Houston School District: A history of excellence

From the heart

For the past decade, I have researched and written about the history of Texas County; its people and places.

I am a native of Houston. I lived the first two years of my life on Grand Avenue and then moved away. I met a Houston boy; we married and returned to the area to raise our two children. The youngest graduated from Houston High School 10 years ago.

My research and the last 30 years living in Houston have made me feel like a lifelong native, an old-timer and a fiercely proud and protective resident of Houston, the small town I believe to possess beauty, innovativeness and progress.

I am also an advocate of education. I believe education is the foundation of preservation and a proponent of hope. Ignorance, on the other hand, I feel is destructive, a breeding ground for intolerance and, to me, just downright scary.

When a community backs its school, it speaks volumes about the unselfishness of the people and their hope for their future. “It takes a village,” says the ageless Native American and African proverb used to describe the love and support of a small town serving its children.

The “village” of Houston served our children well, and the education they received was one that equipped them for success.

The previous goal of educational excellence and a willingness of sacrifice have set Houston apart.

History backs me up.

From the past

*In 1869, just four years after complete destruction by the Civil War, Houston became one of three public schools in Missouri.

*In 1904, with the completion of a new, two-story brick school, the Herald outlined a formula for success. “With our handsome building, central location and numerous other advantages, everyone does his or her part as an energetic, painstaking teacher, as a dutiful, polite and studious pupil, or as a public spirited citizen, the Houston School will be a complete success. Sept. 8, 1904 Houston Herald

*In 1915, Houston was one of only three in the state to be approved as a fully accredited first class high school.

(In 1921, Houston needed a new high school. A bond issue of $15,000 fell short of the lowest bid of $59,000. C.E. Covert, the school board president said, “We will build this high school ourselves. Every brick will be made from clay within sight of town; every piece of lumber will be cut from Texas County trees.” So with community sweat, materials and funding Houston built a new $65,000 high school building which cost the district $30,000.

*In 1938, Houston’s basketball team won the state championship. The players were fed, boarded and driven to games in the cars of fans. It was the Houston merchants who hosted a banquet in their triumphant return.

*In 1941, the school began to offer hot lunches. They were prepared in the basement of the Christian Church, (site of the post office). Pots and pans were donated by the town.

*In 1950, land was donated for the building of a new elementary school.

When history hit Houston with war, isolation because of poor roads and a national Depression, the people with unselfish pride and grit kept education a priority. It is a heritage we can claim with pride.

For the future

Anyone that knows me knows I cringe at the careless removal of the reminders of our past, even 100-year-old trees or an ancient Brushy Creek rock. But, I support replacing the old high school built by love and labor for the following reasons.

The need is great. Our children, today more than ever, need tools to equip them for a world that no longer protects with isolation or tolerates meritocracy. Our present educational facilities do not protect or provide for our children.

The new school is a worthy replacement. It is the best, and we, as well as our children, deserve the best. Two-storied, arched window, science labs and a fabulous library; its design honors the original high school, and a memorial on the grounds will remind us of our past and present standard of excellence.

The critical need for community support. “The greatest change in education has been community support and technology,” said Sidney Ann Bridges in the 2000 Progress Edition. She should know, she was administrative secretary for seven superintendents during a Houston School career that spanned 45 years.

The fact that it took five elections to approve the construction of a new elementary school in 2000 makes me fear the loss of our most valuable heritage stated by Julia Parker (1881-1973), a well-remembered Houston historian.

“Houston’s greatest common interest has been its school,” she said.

I believe Houston’s survival, when other small town communities did not survive change or isolation, has been its emphasis and support of quality education. History shows a healthy school is a barometer of a healthy community and future.

“Houston’s new high school building is handsome, modern and well-equipped,” said C.E. Covert, the school board president upon its completion in 1923.

I feel, with certainty, the 1921 board that offered their own blood, sweat and tears to provide the best for the people of Houston would not hesitate to support a new school that will say the same thing. They would tell us they came from a long line of providing excellence in education.

Let’s continue the heritage.

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