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History & Traditions

More than 100 years of tradition and excellence in Highland Park ISD

HPISD 100 year centennial crest
Established in 1914, Highland Park Independent School District is proud of its long-standing tradition of excellence. Graduates of our school district have gone on to become successful leaders in every field. Our history is unique and is an important part of who we are.
Thanks in large part to Vernelle Stimson's book A History of the John S. Armstrong School 1914-1964 and Celebrate Highland Park ISD 75 Years of Class by Diane Galloway and Bill Crook, below is a history of Highland Park ISD.

Enter to LearnGo Forth to Serve

The First Day of School

An amazing journey began at John S. Armstrong School on Oct. 12, 1914. That was the day Highland Park ISD first opened its doors to 95 students. The tiny school, made up of only four rooms plus a basement, was led by Principal Belle Francis, who was known to ride her horse to school and hitch it to a post alongside the cream-colored brick building.

One hundred years later, Highland Park ISD serves more than 7,000 students on seven campuses. Today, the horse and hitching post are long gone. Yet remaining constant is the spirit of the community and its dedication to serving children.

Looking back over a century of excellence, one has to wonder what it is that makes this place unique. Highland Park alumni have gone on to make their mark in every imaginable field. The list includes a Nobel Prize laureate, Academy Award winners, Tony and Grammy Award winners, Pulitzer Prize recipients, Olympic gold medalists, Rhodes scholars, a three-time Cy Young Award winner, a Heisman Trophy winner, Hall of Fame athletes, an astronaut, law and business leaders, entrepreneurs, scientists, doctors, artists, mayors, a governor and two valedictorians of West Point and the Naval Academy who graduated in the same year. No doubt, the legacy will continue for centuries to come.

This story is committed to capturing some of our proudest moments and tracing our history. To do so, we must look back before 1914, when the community’s founding fathers first envisioned a place called Highland Park.

HPISD History: 1906-1914

In 1906, John Scarborough Armstrong purchased 1,400 acres of prairie about five miles from downtown Dallas. Armstrong’s sons-in-law, Edgar Flippen, and Hugh Prather became his business partners, and following Armstrong’s death, they developed Highland Park, a place that lives up to its name. “Highland” refers to the fact that the neighborhood sits 100 feet higher than surrounding areas. “Park” reflects that 20 percent of the land is dedicated to parks, creeks, and lakes.

In 1907, distinguished landscape architect and city planner Wilbur David Cook, who had just finished planning the community of Beverly Hills, Calif., joined the team. The first few blocks went on sale in 1908, and the first three houses were built on Lexington Avenue.

With families came children, and with children came the need for education. Perhaps no one exemplified this more than Michael Costello, father of eight, who built one of the first homes in Highland Park at the northeast corner of Lexington Avenue and Abbott Avenue. Costello and other early settlers, including H.J. Curtis, Hugh Prather, and W.O. Connor, bought a frame house on McKinney Avenue to be used as a school. They moved it to what is now Abbott Park, and the little red schoolhouse opened in 1909 under the name “Highland Park School.”

In November 1913, the Town of Highland Park was incorporated. The town built a fire station, and residents decided it was time to create their own school district.

HPISD History: 1914-1919

Wasting no time, community leaders presented a petition for the creation of Highland Park School Independent District on April 14, 1914, and the petition was granted on May 5 of the same year.

Highland Park ISD was born, and a Board of Trustees was selected to lead the new school system.

The next challenge was finding land for a building to replace the little red schoolhouse.


Mrs. Alice Armstrong 
Mrs. Alice Armstrong

Mrs. Alice Armstrong, the widow of John S. Armstrong, donated the plot of land bounded by Cornell Avenue, Byron Avenue, and St. John’s Drive for the first school. She made the gift in honor of her late husband, and the school board thought it was only fitting that the district’s first school should be named after Mr. Armstrong.

