PLANNING THE FOURTH LEON SPRINGS SCHOOL BUILDING
In the 1980s, the nearest public school to Leon Springs was Locke Hill Elementary on DeZavala Road. Locke Hill Elementary School was the largest school in Northside Independent School District (NISD) with 1,122 students. It was occupying twelve portables in addition to its main buildings. The fourth Leon Springs School building would be located at 23881 IH 10 West, same location as the third Leon Springs School building that was being used for storage by NISD. The new school would relieve Locke Hill by serving the area north of 1604, out IH 10-West. Planning the new building began in 1987.
The architectural group selected to draw the plans and supervise the construction was the well-known firm Marmon, Barclay, Souter, Foster, and Hays. Its founder, Harvey Marmon, had designed other schools for NISD as well as designing the Alamo Dome. Marmon’s designer for this new building was Bill Reeves. It was a challenge! Most other elementary schools had 10 acres of land but this new one had only five acres so it had to be a two storied school, Northside District’s first one.
The reason it was a small plot of land went back to the original settler, Max Aue. In the late 1880s he gave an acre of land on the east side of his home for the first Leon Springs School and soon after gave land on the west side of his home to be a railroad turnaround for the Aransas Pass Railroad (later known as the Southern Pacific RR). The deed was written clearly that when or if the railroad no longer needed the five acres of land, they could give it back to the family or donate it for a public use, but they COULD NOT sell it! They deeded the land in 1932 to the Bexar County School District (later NISD). The School District built a three-room rock school there, and used it for many years then the District closed it. The District likewise could not sell the land but had to use it for a functional school or give it back to the original owners, the Aues. By now, the Leon Springs area had grown, and needed an operational school.
The architect met the challenge of limited land and the challenge to integrate the structure into historic Leon Springs and its hill country surroundings. It is built with similar stone and concrete masonry, and has a galvanized steal roof, a forty-foot tower, and gable roofs over entry ways. Two conical areas of roof terminate the gables that hang over two large bay windows. The entrance is enhanced with a unique patchwork quilt effect of red, white and blue floor tiles. The gym features exposed steel roof trusses while the cafeteria features wood trusses and vaulted wood plank ceiling. The unique feature is that the building sits on the land so as to spare almost all the trees!
Incore, Inc. built the 65,000 square foot school, costing $4.5 million dollars. It has 26 classrooms. The regular classrooms all have large windows along one side. Then the doors open into the main corridors. Rooms for computers, music, and art were built to meet specific needs. This outstanding building and its architect won many awards in the following years.
OPENING THE NEW SCHOOL AND ITS FIRST YEAR
Due to heavy rains during the spring of 1991, the school construction ran behind schedule and the construction was not completed until December. Yet, all were determined to open the school on schedule despite the continued construction work. Here is a first hand account from Principal Allen.
“Copies of the blueprints were given to me and I poured over them. I was taken to the site where the school was being constructed. It was unbelievable that it would be ready in five months. The construction was far behind due to the many rains that had occurred in the fall. However, I was assured everything would be ready by our opening day.
I had many things to do:
*Meet with parents who would have students enrolled at the new school
*Form a PTA: co-write the bylaws
*Take new registrations from students not presently in NISD schools; sell the idea of the year round school program to coexist with the traditional calendar
*Introduce myself to the staff and parents at Locke Hill
*Introduce myself to the students who would be Leon Springs pupils
*Vote on a mascot and school colors
*Meet with many NISD department heads who would work with me on opening a new school
*Order office furniture
*Interview staff (from within NISD and outside the district) who wanted to work at Leon Springs
*Prepare a handbook for staff and for parents
*Meet with the selected staff to write school philosophy and goals
*With input from staff, develop in-service plans for first year.”
By spring of 1991, the major installations were being done--electrical, plumbing, water system, sewage system, sprinkler system, and elevator. Earl Johnson, head custodian for the new school, came on the scene. He was there to observe and learn all the details to each system, how to activate, or deactivate, or reactivate each as necessary. He learned the routine maintenance necessary for each. He continued full time at Locke Hill Elementary with permission to go out to Leon Springs for the installations. Unique to his job was that no other NISD school had it own water system, and that no other school had an elevator system.
