Williamson County
Historical Commission

 

 

History Of The Taylor
Public Schools

Taylor Texas

 
 
   



Historical Marker Text:
From 1877 until 1880, several private schools served residents of the Taylor area. In 1880 a public institution, the Stock Company School, was built and maintained by a group of private citizens. A school for black children of the community opened the following year. In 1883 a bond election passed which provided revenue for maintaining public schools in Taylor. Augustus Hill, former head of the Bastrop Academy, became the first superintendent. He presided over a ten-grade system, which consisted of a three-room building for all primary, grammar, and high school classes, as well as the small Negro school. Because of increased enrollment, a three-story building was erected in 1890, and a greater variety of subjects was offered to the students. In later years surrounding school districts were annexed, greatly increasing the size of the Taylor public schools. in 1950 the schools were removed from municipal control with the creation of the Taylor Independent School District. For a century the Taylor schools have been a source of pride for the community, while citizens have been faithful supporters of public education. Graduates of the Taylor schools include numerous business, professional and civic leaders.




 
  The First Hundred Years Of The Taylor Public Schools
Historical Narrative by Elizabeth Dlugos and Mary Jean Livingood

History Of The Taylor Public Schools

On July 3, 1883, a vote was taken in Taylorsville on taxing all property one-half of one percent for the purpose of maintaining public schools ten months of the year. There were 80 property holders at that time. Some were out of town or did not vote. The vote was 40 for and 4 against. The city aldermen of Taylorsville (which became Taylor in 1892 when the post office was so designated) then employed a school superintendent and accepted the property of the Stock Company School and a Negro school. These became the Taylor Public Schools.

The Stock Company School was a free school which had been built and operated by Henry Dickson, the International and Great Northern Railroad station agent, and a group of leading citizens. They had formed a stock company with a value of $5,000 in 1880 to build the three room school on Block 4 of the Dickson Addition. Dickson had paid five dollars for ten acres when the railroad sold the first lots in 1876. This wooden building housed the primary school in one room, the grammar school in one and the high school in the third. There had been three teachers and an average attendance of 105 pupils.

Williamson County files show that a school for Negroes had opened in 1881. It is believed to have changed names and location several times and was variously called Happy Hollow School, The Little Red Schoolhouse or The Colored School. When it became a part of the Taylor Public Schools it had one teacher and an average attendance of 40 students. The only subjects taught were reading, writing, arithmetic and spelling.

Augustus E. Hill, an Alabaman who had practiced law there for 7 years before coming to Texas and had been in charge of the Bastrop Academy for two years, was employed as superintendent and high school teacher. J.S. Jones taught the grammar school and Emma Puckett the primary. It was a ten-grade system with a curriculum which included civics, economics, algebra, geometry, physics, chemistry, Latin and bookkeeping, in addition to the core subjects.

Several additions were made to the three-room school, but these proved inadequate by 1890 and a three-story building was constructed with the first two stories of brick and the third, which housed the auditorium, of metal. A pretentious cupola or belfry topped this building, but it proved to be too heavy for the foundation and had to be removed. The structure was described in Lewis Publishing Co.'s History of Texas of 1893 as one of the finest school buildings in the state; it cost $35,000 and was located northeast of the present Middle School between Fowzer and Vance streets. Special features were a manual training room and a chemistry laboratory in the basement. There were separate lunchrooms for the girls and boys and, originally, outdoor restrooms. It was demolished in 1925.

The enrollment at the white schools had reached 700 by 1893 and there were 15 teachers, 2 music teachers and an art teacher. The first graduates, Mrs. Lillian Noyes Schoaf and Ferguson Doak, received their diplomas from the ten-grade school in 1897.12 Professor Hill remained superintendent until 1899.

In the early 1900s the legal school age in Taylor was seven to nineteen years] the legal school age in the state was eight to seventeen years. W.M. Williams became superintendent in 1900 and served until 1909 at a salary of $80.00 per month. Williams beautified the school grounds by planting many hackberry trees and expanded the curriculum in 1904 to include German
and ancient and modern history.