The school board authorized the construction of the district’s first school, and it was completed in October 1914. The building featured cream-colored brick and consisted of four rooms, along with a basement that held another classroom and two large play areas for students to use during bad weather. There was no cafeteria, so students who lived nearby walked home for lunch. Others brought their lunches and ate at picnic tables and under the trees in the schoolyard.

Armstrong grows in numbers and support

Armstrong’s parents wholeheartedly supported their new school, and Mrs. Frank M. Gray was named the president of the school’s first Parent Teacher Association. The organization adopted the slogan “For the welfare of the child” and boasted 44 members its first year.

By 1916, the young school’s student enrollment had grown to 140 students in nine grades, and its faculty increased to 12 teachers. Belle Francis continued as principal, and the arts were added to the curriculum, reflecting a dedication to cultural enrichment that thrives today.

 1917, the first volume of The Highlander yearbook
The first Highlander yearbook

 A special thanks to Mrs. Armstrong

In 1917, the first volume of The Highlander yearbook was published, and it was affectionately dedicated to Mrs. John S. Armstrong with the following words:

“TO HER who has ever proven in every way a faithful friend of our beloved school, and an ardent sympathizer in and promoter of its best interest, to Mrs. John S. Armstrong, this, our first volume is affectionately dedicated.”

SMU’s long-standing relationship with HPISD

Alice Armstrong’s generosity did not end with the Armstrong School. She went on to donate 100 acres for the Southern Methodist University campus, the area where Gerald J. Ford Stadium now stands. William W. Caruth, Sr. gave a half interest in an additional 725 acres.

SMU opened in 1915, to a great extent because of the efforts of its first president, Dr. Robert Stewart Hyer, the namesake of Hyer Elementary, which would be built more than three decades later.

Supporting the soldiers & community during WWI

During World War I, there was a shortage of fresh vegetables, so pupils planted and maintained war gardens on school property. The vegetables were distributed both to Armstrong families and to many in need. Students also organized War Saving Societies. A Junior Red Cross Society recorded the work done by the children in admiration of their willingness and ability to do their part. Under the leadership of President Mrs. C. E. Hudson, the Armstrong PTA raised money to send Christmas boxes with food, clothing, and toys to orphans in France. Both the students and volunteers of Armstrong showed patriotism and compassion in their efforts to make a difference during wartime.


1914-1919: A faculty of four 
  • Mary Innis, kindergarten teacher
  • Katherine Mansfield, first-grade teacher
  • Anne Rose McLean, second-grade teacher
  • Principal Belle Francis, who taught a handful of students in grades 3-9

Construction highlights

  • July 16, 1914: The newly formed school board approved $30,000 in bonds to build Armstrong School.
  • Summer of 1916: Armstrong’s second floor is completed, adding four classrooms, a clinic and an office.


WWI donations

During WWI, students raised money and collected supplies to donate to soldiers. Donations included:

  • 14,400 gun wipes
  • 90 washrags
  • 49 face towels
  • eight hospital pillows
  • one refugee baby quilt
  • one soldier’s quilt
  • 31 cootie bags, which soldiers put their clothes in to be boiled to remove “cooties”
  • eight sweaters

HPISD History: 1920-1929 

The ’20s were a time of tremendous change, both in Highland Park ISD and across the country. Middle-class Americans were buying Ford Model T cars, which soon lined the street in front of the high school. Thanks to the passage of the 19th Amendment, women voted for the first time in 1920.

PTA begins its tradition of running campus cafeterias

Superintendent H.E. Gable, the PTA, and the School Board met to identify the future needs of the district. In pointing out the larger needs of the school to the PTA, Gable listed a bigger lunchroom, a library, refrigeration of the drinking water and adequate physical training facilities. The School Board offered to equip a lunchroom if the PTA would manage and finance it. With earnings from rummage sales, candy sales, and entertainment, the PTA raised the funds to put a lunchroom into operation at Armstrong School in January 1921. The lunchroom was installed in the west end of the basement that formerly held the boy's play area.