The hub to all the action in opening the school was a small room (later used by the reading specialist) with one desk, chairs, and one telephone serving two secretaries, and the principal. Each person worked from her own little briefcase or basket. The attendance secretary, Shirley Hill, was frequently at the Central Office of the District to use their computer as she registered each child with his/her necessary data. There was much paper work to be done as required by the state. This central staff, Principal Allen, Shirley Hill, and Lyn Schloemer, usually arrived very early those pre-school days and stayed very late, frequently taking home a lot of work. Most of each day went to answering the phone, greeting all the new students and their parents, and delivering messages all over the grounds and buildings (no cell phones then). They also set up the tiny room across the hall (later the psychologist’s room) to be the clinic with one cot, and a small refrigerator, jugs of drinking water, coffee pot, and the copier. One evening, about 10 p.m., as this group prepared to leave, the phone rang. A very tired secretary picked up her shoe, raised it to her ear, and talked into it saying, “ Hello, how may I help you?” The roar of laughter relieved some of the tiredness.
The school librarian, Joe Beth Nye, was ordering audiovisuals with the District sending out the core library books. Designing the floor plan for the shelves was an intricate process with the key guideline that there be ‘sight lines’ allowing all students using the library to be visible to the staff. She planned the story telling area, the research/reference book area, and the computer area. The furnishings arrived by the start of school. Even the checkout counter was installed, only to discover that it belonged to Stinson Middle School that was opening in August also. Stinson now had the elementary student counter, a low one, while Leon Springs had the higher middle school counter.
“The first day of school was not what I had envisioned many months before,” said Ms. Allen. “The front of the school looked like a construction nightmare but school would begin that day. We would have no front door; it would be a large piece of plywood and we would not use it as an entry for several months. We would have no gym, no office, no cafeteria, no clinic, no playground; many classrooms were unfinished so teachers set up their classes in other rooms that were finished and knew it was just temporary. Still, it was exciting as we made-do and the parents seemed to go along with the upset, knowing that eventually we would have a beautiful school! Textbooks were delivered to the classrooms with the help of my husband and two friends pulling the books in a small red wagon.” Through all this activity, Ms. Allen was sporting a broken arm!
She continues, “There were wires hanging down and construction workers walking around on stilt-like legs. You could hear the sounds of hammers, staplers, and jackhammers in the background while teachers taught their excited students. It worked, and we all developed a ‘can do’ spirit.”
The school did open on schedule with 480 students and 59 staff members (Leon Spring Elementary Staff Roster 1991-1992). Classes began. Art teacher, Teddi Boyd, had a completed room but since it was not carpeted, it was used as one of the lunchroom areas. The cafeteria dining area was not yet complete. Ms. Boyd went to the classrooms with her ‘Art on a Cart’ to present her lessons. The District allotted $1.50 per student for her budget. Then PTA supplemented this with $1,000 each year. Ms. Boyd was serving two schools, spending three days at Leon Springs and three days at Helotes Elementary.
Computer classes also were conducted from a cart taken to each classroom by the two technicians, Linda Alexander and Marcia Merritt. The two instructors had one computer. Their lessons focused on the basics of the computer and stressed the computer vocabulary. The instructors taught the parts of a computer and taught keyboarding using paper keyboards. Then the students played computer vocabulary games.
The Music room was just three weeks away from ready. Music lessons were given in the classrooms for these weeks. Music teacher, Brad Hughes, commented, “ From being housed in portable buildings at the other schools to coming to Leon Springs School with the most fully equipped music room in the whole district was quite an event!” Within a few days, he was requested to write a school song, which he did promptly.
Physical Education classes, led by Lorraine Divila-McVey and assistant Susan Zaveleta, started without the facility being available. Ms. McVey said, “The classes met in the back faculty parking lot, in a section petitioned off with big orange cones. We taught a Jump Rope Unit until the gym was finished in late October. No other unit was considered safe to do in a parking lot! There was only one tree and the kids were quite smelly when they returned to the classrooms. They learned everything from single rope jumping, trick jumps, double jumping, long ropes, and double dutch. At the end of the unit, Leon Springs School had some very fit students and very hot teachers! But we survived and were the envy of all the other Physical Education teachers in the district because of our beautiful new facility with all the modern updates.”