The eleventh grade was added to the high school in 1910 and enrollment increased, so two bond issues totaling $26,000 were passed, a site was purchased, and Twelfth Street Elementary School was constructed in 1911 and 1912. It was used for grades one through three for all white students. Major additions and repairs were made to this building in 1947, adding four classrooms and modernizing the old part of the building. Again in 1951 two rooms were added, and this building is still in use today.

The 1983 record says of Taylor's schools for Negroes: "The town now has two colored schools, employing three teachers, and has an average attendance of 125 pupils, making in all about 800 students under the control of Mr. Hill." The location of one of these school is unknown. The second was a two-story red frame building at 317 Dolan Street. The 1902 report of the Superintendent to the Board of Trustees shows that Mr. T. A. Collins was principal, Charlotte Hendricks taught the grammar school grades, and Venora Hamilton and Mrs. T. A. Collins taught the primary school. According to Lee Vann, a former student, it was "very primitive" compared to modern standards.

John F. O'Shea who had been secretary of the Board of Trustees was made superintendent in 1909. The superintendent's office hours at this time were 8:30 - 9am and 4 to 4:30pm. The high school faculty consisted of C. P. Balch, principal, who taught Latin and physics, Orra Root, English, history and civics, and Priscilla F. Draper, mathematics.15 Kindergarten and home economics classrooms were constructed in a new building at 712 Fowzer Street in 1916. Later this building was used for the first and second grades. It was torn down about 1946 and replaced with a U. S. Army surplus building from Camp Swift which is still being used as the administrative offices of the Taylor Independent School District. The 1916 bond issue was also used to purchase 5.8 acres from the Murphy estate for an athletic field.

Taylor High School had a cadet corps in 1917 and 1918. Before Mr. O'Shea resigned in 1918, courses added to the school curriculum were music, domestic arts, physiology, German, physical geography, bookkeeping and manual training.

O. L. Price, a graduate of Prairie View A. & M. College, came to be principal of the five teacher Taylor Colored School in 1918. A year later Sophronia Gault Fowler (Mrs. Henry Fowler) was the first graduate of that newly created high school. She writes, "The colored people were so proud to have even one graduate that they got the City Hall to have the program in, and it seemed like every colored person was there and a large number of white people came to the program." The high school had fewer than ten students at that time, according to a history by Mrs. D. O. Hatcher, a long-time teacher. Mr. Price named the school Blackshear. In 1923 the Taylor Board of Trustees met requirements of the Texas Department of Education for Blackshear to become an accredited three-year high school, with ten teachers and twenty-four high school students. That year there were six in the graduating class. In 1929 two more teachers and a library were added, and general science was added to the curriculum.

Alamo School was a four-classroom frame building built at a cost of $3,500 at Sturgis and Rio Grande streets in south Taylor in 1918 to serve only Mexican American students. A new school with six classrooms which was re-named Southside was built on the same site in 1952 at a cost of $43,000. Another $16,000 was spent in 1958 adding two more classrooms, plus rest rooms, a book room, and an office. T. H. Johnson was superintendent when these additions were made.

J. E. Watts, superintendent from 1918 to 1922, introduced a bond issue which provided $84,000 to build West End School at 1301 West Fourth Street, $24,000 for the site on which a new high school would be constructed, and which made possible improvements to other schools. Before his short term ended, the fifth bond issue of the Taylor Public Schools was passed in the amount of $150,000.

Many improvements were made during the term of R. H. Brister who succeeded Watts and served until 1935. The high school building (now Middle School) was erected and classes began there in 1923. The Cotton Boll which had been the yearbook became the high school newspaper. An auditorium was built with an additional $32,000 bond issue. The total of $182,000 was paid off in 1951.

The new Taylor High School had twenty-three classrooms, three laboratories, three shop rooms and a lunch room supervised by Mrs. Roy Camblin. A fully developed commercial department was added to the bookkeeping already being taught. Vocational agriculture was also added in 1923.