Thus, Armstrong PTA began the long-running tradition of PTAs running the cafeterias on every HPISD campus. To this day, parents, grandparents and other volunteers enjoy serving meals and visiting with one another, faculty members and, of course, the students who sometimes can’t resist grabbing a quick hug before returning to class.

Early photograph of the intersection of Hillcrest Ave. and University Blvd. 
Early photograph of the intersection of Hillcrest Ave. and University Blvd.

 A decade of tremendous growth

The Town of Highland Park continued to boom, along with SMU. The City of University Park grew up around the university, incorporating in 1924. As word spread about the special community known as the Park Cities, HPISD grew by an average of 200 new students each year. This created a building boom, with three new campuses opening during this phenomenal decade: Highland Park High School in 1922, Bradfield Elementary in 1926 and University Park Elementary in 1928.

Before 1922, most Highland Park students who were of high school age had to ride the trolley down Cole Avenue to Dallas to attend Bryan Street High School, which no longer exists. Some attended the Morgan School, the Powell Training School on Binkley Avenue (which later became the site of Park Cities Kindergarten), Hockaday School for Girls (which was later the site of the Dallas YWCA Residence on Haskell), Ursuline Academy, St. Mary’s Episcopal School for Girls (later part of St. Matthew’s Cathedral on Ross), or the Terrill School for Boys on Swiss Avenue in order to complete their high school education.

HP celebrates first graduates in 1924

Highland Park ISD held its first high school graduation ceremony on Monday, June 2, 1924. There were 34 graduates in total — 23 girls who wore white afternoon dresses and carried spring flowers and 11 boys who wore white flannel trousers and blue sport coats. Valedictorian Mary Margaret Taylor led the class in the ceremonies, which were held in the auditorium of the original high school campus on Normandy Avenue. The 34 graduates had grown up together and were among the first students to attend the Armstrong School in 1914.  

In the 1924 Highlander, the senior class proclaimed, “Many schools live merely on the momentum and traditions they have gathered in the more flourishing days of past. We are proud of our short past, but we are prouder of the Highland Park High School that is to be.”

Alumni Association

In the 1928 Highlander, the early Alumni Association was mentioned as an organization open to “every student who receives a diploma from Highland Park High School.” Formed in 1924, the meetings were held twice a year in December and June. By 1927, the association had 37 members. In the Highlander, the Alumni Association listed the latest information on graduates’ schooling beyond high school, occupation and where they were living. 


HPISD's first superintendent
  H. E. Gable became HPISD’s first superintendent
H. E. Gable became HPISD’s first superintendent in 1920 and served the district until 1945. He came from Greenville, Texas, where he taught physics and headed the Academy Department of Besley College. He was known for closely working with parents and community leaders and for his calm style of leadership.  

Mascot changes from coyote to Highlander

The first high school mascot was the coyote, and the team colors were orange and black. When Coach Floyd Betts arrived to coach the first Highland Park football team in 1923, he changed the mascot to the Highlander and the colors to blue and gold. In 1926, football games were led by the first squad of cheerleaders, with Artie Niendorff as head cheerleader and Mable Veal and Tom Nash rounding out the group. The small but mighty squad was praised in the yearbook as helping to lead the Highlanders to victory.

Band and ROTC programs form a winning partnership

In the years before World War II, most Dallas high schools had strong Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) programs. Highland Park started a volunteer unit in 1924, which became compulsory for boys in 1926. A month after becoming mandatory, the HPHS ROTC unit won the state competition. By 1928, it was the largest organization on campus, and the opening and closing of each school day were announced by an ROTC member playing the bugle, firing a cannon and raising or lowering the U.S. flag. 

Under the direction of R.B. Ford and W.R. Ford, the first high school band was organized in 1923. Four years later the band became part of the ROTC and won first place as the best ROTC band in the state.

