NISD roots go back more than a century

November 4, 2011

Northside ISD was officially formed in 1949, but the history of the school district goes back much further.

A new permanent exhibit at the NISD Museum pays homage to the 12 pioneer schools that came together more than 60 years ago to create Northside Independent School District.

Pictures of all 12 schools and a map showing their location now have a place of honor at the museum, located in the former Leon Valley School at the corner of Grissom and Bandera roads. In the center is a flat-screen television that plays oral histories of former students and staff.

The display was designed by Marmon Mok, installed by Art-Trig of America and funded by grants from the Texas Historical Commission and the Northside Education Foundation. It was unveiled last week and is open to the public.

"It's very important to know how we began," said Dr. Caroline Wernli, President of the NISD School Museum Association and a former teacher, counselor and administrator with NISD. "Sometimes we forget our educational program didn't begin in 1949. It goes back to the late 1800s when rural schools started."

The 12 pioneer schools that joined together to create Northside ISD include:

  • Clifton School
  • Culebra School
  • Evers School
  • Helotes School
  • Hoffman School
  • Leon Springs School
  • Leon Valley School
  • Locke Hill School
  • Lockhart School
  • Los Reyes School
  • Mackey School
  • West San Antonio Heights School

Long before Northside ISD was the fourth largest school district in Texas with enrollment pushing 100,000, students were educated in small, rural schools scattered throughout northwest Bexar County.

Geraldine Steubing Scarborough attended Leon Valley School and remembers that there were two grades in each classroom. The school only went through the 10th grade, so Scarborough had to attend Jefferson High School in San Antonio ISD her junior year. By her senior year, though, Northside High School (now Marshall High School) had opened.

In 1951, she was one of 10 students who comprised Northside's first graduating class.

"We've come a long way since then," Scarborough said.

She said she recently visited the new Pioneer Schools exhibit and was thrilled, especially because her family connections to Northside run so deep. Her grandfather, Henry Steubing, is an NISD namesake, and her father, Emanuel Steubing, once served on the Board of Trustees. Her grandson currently attends Brandeis High School.

"When you get older you appreciate how important it is to restore what we have," Scarborough said. "If it weren't for all these wonderful people who are so dedicated and the volunteers, it wouldn't be possible."

At the opening of the Pioneer Schools exhibit last week, the NISD Museum also celebrated a grant from Heritage Preservation. The $5,000 grant will pay for an expert to conduct a conservation assessment of the museum's collection and operations.

The assessment will be conducted at the end of November and will help the museum plan for the future, Wernli said.

Superintendent John Folks said it's rare in Texas to have such a large corps of volunteers dedicated to preserving the history of a school district.

"I'm so appreciative of their efforts because future generations will always know where we came from," he said. "While the world they live in might be very different from the world we know now, I hope they still are driven by a desire for quality education and still enjoy the incredible sense of community that I feel throughout Northside ISD every day."

For more information about the Pioneer Schools exhibit or the NISD Museum Association, please call the NISD Partnerships Office at (210) 297-8599.

NISD School Museum Association dedicates Pioneer Schools Wall

Members of the NISD School Museum Association recently celebrated the opening of the Pioneer Schools exhibit. From left are Roland Pena, Grace Nixon, Pat Blattman, Museum Association President Caroline Wernli, Museum Treasurer DuWayne Headrick, Phyllis McMillan, and Janie Madla.