The age to enter school was lowered from seven to six in 1930. In 1933 lights were installed at the football field.

Blackshear School was destroyed by fire on May 22, 1931. By November of that year, a seventeen-room brick building had been constructed on the same site. It cost $20,000. Knockdown bleachers for the Blackshear athletic field were also purchased at this time. Seven acres of land adjoining the campus were purchased nine years later for an athletic field.

E. T. Robbins became superintendent in February of 1935, continuing until 1947. One of the first improvements under his administration was a $35,000 gymnasium for the high school. This was built with the help of a $10,000 federal grant. A twelfth grade was added at both Blackshear and Taylor High School in 1941.

T. H. Johnson, who had been a teacher and a coach in the Taylor schools since 1927, was made superintendent in 1947. His administration was to last for nineteen years, making a total of 39 years of service to the Taylor Public Schools. When Johnson took office the enrollment was 1,960; at his retirement in 1966 it had reached 2,534. His coaching days had brought Taylor football fans 120 wins, 22 losses and 4 ties - a record not likely to be surpassed. It made him a legend in Taylor. However, his accomplishments as superintendent were also notable.

Twelfth Street School was modernized and enlarged, first with four classrooms in 1947, then two additional rooms in 1951. In 1948 four classrooms were added to O. L. Price School, then in 1956 and 1957 it was almost doubled in size with fourteen additional classrooms, lunchroom, homemaking and vocational agriculture rooms. [23]

Twelve common school districts were annexed to the Taylor School District which increased the size of the district from 3.8 square miles to 78 square miles, and in 1950 the Taylor Public Schools became the Taylor Independent School District, thus removing the schools from municipal control. [24]

In 1955 a successful bond issue was passed for $250,000 to construct Northside Elementary School and the junior high school, and to make needed improvements to other buildings. Another bond issue of $75,000 was used to build a gymnasium at 0. L. Price School.

The summer school program was expanded under Superintendent Johnson to include remedial reading, driver education and additional academic courses. A program for pre-school children, special education teachers, and a speech therapist were added during Johnson's administration. Sociology, advanced math, power mechanics, distributive education, and art were added to the Taylor High School curriculum, and vocational agriculture, physical education, typing, shorthand, bookkeeping, chemistry, physics and music were added to the 0. L. Price curriculum. The lunchroom service was expanded to include five schools.

Segregation in Taylor ended on a partial basis during the 1964-1965 school year by the adoption of the "freedom of choice" plan. According to this plan, a student in grades one through six could attend any school in the district. In most instances, the Taylor students chose to remain in the school that they had been attending, the school in their neighborhood. Most schools were little changed, but Southside, the Mexican-American elementary school, and 0. L. Price, the twelve grade school for Negroes, were both located in areas largely populated by these two ethnic groups. They were the first to integrate on a voluntary basis.

The second phase of integration became board policy in the 1965-1966 school year. Taylor High School was totally integrated, with 0. L. Price becoming an eight-grade school. Although there was some initial opposition to the board's decision among the school patrons, the board felt that the issue must be met and that a voluntary desegregation might be accomplished more easily. Four Negro teachers transferred to the high school faculty, and team-teaching was introduced in home economics and vocational agriculture. Most teachers were surprised at the ease with which the transition was made.

The third phase of integration came in the 1966-1967 school year, when John F. Townley became superintendent. Taylor Junior High School was completely integrated and 0. L. Price became a six-grade elementary school. The fourth phase of integration which went into effect in September of 1969, was the most difficult for the school board. There were 2,238 students in the Taylor School District in 1968-1969. Of these, 53.3 percent were Anglo-Americans, 22.3 percent were Mexican-Americans, and 24.4 percent were Negroes. Although freedom of choice had been an official policy for some time, the normal classrooms of the elementary schools continued to follow definite ethnic lines.