Construction highlights

  • 1920: HPISD purchased 11 lots, which became the district’s first high school in 1922. 
  • 1922: Highland Park High School opened on Normandy Avenue, where the current Highland Park Middle School sports field area is located. Superintendent Gable moved his office from Armstrong to HPHS.
  • 1923: A third, northern wing was added to Armstrong School. The new wing completed the “H” formation of the school and provided 12 new classrooms. That same year, a cafeteria was added in the basement of Armstrong’s northern wing.
  • 1925: Bond election passed, authorizing $250,000 to construct two elementary schools. To conserve money, the same blueprints were used for both buildings — two-story brick structures with 12 rooms each.
  • 1926: Bradfield Elementary, named after School Board President John S. Bradfield, opened. Located south of Mockingbird Lane and north of Southern Avenue, the school opened that fall after the end of the first six weeks grading period. The crowding was so severe at Armstrong that before Bradfield opened, there were often two teachers to a classroom and two students sharing a desk. When Bradfield opened, six teachers left Armstrong to teach at the new school.
  • 1928: University Park Elementary opened with an enrollment of 165 students and six teachers, four of whom left Armstrong to staff the new school. A marker on the second floor commemorates the placement of a container with American and foreign coins, copies of Dallas newspapers and a Bible in the building’s cornerstone. Nowhere does it mention a date when the items should be unearthed, so it is assumed they still remain there today. 

HPISD HISTORY: 1930-1939

HPISD continues its expansion

The 1930s were a difficult time for most Americans, as the Great Depression ravaged the country. Community members in the Park Cities also suffered hardship, but they continued to prove their commitment to education. Despite financial limitations, the district and the community worked to improve facilities to help handle the influx of students.

Reconfiguration of grade levels

Before the new high school opened, HPISD students in grades 1-7 attended elementary school, and students in grades 8-11 attended the high school. When the new high school was built on Emerson Avenue in 1937, the campus on Normandy Avenue became a junior high school. Twelfth grade was added, and the system changed: grades 1-6 attended elementary school, grades 7-9 attended junior high school, and grades 10-12 attended high school.

The first bagpipe players at Highland Park       
The first bagpipe players at Highland Park  

A tradition begins

In 1934, a new instrument appeared alongside the band and became an instant tradition: the bagpipe. The Dads Club paid for the new instruments used by the all-female piper crew, which played next to the band during halftime at football games. To this day, the rich, full tones from a bagpipe are a familiar sound to anyone who has attended an HP football game.

New publications appear at HPHS

During the 1930s, two new HPHS publications appeared and are still published today. The first editorial staff of The Bagpipe, HPHS’s student-run newspaper, was formed in 1933. A student directory was published in 1939 and was called The Clan. It included 1,200 names and cost 10 cents to purchase.

Principal Wiseman helps elevate high school’s status

One of the most influential administrators in the history of the district was Ben Wiseman, who served as Highland Park High School’s principal from 1928 to 1963. Wiseman is credited with setting and maintaining the high standards for which Highland Park is nationally known. He introduced advanced classes and diagnostic testing in math and English, hired the school’s first counselor in 1934, initiated the student council, founded the Key Club and established a developmental reading program. Wiseman was posthumously honored at the inaugural Distinguished Alumni Awards ceremony in 1989 as the Distinguished Service Award winner. His name is still revered in the high school halls and across the community.

Construction highlights

  • 1931: A stage was added to Armstrong Elementary.
  • 1932: A new gym was added to Armstrong Elementary.
  • 1937: The new Highland Park High School was built on Emerson Avenue, where it currently stands. The high school cost taxpayers approximately $400,000, and the campus was said to be one of the most modern and best-equipped high school buildings in the Southwest.
  • 1937: The old high school on Normandy Avenue was converted into Highland Park Junior High School.
Construction highlights
  • 1931: A stage was added to Armstrong Elementary.
  • 1932: A new gym was added to Armstrong Elementary.
  • 1937: The new Highland Park High School was built on Emerson Avenue, where it currently stands. The high school cost taxpayers approximately $400,000, and the campus was said to be one of the most modern and best-equipped high school buildings in the Southwest.
  • 1937: The old high school on Normandy Avenue was converted into Highland Park Junior High School.