Classes for special needs children were held in two upstairs rooms, across the hall from each other. One served as the Content Mastery Center (CMC) and one was the Level 4 program (those youngsters requiring full time assistance). The disseminator of the two programs was Annette Van Slambrouck. She supervised the two instructional assistants in the Level 4 program and the teacher and two assistants in the CMC program. Speech program was implemented by speech therapist (also called speech pathologist) Kathy Uvodic. She served two schools, spending 3 days at Leon Springs and two days at the smaller school in Helotes.
The counselor, Ms. Pat Karnes, had to roam also, using a cart to take supplies and lesson plans to each room. Her office, though finished, was needed for storage. This did not stop her from preparing a Kinder Mom’s coffee on the first morning of school. Those moms separating from their babies for the first time were invited to join Ms. Karnes for some coffee, some comfort, and some tissues.
The Gifted and Talented program, directed by Sandra Vinson had two main sections. Promise was the program serving the third through fifth graders, and PEP was the program for the first and second graders.
As mentioned above, lunches could not be served in the cafeteria. The dining section was not complete. The kitchen area was complete and operational. The cafeteria staff, led by Food Service Manager Ana Malacara, was cooking the meals from day one. Serving it was the problem. “A walkie-talkie or cell phones would have been great that first month of school,” reported the manager who spent her time running back and forth taking the food from the kitchen to the serving carts out in the hallways by the elevators. Students came to the carts with their class and picked up their trays of food. There were no extra cookies or drinks to buy. But the cafeteria workers stayed friendly and cheerful as they took the complaints about no extras. They had been well trained by Ms. Malacara that “ These students are our CUSTOMERS; treat them well!” Some classes returned to their classroom to eat; some ate in the art room.
The Central Office was one of the last areas to be completed. With no intercom system and no teacher boxes, the office staff spent most of these early weeks taking messages to people, collecting attendance slips, answering the one phone, and cheerily greeting visitors, parents, and workers. Marcia Merritt had joined the office staff in October. She on her own began a photo scrapbook of all the big events, quietly taking her camera everywhere and getting the pictures. She did this every school year for the next seven years. (These scrapbooks are in the school library, reference section.) The secretaries also filled in for the nurse, Cheryl Tanneberger, R.N., on the days she was at her other school. By the end of October, the central office was complete, housing the administrators, secretaries, and nurse.
The very last section of the building to become fully functional was the Library. By the first day of school all the furnishings were in place. The difficult part began. The core book supply, mainly fiction, had come from the District. Ms. Nye, her assistant, Linda Straube, and some part-time employees then had to label, index, stamp, tape on covers, then shelve the books. There was no computer until mid November. The books and other materials then had to be entered with their data, and all the students and staff had to be entered. Not until Thanksgiving could items be checked out.
The entrance way and vestibule also were decorated during the early months. A large quilt was made depicting the history of the old Leon Spring schools and the community. The students had designed squares for the quilt. Each class then selected one. The parents, PTA members, and volunteers made those squares and made the which still hangs in the entryway. The little nook under the front steps was made into a little schoolroom depicting a girl student, (a large cloth doll), named Leona Springsley, sitting at an old fashioned desk donated by a student’s family. Sandra Vinson, GT teacher, made the cloth doll along with several changes of clothing. On the wall was an old school dedication plaque from 1932. The school colors were chosen--navy blue and white. The school emblem would be the longhorn cow.
Finally, by December, all construction was completed. To quote fifth grade teacher, Norma Morris, “Hammer, drills, saws, boards falling, men’s voices calling directives --such a cacophony of sound…Once the hammers ceased their rhythmic drumming, the drills silenced their shrill singing and the saws quit their angry humming, the Leon Springs Dream Team continued forth…” Other staff members have recorded their fond memories of these first months also. (See the 1990's Memories Section).
DEDICATION--SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 1992
Many committees, composed of staff from Leon Springs and Central Office, PTA members, and parents planned and implemented the dedication. Much time was given to contacting alumni and staff of the earlier Leon Spring School. A session was set for them on Jan.18, l992, to receive their memories and other contributions and make a video of them presenting their materials. (That video is in the school library and may be viewed there.) The cover for the Dedication program was drawn by the art teacher, Ms.Boyd. A special shuttle service from the mall on the west side of IH 10-West to the school was provided.
