gifted the opportunity to build the school from the ground up, he established a foundation of trust, courage, and empathy, shaping the school's culture and staff recruitment.

Guided by Dr. Thomas, Roberts Middle School earned recognition as a 2020 Texas Schools to Watch Campus for its academic achievements and improvement efforts. Roberts Middle School has earned several academic distinctions in student progress and growth under his guidance. His mentorship has propelled six of his admin team members into principal and district leadership positions within Pasadena ISD. 

Returning to Dobie High School as principal, Dr. Thomas continues championing excellence in Pasadena ISD. In addition to his educational leadership, he completed his Doctor of Education in 2023. As a staunch advocate for public education, he participated in the Raise Your Hand Principals Advocacy Fellowship to advocate for Texas public schools. Dr. Thomas is committed to fostering a compassionate and nurturing environment in every school setting.

Proudly, Mr. Thomas writes a lesson of leadership, student behavior, or self-improvement every weekend, a practice he has maintained for the last ten years. His passion lies in creating a culture of continuous learning and improvement.