New high school features

  • 32 classrooms
  • Two gyms
  • Two auditoriums
  • A library
  • A cafeteria
  • An armory
  • A clinic
  • Offices for student publications
  • A public address system
  • Administration offices
  • Tennis courts
  • A greenhouse
  • A football field “with permanent seats for the comfort of the spectators” 

HPISD HISTORY: 1940-1949

World War II began in late 1939 and lasted until 1945. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, more than 16 million Americans fought in the war, some of whom were HPISD fathers and alumni.

“I vividly remember my father driving off to leave for war,” 1952 graduate Julie Ann O’Connell said. “It was scary not knowing if your daddy was going to come home again.”

Scots help on the home front

During the war, HP students saved candy wrappers for tin foil, mailed copies of The Bagpipe to Highland Park alums in the military overseas, took first-aid classes, helped the Red Cross and sold war bonds. In 1942-43 alone, more than 90 percent of the student body bought war bonds or stamps, totaling more than $70,000. In 1943, students started a memorial fund for alums who were killed in battle. 

The war also had a direct effect on HPISD in the form of a steel shortage. Hyer Elementary School was originally scheduled to open in 1941, but the shortage pushed back the debut until 1949.

HPISD's second superintendent

HPISD's second superintendent

Before joining HPISD, Dr. William Buell Irvin served as superintendent of public schools in Lubbock and Pampa, Texas. Irvin was one of eight men originally invited by the War Department to help set up the off-duty literacy program for the U.S. Army. He served as assistant superintendent of Highland Park ISD from 1944 to 1945. Upon Gable’s retirement, Dr. Irvin became superintendent in 1945, and he served until 1954.

School Board president leads campaign for new YMCA building

In 1947, Dr. Shirley Hodges, a respected Dallas pediatrician, was elected to the School Board. He served through 1951, including a stint as president. He was also the health officer for the City of University Park, the original team doctor for the Highland Park Scots, president of the Southwest Amateur Athletic Union and founder of the Park Cities YMCA, which he created in 1944. Its first building was a home at 3802 University Blvd., right next to the University Park City Hall. Today, the gazebo at Goar Park stands at that exact spot. The creation of the YMCA had a major impact on the Park Cities, bringing recreational sports to young people.

Dr. Hodges soon led a campaign to build a new YMCA facility in the Park Cities. In 1946, Karl Hoblitzelle donated a city block, bounded by Preston Road, Normandy Avenue, Connerly Drive and Shenandoah Street — eight residential lots at a total value of $50,000 — to build a new YMCA. Residents were asked to donate $90 each, paid out over three years, and the funds were raised. The new building was completed in 1951, and the bittersweet part of the dedication was that Dr. Hodges, the facility’s driving force, died of a heart attack at the age of 53 just before the building was completed. At the time, he was president of the HPISD Board of Trustees and had just been elected as the president of the North Texas Association of School Boards. 

During its early years, the YMCA offered sports for young men only, and Dr. Hodges was the father of three daughters. People asked him why he was so dedicated to boys sports when he had no sons, and he smilingly replied, “I am trying to build men suitable to call on my daughters.” 

HPISD welcomes a new school to its family

The land for Hyer Elementary was purchased in the 1930s and included 7.5 acres bounded by Caruth Boulevard, Colgate Avenue, Pickwick Lane and a creek where Tulane Boulevard is today. Noted architect Mark Lemmon designed the building, which cost $408,000 to construct. 

Robert S. Hyer Elementary School opened Jan. 24, 1949, and was named in honor of the man who spearheaded the founding of Southern Methodist University. Hyer served as SMU President from 1911 to 1920.

On the first day of school at Hyer, students walked all the way from University Park Elementary to attend classes. More than 250 students lived in the Hyer attendance zone by the time it opened.

Newton Manning served as Hyer’s first principal, and he was known for his larger-than-life personality. He had grown up in the area and had worked as a clerk at University Grocery on Hillcrest Avenue. He was popular with the students, especially when he brought goats, chickens, and other animals to school for them to see. Dr. Manning was also known for turning on the school’s intercom and breaking into a song right in the middle of class.