Sunday, February 2,1992, at 2 p.m. in the cafeteria, the Dedication began. Attending were NISD Superintendent Jack Jordon, members of the Board of Trustees, former alumni and former staff, many Central Office staff, media persons, the students with their parents, the Leon Springs staff and people from the community businesses and local residents. The program, with the theme “The Past, the Present, and the Future are Really One: They Are Today”, commenced with Posting the Colors by Clark High School Air Force JROTC, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the “Star Spangled Banner”. After the Invocation by Rev. Mr. Gene Horne, the Welcome was give by Mrs. Allen. Mr. Jordan’s Dedication Remarks were followed by a Tribute to the Past, Present and Future. The President of the Board, Ms. Virginia A. Meyers, gave the Official Dedication with responses by the Student Council President, Will Wright, and the PTA President, Ms. Cece Synder. The program closed with the song ‘Only You’ sung by the fourth graders as the fifth graders handed out long stemmed red roses to the pioneers/alumni of previous Leon Spring Schools. Then the school song was sung by the fifth graders. (The video of the Dedication service is in the school library.) A reception in the gym, included refreshments provide by five local restaurants, live music by the Ledbetters, and tours of the whole school.
FIRST YEAR PROGRAMS, ACTIVITIES, EVENTS
Many library activities, besides checkout, were started this first year. The Storybook Theatre came; a visiting author came; a book fair was held; the Birthday Book Club started, and the Texas Bluebonnet Award Reading Program began. The computer section of the library began also with a few used computers donated by parents and staff. Mr. and Ms. Allen arranged to have them installed. A parent was available to come keep them all functioning.
Each activity during this year was setting up a pattern, a tradition for following years. The school newspaper, the student council and the safety patrol were started. Special events were numerous, and became yearly events: the bike rodeo, field day, field trips for every grade level, Jump for Heart Event, the Just Say No Club, and the DARE program (a drug-free emphasis course led by a Police Officer). Other unique events were happening and became traditional. The December Gingerbread Houses project with third graders, already a tradition at Locke Hill School, was carried over to Leon Springs with help from parent Kit Meyers. The May breakfast to honor all the volunteers, mentors, and parent helpers (PALS) was started by the staff. Then there were those one time only events: The safety patrol breakfast with guest David Robinson, the Just Say No Club meeting with guest George Girvan, a visit by Captain KO from KABB TV, and a visit by Henry Puffy Taco.
Through this 1991-1992 school year, the role of the PTA was crucial. They made possible many school events such as the bike rodeo and field day, and helping with field trips. They supported many other goals and activities of the staff; they held a fundraiser for school needs and collected many donations for those children and families with special needs. One of their biggest projects was sponsoring the recycling trucks each month to collect paper, plastics, tin cans and aluminum cans. They began plans for a nature/garden. They gave monthly birthday luncheons to honor staff and other luncheons for staff at special times as Christmas and Teacher Appreciation Week. With a budget of about $45,000 and many, many man hours of labor, they worked to support all the school events, gave money and items to better equip classrooms and the special programs as Music and Art. Most of these activities became yearly ones.
The first school year closed with numerous events. The traditional fifth grade students had their graduation service and completed their school year in May. Then early June the all year students, those in the Alternate Calendar Education (ACE), entered their last six weeks of school. On the Fourth of July, they delighted the community with a parade down the road to the bank at the corner. Pupils, dressed in their red, white and blue attire, marched proudly to LOUD patriotic music provided by music teacher Mr. Hughes. You could hear it all along the two blocks. Slowly proceeding in line were various dignitaries, including Leona Springsley, riding in a car and waving at the crowds. Then came graduation for the ACE fifth graders closing the first school year for the fourth Leon Springs Elementary School.
1992-1993--THE YEAR OF AWARDS
In September, the architectural firm of Marmon and Mok and NISD received the top state award--the Caudill Award for Architectural Excellence in School Design. It was awarded by the Texas Association of School Administrators, the Texas Association of School Boards, and the Texas Society of Architects. The local chapter of the American Institute of Architects the next month gave the school an award of merit for its unique design by the Marmon and Mok architectural firm. The construction company, Incore Inc., won the Award for Outstanding Construction given by the State Association of General Contractors. Texas Governor, Ann Richards, presented the Energy Award to NISD for the design of Leon Springs School as the most energy efficient new school in Texas. Another award was from the San Antonio Chapter of the American Institute of Architects recognizing NISD and Leon Springs School for exemplary design in the use of limited size site.
