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Willett Elementary Set to Break Ground; Branch Named Principal for Fall 2022

Forney ISD will hold a groundbreaking ceremony on Friday, April 16, 2021 for Don R. Willett Elementary. The new campus is located in the Gateway Parks community.

“We are excited to break ground on Willett Elementary to open in Fall 2022, named after one of our distinguished alumni, and to name Laurie Branch as the first principal,” Forney ISD Superintendent Dr. Justin Terry said. 

Branch Branch has been with Forney ISD as principal of Henderson Elementary for the last five years.  During her time at Henderson, the campus has received several distinctions from Texas Education Agency (TEA) for math, academic growth and closing the performance gap. During her 17-year educational career, she has also served as an elementary teacher and assistant principal.

“I have loved my time at Henderson and the staff, students and families I get to work with every day,” Branch said. “I’m excited to open Willett Elementary, and it’s a huge blessing that it’s right down the road from Henderson. I get to keep those relationships and build new ones with more of my Forney Family.”

Branch will continue as principal of Henderson for the 2021-2022 school year, and begin as principal of Willett when it opens in Fall 2022. She and her husband have three children, twin boys currently in Kindergarten and a daughter who will be starting with Forney ISD next year.

Kristy Mach, currently the assistant principal for Henderson Elementary, has been named as principal of Henderson starting in fall 2022.

“Henderson is in great hands with Kristy taking over in the fall of 2022,” Branch said.  “I am excited she will continue the tradition of excellence at Henderson, and I know it will continue to grow under her leadership.”

Mach Mach began her career as an elementary teacher in Forney ISD in 2009, teaching both kindergarten and 3rd grade.  The last five years she has served as an assistant principal at Warren Middle School and now Henderson Elementary.  A graduate of Forney High, she and her husband have twin girls currently attending 1st grade and a son who will be starting Forney ISD in the near future.

“Laurie has built an incredible campus culture, and I was excited to get to join the Henderson team this year as the assistant principal,” Mach said.  “To continue to learn alongside her and then lead as principal in fall 2022 is an incredible honor.  I am excited to continue building relationships with my Hawk family.”

Willett Elementary is named after Forney ISD alumnus and U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit Judge Don R. Willett. 

Judge Don R. Willett graduated from Forney High School as salutatorian in 1984 and is a member of the Forney Hall of Honor. Raised in Talty by a heroic widowed mom who never finished high school, Judge Willett is his family’s first college graduate, earning a triple-major BBA from Baylor University and then three degrees from Duke University: JD with honors, AM in Political Science, and LLM in Judicial Studies.

Before joining the federal judiciary, he spent 12 years as a Justice on the Supreme Court of Texas. In his pre-judge career, Judge Willett served as legal counsel to a Texas Attorney General, a Texas Governor, a U.S. Attorney General, and the President of the United States.

Judge Willett and his wife, Tiffany, who also worked in the White House and before that in the Texas Senate, live in Austin with their three children: Jacob, Shane-David, and Genevieve.

Willett Elementary School