Program from HPHS' first football state championship  
Program from HPHS' first football state championship  

HP establishes itself as a sports champion

Highland Park High School sports, most notably football, enjoyed a great deal of success over the years, especially in the 1940s when the Scots’ 10-year cumulative record was 105-21-2. The decade began with Redman Hume as the school’s fifth head coach, who had a 45-26-1 record and was the winningest coach in HP history at the time.

The Doak Walker-Bobby Layne glory days of football started in the mid-1940s when Rusty Russell coached the Scots from 1942 to 1945, advancing the team to the state finals in 1944 and 1945. The 1943 team scored 455 points that season, setting a Scots record. The 1945 team battled Waco to a 7-7 tie for a co-state championship in front of a crowd of 45,700 at the Cotton Bowl. During their high school years, Layne and Walker also led their Highland Park basketball team to the state final four in 1943 and 1944.

In 1943, the football team nominated four finalists to be “Scottie Sweethearts.” The practice continues as the Homecoming Queen tradition, with the winner determined by a vote by the student body.  

After graduating, Walker and Layne went on to become All-Americans for the SMU Mustangs and Texas Longhorns, respectively. When Walker and Layne, who were friends but had polar opposite personalities and lifestyles, reunited in the NFL in the same Detroit Lions backfield, those Scots sparks began to fly again. Incredibly, the quarterback and running back from the same high school backfield led their pro team to two NFL championships in the 1950s, a phenomenon that sports followers still talk about today. Years later, both Layne (in 1967) and Walker (in 1986) were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Layne held the Detroit Lions team record for passing yards from 1958 until 2013 when it was broken by fellow HP Scot Matthew Stafford, a 2006 graduate.

The brief reign of the Scottish Terrier mascot

In the early 1940s, fans began calling Highland Park the “Scotties,” naming the Scottish Terrier as the mascot and painting a large Scottie dog on Highlander Stadium. Former players returning from the war discovered that their alma mater had “gone to the dogs,” and a public meeting was called to discuss the situation. At that meeting, it was determined that the Scot Highlander would be the only symbol on the stadium.  

Superintendent Gable retires

After 25 years as head of the Highland Park Independent School District, Superintendent Gable retired in 1945. Looking back at the development of the Park Cities schools during the quarter-century, he said in his letter to the School Board that enrollment had grown from 433 to 4,621, and that school district property value had increased from $129,000 to $1,762,974.

Gable always held that character development was essential to shaping responsible citizens. He reiterated this notion by including this quote on every report card: “All agree that education for good citizenship should be the chief aim of schools. Training for citizenship is more a matter of developing the right spirit than teaching facts.”

Gable spoke of his quarter-century of service: “If I had any part in helping to make better men and women out of these boys and girls, this is my greatest return.” 

He was given the well-deserved title of Superintendent Emeritus. 

Construction highlights
1949: Hyer Elementary opens, delayed by a steel shortage from WWII.

HPISD HISTORY: 1950-1959

Changes across the nation & in HPISD

In 1950, President Harry S. Truman, during his second term as president, led our nation as the Korean War began. After three years of fighting, a truce was signed between North and South Korea at the 38th parallel. In 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower was inaugurated as the 34th president and served two terms.

As the country experienced a change in leadership, so did the district. Dr. W.B. Irvin retired as district superintendent in 1954, and Frank Monroe took his place, continuing as superintendent until 1974.

In 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery, Ala., for refusing to give up her seat and move to the back of a bus. Subsequently, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. led a bus boycott that year and set the American Civil Rights Movement in motion. In 1958, HPISD changed its “whites only” policy, although the first African-American student wouldn’t attend school in the district until 1964.

In 1957, the Soviet Union launched the Sputnik satellite, the first manmade object to orbit the Earth. NASA was founded in 1958 and launched a project to take the first Americans into space. Class of 1945 graduate Elliot See Jr. was selected as a member of NASA’s Astronaut Group 2, a collection of astronauts that included Neil Armstrong. See was the commander of the Gemini 9 mission but was tragically killed while flying a training jet in 1966 in St. Louis, Mo. He was posthumously named a Highland Park Distinguished Alumnus in 2010.

