It has only been two weeks since Philip Preddy returned to The Acreage to serve as principal at Western Pines Middle School, but he already feels at home, walking the hallways and seeing familiar faces.
“I almost feel like I’m a movie star, walking down the hall with all the kids I know,” said Preddy, who previously served 10 years as assistant principal at nearby Golden Grove Elementary School. “It’s such a great feeling to already have so many connections with so many students and their families.”
Preddy has received an outpouring of messages, either through social media or e-mail, welcoming him back to the community after his two years as principal at Lake Park Elementary School.
The School District of Palm Beach County announced that Preddy was named principal at Western Pines on Wednesday, April 20.
Before his time at Lake Park, Preddy spent a decade as assistant principal at Golden Grove, from 2010 to 2020. Previously, Preddy spent six years at Grassy Waters Elementary School as a fourth-grade teacher and the afterschool director.
“I chose to go to a middle school because middle schools are some of the most transitional times in a child’s life, and if I can make a difference in middle school and set them up for success in high school, then they’re set up for success even further on,” Preddy said. “To take it to the next level, at the middle school level, is my honor to be able to be here for these kids at such a transformational time in their lives.”
When Preddy left Golden Grove, students waved and gave him high-fives. Now, when they saw him again at Western Pines, those high-fives and hellos returned.
In Preddy’s e-mail signature, he has a quote from motivational speaker Josh Shipp: “Every child is one caring adult away from being a success story.”
That idea is one of his guiding principles.
“If a student or a child is not connected to at least one or two adults as they grow, then their chances of a productive adolescence are much lower,” Preddy said. “Meaning, they have to have that connection with somebody to motivate them, to cheerlead for them, to advocate for them.”
Preddy explained that it’s not the same for students who do have that connection versus those who don’t — and not all students have that connection to an adult who can guide them.
“It’s not to replace the parent, it’s to be in addition to the parent, and advocate for all the kids in my care,” he said.
Once a student even said to Preddy, “I told my friend, if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be in the same place that I’m in now.”
In addition to providing a place where students feel nurtured and supported as they learn, Preddy is focused on increasing school safety, and excited to get back to school traditions and welcoming parents back on campus.
“Safety is my No. 1 priority, and I plan to continue the same high expectations for safety at Western Pines,” he said.
Preddy is excited to take the relationships he cultivated at Golden Grove, and help prepare the students, now at Western Pines, for their upcoming years at Seminole Ridge High School, where former Western Pines Principal Robert Hatcher is now serving as principal.
Hatcher spent 14 years at the helm of Western Pines — and he left behind big shoes to fill.
“I’m confident that I can continue some of the great things Mr. Hatcher has implemented at Western Pines and take the school to a higher level — roar to new heights,” Preddy said, noting that he’s excited to further build up the school’s social media presence.
Offline, Preddy and his family are settling back into the area with ease. In the fall, Armelis Preddy, his wife of 13 years, will be teaching kindergarten at Royal Palm Beach Elementary School, and sons Zachary and Alexander are attending Royal Palm Beach Elementary School. Next school year, Zachary will attend Western Pines, and the year after, Alexander will join him.
Meanwhile, it’s a busy time of year at Western Pines as the school year begins to wind down. On Thursday, May 12, there will be the Academy Open House for students attending academies at Western Pines next year. Also on May 12 is a band concert at 6:30 p.m. for students, families and friends. Award nights will follow on May 17 (sixth grade), May 18 (seventh grade) and May 19 (eighth grade), and the eighth-grade dance will be on May 20.
Over the summer, Preddy suggests students pay attention to their summer reading assignments and the school’s other summer readiness expectations, so they’re prepared to kick off in the fall.
“I’m really excited to be back in the community, and to lead the faculty, staff and students at Western Pines,” he said.