The second year of operation hastened along. Most of the events recorded in the first year continued. New events were scheduled. During autumn, there were Pioneer and Longhorn Days. A performance was given by the Alamo City Heat Band presented by the Fire Department. Kids On The Block program was presented. In February, the kindergarten had its own Trail Ride. Ocean week was a major event through out the school. A new program called JUMP, Jump Upon Math Problems, was initiated by Principal Allen. It utilized all the specialists and classroom teachers to help work with small math groups for a thirty-minute session two times-a-week. Math scores did go up. Another new activity was the Student Publishing Center led by Reading Specialist, Neva Masters. Each student, sometime in the year, visited the Publishing Center. The child, with a volunteer helping, wrote and illustrated his/her story. The volunteer then made it into a spiral bound book for the student. The Librarian installed a reading and computer program called Accelerated Reader (AR program). Certain books appropriate to each grade level could be read by the student then he/she would take a computer test on it. The student earned points this way, and later he/she could shop at the AC store with those points. The scariest event this year happened in the gym when the ceiling fell! No one was hurt but it made a dent in the floor. The construction crew had to come out and replace all the ‘bread tie’ connectors that held metal pipes onto the ceiling. The P.E. classes had to meet outside for a few weeks until the problem was solved.
The traditional calendar and the all year calendar flowed along smoothly. The number of students in each program was about equally divided. When the other half of the student body was not there, the school environment seemed more relaxed, less rigidly ‘on time’ and quieter!
This was a remarkable year for the School. Due to the hard work of students and staff, Leon Springs Elementary received the Texas Recognized Successful School Award. The award was for outstanding scores on the statewide criterion called The Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS). It included evaluation on attendance, dropout rate, and other criteria. Only two other NISD schools, Knowlton and Health Careers High School, received it. No Exemplary Award was given in the San Antonio area.
The excitement and energy continued in high gear for all the traditional activities (as reviewed above). New events occurred. The “Backdraft Band” from the Fire Department performed. There was the Multicultural Family Night. The fifth grade, in addition to their field trip, had a special trip to the Symphony financed by private citizens. The staff enjoyed a special event--the “Grandbaby” Shower for the head custodian, Earl Johnson. New programs were begun. Reading specialist, Neva Masters conducted a spelling bee for third through fifth graders with the winners names placed on a special plaque, The National Academic Olympia Award Plaques were posted outside the Library. The Junior Achievement program began with business people leading classes through a basic economics program. They came into the classrooms one day each week for four weeks with hands on activities to teach the concepts. Leon Springs was the first NISD School to enter this joint effort with the Junior Achievement Organization.
These traditional events continued. Good Citizenship recognition was given by honoring these good student citizens with a special program at the end of each grading period. Some of the programs were mime shows, musicians, and puppet shows. The fifth grade Promise students and teacher Sandy Vinson each year visited another school for ‘Challenge Day’. This was like an intellectual marathon with students competing from many elementary schools. The art teacher, Ms. Boyd, each year sponsored the Longhorn Art Club for fourth and fifth graders. The club met once a week after school, and each year the group visited one of the city’s museums. One year Ms. Boyd entered some of her students’ work in an International Art Contest. Three students won! Their work was part of an exhibit shown around the world.
The traditional students in May had their graduation from the DARE program and the school graduation. The ACE program in July again held the Fourth of July Parade down the street to the bank, then their DARE and school graduation services came a few days later closing the year.
In November, the American School and University Publication featured Leon Springs School as its 1994 award winner for most outstanding building. The school likewise was outstanding for innovating new programs to meet special needs. Mrs. Allen began the peer mediation program with the goal to decrease the number of discipline problems and tough behavior. The mediators were two students from each fourth and fifth grade class who were trained in skills to guide the dissenting peers to resolve their conflicts successfully. Conflicts decreased.
The counselor was the main trainer for the youth mediators. Each year the counseling services grew as she met more students, staff, and parent needs. Her primary service was giving lessons to each classroom on a regular two -week basis. She provided guidance in a wide-range of mental health skills--as problem-solving, interpersonal relations, cooperation, character building, leadership skills, personal safety, communication skills, respect for self and others, and coping with loss. She conducted individual and group sessions to meet the needs.
