Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

February 5, 2013

School campuses dedicated, honors given to former educators

Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress


During back-to-back dedications Sunday at their respective elementary school campuses, principals Brad Stewart and Holly Searcy described the community's support of the building projects as something that made them proud to serve.

“I feel a huge sense of pride to be involved in a community like Jacksonville, where so many facets have come together to allow us to take on an endeavor like this, (in) what I see as an investment in the future of the children, which comes full circle to being an investment in our community,” said Joe Wright Principal Brad Stewart. “It's a legacy we're starting that will be here years from now … we're making a part of history that we can all be really proud of.”

East Side Elementary Principal Holly Searcy agreed.

“We're looking for many years to come in this building,” she said, adding that her school “has a rich heritage in Jacksonville and we are so proud of our new building and what East Side represents.

“I just want to thank you again for your dedication to our school and to our community, and for all that you do to support education here in Jacksonville. I was here (previously), then moved away to Austin. I could not wait to get back to Jacksonville (and) when they talked to me about East Side and I knew the position was open, I can't tell you how thrilled I was to be part of this,” Searcy said.

Joe Wright, located at 1055 N. Pineda St., and East Side, 711 Fort Worth Street, were funded through a $49.56 million bond program passed in 2010 that called for new schools for these elementary campuses, as well as renovation at a third elementary campus plus at the high school.

“By all accounts everything I've seen and heard, we've had a very successful year and it's been a great program,” said JISD Superintendent Dr. Joe Wardell.

“We had four major projects going at once; we didn't just do one, then come in and build another, then go on. We built all four.”

Under the direction of Pogue Construction of McKinney, the elementary school projects were successfully completed in time for the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year, and both campuses feature 85,000-square-foot buildings with similar floor plans.

East Side, which traces its history to 1910, where classes were held in the city's first school building on the site that now is home to the Tomato Bowl Stadium, has approximately 615 students enrolled.

East Side's program moved to its current location in 1939. Meanwhile, the Joe Wright program, founded in 1952 on Kickapoo Street, has an enrollment of 520. Both schools offer pre-K-4 programs.

During Sunday's ceremony, several areas of the two campuses were dedicated to former students and instructors.

Kathleen Stanfill, a 1979 Jacksonville High School graduate who served as president of the project's naming committee, described how honorees were chosen.

“We endeavored to find people who would become inspirational to children in generations to come, (so they) could look at some words that would help them understand that their potential was unlimited from the halls of (their school) into the rest of the world,” she said.

At the East Side campus, the cafeteria was dedicated in honor of Fletcher Wilson, who served as the school's principal for 33 years of his 36 years as an educator. The library bears the name of Dr. Cordell Adams, the district's first African-American valedictorian, who graduated in 1979. He also is the son of Cordelia Adams, who served the Jacksonville district as an educator of 51 years. The gymnasium is named for East Side educator Mary Agnes Lane, who taught 30 years at the school.

Long-time instructor Holly Decker, who taught 24 of her 26 years as an educator at the Joe Wright campus, has a plaque in the school's library bearing her name as tribute, while the school's gym is dedicated to Tracy Wallace, who served at Fred Douglass Elementary for 23 years, first as teacher and assistant principal, then principal of the school, later working a as the district director of Human Resources.

The Joe Wright cafeteria was dedicated in honor of Joyce and Wilson Folden. Mrs. Folden taught in the Jacksonville district 30 years, then after retiring, continued as a substitute teacher there. Her husband has served as an aide at the campus, and both have been involved as part of the school's improvement and curriculum committees.

During the dedication ceremonies, Julie Canter, a representative of the office of State Senator Robert Nichols' office, presented Searcy and Stewart with U.S. flags that once flew over the state capitol.