Visionary leaders laid foundation for NISD

February 26, 2016

By Brian T. Woods, Superintendent

Recently, I visited with some giants. No, not like the ones in fairy tales. The giants I speak about served on the School Board and as superintendents in the last century, over the last six decades.

Last month, during Texas School Board Recognition Month, current Trustees invited former trustees and superintendents to lunch. What I witnessed was fascinating and inspiring. In the Board room having lunch and sharing stories were the men and women who laid the foundation on which Northside ISD rests. I sat back and listened to their excitement and was inspired by their vision and camaraderie.

There were some recently retired Trustees like Lynn Britton, Jr., Bennie Cole, and Randy Fields. But there were also pioneers named John Bryant and Bille Busby who served during the1960s when there were only 20,000 students enrolled in Northside.

Neither one of them could imagine that Clark High School would exist in what was then the middle of nowhere. Of course, in those days, Marshall High School was considered on the outskirts of San Antonio. They recall working with then superintendent Ed Cody and collectively, knowing every single employee of the budding school district.

There were also trailblazing women like Nancy Collins, Nellie Reddix, and Virginia Myers, who led the Board in the 1970s and 1980s. In fact, Reddix was the first African American elected to the Board. Other trustees like Carmen Zuniga and Annie Holmes also represented their communities well.

There were giants like Charles Neely and Raul Fernandez who as presidents of the board made tough decisions and had the vision for what NISD is today. Bob James, Jesse Jones, and Dan Adams also served their communities well during these years when NISD experienced explosive growth. 

They all talked about how NISD is a family, albeit a much bigger family then when many of them served on the Board. They reminisced about late night meetings and making tough calls about year-round school, opening the first school cafeterias, grappling with integration, implementing bilingual and special education, and putting $60 million bond issues before the voters, among other topics. Recently, voters passed a bond 10 times that size.

They recalled when teachers’ starting salaries were $20,000 a year and high schools cost less than $10 million to build. They talked about NISD mostly being a rural, country district where large ranches, now sprawling subdivisions, once flourished.

Former superintendents Ed Cody and John Folks added to the chorus of oral histories each recalling interesting facts, but mostly talking about NISD as a “community” of families seeking first class educational opportunities for their children, and repeating NISD’s slogan: “A great place to work, live, and raise your family.”

But what these giants really did was lay the foundation for the giant District that NISD would become. All of us today stand on the shoulders of the visionary leaders who came before us.

Front Row (l‐r) Dr. Carol Harle (2013‐current), Nellie M. Reddix (1975‐1985), Bennie L. Cole (2011‐2015), Nancy F. Collins (1985‐1988), John M. Bryant (1963‐1969), Bille F. Busby (1961‐1967), Karen Freeman (2005‐current), Annie L. Holmes (2003‐2011), Ed Cody (1964‐1982), Virginia A. Myers (1981‐1994), Carmen Zuniga (1995‐2003), Dr. Robert B. James (1989‐1995), Jesse Jones (1990‐1993). Back Row (l‐r) Robert Blount, Jr. (1999‐current), Raul B. Fernandez (1972‐1990), Charles L. Neely, Jr. (1981‐1990), George Lynn Britton, Jr. (2003‐2015), Katie N. Reed (1990‐current), Dr. John M. Folks (2002‐2012), Randall H. Fields (1999‐2013), and Dan Adams (1991‐1995).

[Note: Many of the conversations and recollections are available at the Northside School Museum which houses oral histories recorded by many of our giants.]