Thanks to the successful book sale held yearly by the librarians, many extra events were possible. The Storybook Theatrical group from Schertz, Texas, came each fall. Some of the visiting authors through these years were Keith Baker, Steven Kellogg, Erick Kimmel, and Paul Epner. The Birthday Book Club party in May featured such guests as magicians, the story teller Kit Meyers, the group with Rescued Birds of Prey who brought some birds with them, the Snake Lady with her favorite snakes, and Toby Texas Tales by Mr. and Ms. Tucker and their dog.
The Student Council sponsored a drive to collect teddy bears during December. These were given then to the Police Department to give to children whom they served. Early February brought Western Day, and on Valentines’ Day the Sweet Adelines, a singing group of women, performed. The School’s own kinder teacher, Judy Gray, was one of the singers. In the spring the Spurs’ Coyote visited.
The fifth graders held a Sock Hop in May. This too was now a tradition. Then came the graduation of the Traditional fifth graders. The ACE program held its Independence Day parade with many guests participating. Superintendent Dr. Orci and several of the NISD Board members came. Al Rohde, Peter Newel, Mr. Heller, and Sheriff Ralph Lopez rode in the parade. Also in the procession were the PTA president, Vicki Lindel, the DARE Police officer, and Leona Springsley in her red, white and blue costume. The Bexar County Mounted Patrol rode along too. Often through the years, this unique parade was covered by the news media. The year closed with the ACE fifth grade graduation.
September brought great news. “Northside School Gets TEA’s Highest Rating” stated the San Antonio Express News. In October, the Sun reported “Leon Springs Elementary Rated at the Top”. Leon Springs School, based, on its performance on state tests and other criteria, had earned the Texas Exemplary School Award for the 1994-1995 school year. This was the highest academic award given by the state agency, the Texas Education Association (TEA). Leon Springs Elementary was the only NISD School to earn the award and one of only three schools in San Antonio to receive the honor. A special school program was held with guest speaker Judge Sid Harle recognizing the accomplishment of the students and staff. Though no special paragraphs or comments have been made about the classroom teachers, these academic awards attest to the skills, labors, and dedication of those teachers.
Other events were traditions by now. In November, a Veterans Day Program honored the military. The PTA Fundraiser, as in other years, recognized those students in each grade who sold the most, giving them prizes. December held its traditional events, including a special PTA night when some of the school’s music students sang. In the spring, at Fiesta time, the kindergarteners paraded their Fiesta box floats down the halls. New happenings were numerous. There were visits by the “Top Flight Air Force Band”, the Kids on the Block program, and the “Cat Paws” program.. One of the main characters was the husband of the new school nurse, Ms. Green. In February, there was a Sea World program. Later the Promise (Gifted and Talented) students, led by teacher Sandra Vinson, presented a Medieval Fair. First grade tried a chili cook-off. Some of the students and one teacher, Jean Johnson, were selected to be in the George Strait video that had done background filming in Locke Hill School. The Leon Springs group participated in the video filming at the Leon Spring’s Dance Hall. The song featured was “Check Yes or No”.
The Clinic duties were assumed this year by R.N. Paula Green. She also served two schools. The clinic now was serviced by a part-time LVN, Laura Wheeler, on the days the RN was at the other school. The NISD Health Services budget through these years gave fifty cents per student.
The special education program made a significant change this year. The ‘inclusion model’ was adopted. This program had the special needs youngsters in the regular classroom for longer periods each day.
The graduation of the traditional fifth grade class closed their year. The summer saw the ACE students completing their year, with the very popular Fourth of July Parade, and then the ACE fifth graders graduated in July, closing the school year.
Five hundred eighty pupils were enrolled when school opened in August. It was getting difficult to find spare space for the volunteers, tutors and mentors assisting children. The PTA had been assigned a classroom for their needs but now they were sharing it. Ms. Allain, a volunteer story reader, came regularly, and with her help, the third graders enjoyed the Bluebonnet Book program. The librarian yearly paid a fee to register Leon Springs in this state program. Twenty books were on the list each year, including poetry, fiction, history, science, and biography. Students chose any five or more books to read. Then in January, they voted for their favorite.
Some special events this year were visits by the performers, the Morris Brothers, and several other visiting bands. There was the “Spooky Store”, the Christmas tree painting, and the school choir performing for community groups.