Northside and Twelfth Street were primarily Anglo-American schools, with a few Mexican-Americans but no Negroes attending Northside and only token integration at Twelfth Street. West End Elementary, formerly an Anglo-American school, had become primarily a Mexican-American school, except for a few Anglo students who had chosen to remain in a school in their neighborhood. Southside, formerly a Mexican-American school, had become equally divided between Mexican-Americans and Negroes. O. L. Price was sc.1-4001 still a Negro with a few Mexican-Americans but no Anglo-Americans in attendance. The two schools still segregated in fact were Northside and O. L. Price .

In 1968 the local board was notified that the dual school structure did not comply with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Superintendent Townley requested that a visitation of the schools be made by a committee of Title IV. The committee recommended that Southside School be closed and the junior high school converted to a central elementary school. The federal plan involved moving the boundary lines of five elementary schools. The Superintendent and the school board felt that the artificial zones would not be acceptable to the local school patrons. It was also thought that many Anglo-American students living along a highway leading east would transfer out of the district rather than attend the formerly Negro school. The board submitted an alternative plan.

This plan involved converting the junior high school into a central middle school as the visitation committee had suggested. All fifth and sixth graders of the system would attend this school. The new high school was to open in September, 1969. The present high school would then be converted to a junior high school, and the former junior high to an elementary school. Grades one through four would remain as they had been in the past, with freedom of choice to continue as official policy.

This plan was rejected because two racially identifiable schools - Northside and 0. L. Price - still existed. Enforcement proceedings against the district were to be initiated under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. With such legal action, the school district faced the loss of between $188,000 and $200,000 in federal funds.

In May, 1969 the Board submitted another plan:

1. House all students in grades 9-12 in the new senior high school building.
2. House all students in grades 5-8 in what was the old high school and junior high school buildings. These campuses were to be known as a middle school.
3. House all students in grades 3-4 in Twelfth Street School.
4. House all students in grades 1-2 in either North side or West End Elemen- tary Schools.

Some parents immediately transferred their elementary school children to the local parochial elementary school. There were Anglo-American parents who protested that they would not allow their children to be taught by a Negro teacher. There were Negro parents who felt that their children would not be treated impartially by an Anglo-American teacher. There were Anglo-American teachers who did not wish to teach any non-white children. There were Negro teachers who thought they would be ill at ease with the Anglo-American children.

Under Superintendent Townley the process of integration in the school system was completed. The present high school was constructed, but not until one bond issue had failed in December, 1966. Those who believed in keeping the Taylor schools strong, in spite of the problems brought about by social change in society, were not discouraged by this setback. Rather they became a more unified group and, working with a strong superintendent, made clear to the community the need for the new high school. The issue was resubmitted at an election held March 21, 1967. This time it passed in the amount of $1,795,000.

Joe Scrivner became superintendent in 1969 and presided at the dedication of the new school October 5, 1969. Extensive repairs were made to the old high school building which became the Middle School. Federal programs were expanded during Scrivner's term, educational offerings increased, and teaching techniques and procedures improved. Unfortunately deep wounds remained in the community after the 1967 bond election which made it impossible to ask for funds to replace two obsolete elementary schools: Twelfth Street, built in 1911-1912 and West End, built in 1918¬/1919.

When Scrivner resigned, the Board of Trustees felt that a tough new superintendent experienced in passing a bond issue was needed. They employed an ex-Marine, Mervyn Greer, who led a successful campaign to gain $4,300,000 to build a new elementary school, a new field house, additions to Northside Elementary and to reroof the high school. Greer, however, had interpersonal problems with board members and staff members and was forced out in the spring of 1982.

The present superintendent, Bill Borgers, was chosen from among fifty applicants. He immediately became involved in community affairs and announced as his goals: better teacher evaluation and training, better communication between faculty and administration, and improvements to the curriculum.

Morale is high at this 100th year of public education in Taylor, and the long term goal which was expressed at the high school dedication in 1969: "The quality of education in the Taylor system should be such as to enable each child to develop to his fullest capacity as an individual and as a citizen, seems to have been reaffirmed by all those involved in
the Taylor schools.



 
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