During this year a sad event occurred, affecting the whole staff. In February, Deborah “Debbie” Miller, a fourth grade teacher who later taught third grade, died after several years struggling with cancer. She continued teaching through those years. This dedicated teacher was missed greatly.
The school continued its two schedules--the Traditional and the Alternate Calendar. It was being observed by Central Office to evaluate if the all year group had better testing scores. There was a significant increase in budget to operate the facility through the first six weeks of summer.
“Leon Springs Kids Name their Principal Queen for a Day” reported the Hill Country Recorder in the spring. Ms. Allen was retiring at the close of the school year in July. Mid-year, the students and their parents with many other community members and staff joined forces to submit over 100,000 ballots to nominate Ms. Allen for Y-100 Radio’s Elementary Principal of the Year. She won! The honor provided a new computer for the school, donated by McGregor Medical Center. Another unusual happening was the visit to the Wax Museum for the fourth grade, provided by a private donor.
The year held all the traditional activities as recorded in the previous years. The Special Olympics for special needs youngster was a big event each year. This year they had a big bowling competition. The special education staff through the years had been available for extra assistance on homework in the mornings before school or just after school. Any child needing extra help could come. The regular classroom teachers also helped with this.
The school for several years had been part of a citywide recycling of paper. The head custodian, Earl Johnson, got the program started. Then he contacted Rudy’s Corner/ Barbeque establishment to save their non-stained cardboard. Each afternoon he drove his truck over to collect all the cardboard. One student’s parent ran a business on DeZavala Road and offered to collect all their cardboard if Mr. Johnson would pick it up once a week. He agreed, and did that after school each Friday. Thanks to these businesses, parents, staff, and surrounding community residents, the school repeatedly had prize-winning records for recycled paper. They submitted 41.59 tons of paper this year and won the 3rd place award of $5,000 for the school.
Community relationships were always important to the school. The custodians kept the facility opened many afternoons and evenings, including weekends, to serve various groups. Some of those served were the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, the Indian Guides, church groups, and sports groups. The YMCA used the gym daily for an after school program for children. The school provided community education classes too. Likewise the community, businesses and individuals, gave generously to the school. One local businessman donated money several times to the school, providing the first classroom computers. He also gave benches and tables for the back playground, and benches for the front of the school. A golf cart was donated to the custodians to haul large items. The cart was useful in the Fourth of July Parade too. The corner bank provided drinks and cookies for folks when the Fourth of July parade ended at the corner by them. Picnic tables were given by another business and playground equipment came from a local restaurant. One day the gym was needed for flood victims. Local business people donated the food for them. The local eateries often sent food items to the staff.
Many other activities and responsibilities carried by the various departments and by the specialists are elaborated in the section titled ‘Additional Records of Events”.
In late May, the staff honored Ms. Allen with a retirement party, inviting the NISD Central Office staff, the Board members, PTA members, all parents, and community friends. All felt the sadness of a pending farewell. At the close of the summer session, in July, Ms. Allen got the news that Leon Springs Elementary again received the highest rating in academic achievement--the award of Texas Exemplary School for the 1997-98 school year.
The new principal, Dr. Kathy Dodge-Clay, enthusiastically accepted the job. She realized the awesome responsibility that she would have to maintain the level of excellence in the overall school program at Leon Springs Elementary. Her years of service from August 1998 to the present will be reported in another section.
Note: If any errors or corrections are seen in this history, please notify the school librarian who will contact the school curator to correct them.
Many people have contributed to this second phase of the school history covering 1991 to 1998. The scrapbooks made by the school secretary Marcia Merritt provided the chronological recall of events. Many of the original staff contributed memories, comments, suggestions and proof reading help. Their words have made the history lively and a joy to write. Lois LaVerne Wood Meyer, an alumna of Leon Springs School in 1942, typed the staff’s memories, placing them in a notebook, on a CD, and on the website. The campus instructional technologist, Elaine Mencio, adapted the content to the website. Principal Mary Allen and Principal Dr. Dodge-Clay gave hearty support, suggestions and editing help as did Phyllis Leesman and Bobby Worrich and my sister, Roberta Apple. Secretary Sharon McGowin framed many of the 1920s and 1930s school photos so they could be displayed in the office and in the Library. Home help using the computer came from my husband, Gene Horne. Thank you all for your interest, time, and patience.
Lou Ann Horne