Fire destroys most of Armstrong Elementary

Armstrong Elementary after the 1951 fire  
Armstrong Elementary after the 1951 fire  

A fire devastated nearly all of Armstrong Elementary Nov. 26, 1951. According to The Dallas Morning News, Highland Park policeman Walter Paschall was on patrol when he drove by the school at 9:02 p.m. He radioed dispatcher John Crowley saying, “Flames are coming out of the roof. It looks like it’s burning all over. Get all the fire trucks you can out here.” 

School Board members were meeting that evening at the Administration Building. They gathered, along with hundreds of others, around the burning building, according to the article.

Superintendent Irvin risked his life and ran into the burning building to rescue the only copies of the district’s tax records, according to district history documents.

The fire destroyed two stories of the main building. Mothers and teachers offered their homes for the school to use as classrooms.

Many classes were temporarily held at Highland Park United Methodist Church.

In September 1953, Armstrong reopened its doors to students. According to The Dallas Morning News, the school cost approximately $700,000 to rebuild.

Superintendent Irvin, who was planning his retirement before the fire occurred, felt obligated to stay on with the district until the school was rebuilt. Armstrong repairs were completed in 1953, and a year later Irvin placed his request for retirement, which the School Board granted.

HPISD's third superintendent

Frank Monroe

Frank Monroe moved from Midland, Texas, to become HPISD’s third superintendent in 1954. His philosophy was that “schools must reflect the aspirations and desires of the people of the district,” according to an article published in The Dallas Morning News April 21, 1954. Monroe loved football and pep rallies and instituted a new tradition — the Victory Apple — that still continues. He retired in 1974 after 20 years of service.

Students make strides to keep up with the times

In 1951, girls were allowed to join the high school band for the first time. In 1957, the Lassie Bagpipers became part of the band.

The junior high was awarded the Freedom Medal in October 1955.  Also called the George Washington Honor Medal of the National Freedom Foundation, it was awarded to organizations and institutions that exemplified responsible citizenship.

The National Merit Scholarship Corporation administered its first test in 1955, allowing students to compete for recognition and scholarships, and the highest achieving students were designated as National Merit Scholars. That year, after three rounds of testing, 10 Highland Park seniors were awarded certificates of merit.

Teacher compensation rises with number of students

As the number of students continued to grow in the district, so did the need for teachers. In 1951, the district hired 23 new teachers, bringing the total number to 240. As the decade continued, teachers asked for a pay raise as the number of students per teacher rose.

In 1954, the district increased its pay scale, and teachers with bachelor’s degrees received $3,303 to $4,900 annually, compared with the old scale of $3,203 to $4,700, according to The Dallas Morning News.

ROTC riflemen hit the mark

In May 1953, the high school’s ROTC riflemen received American Legion marksmanship medals, the highest-ranking award for weapons qualification. Winners were chosen according to their records in matches during 1952-53.

In 1957, the senior class wore caps and gowns at graduation for the first time instead of the traditional formal dress that graduates had worn in previous years.

HPISD HISTORY: 1960-1969

Witnesses to a tragedy

The ’60s were a time of change in both the district and the world. The decade began with the election of John Fitzgerald Kennedy as president.

The tragic assassination of President Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, was a defining moment in the country’s history.

1950 HP graduate Pierce Allman, who was then program director for WFAA television and radio, was the first to report on the assassination from Dealey Plaza. He and a friend had decided to walk over from the newsroom to watch the motorcade. They found a spot on the corner across from the front door of the Texas School Book Depository. More than 50 years later, Allman described it as a moment that stands still in time.

“It’s still so vivid. There’s no sense of time at all,” he said. “Sometimes, it’s as if I’m seeing it in slow motion. I can see the whole thing. Even as I was processing it intellectually, part of me was saying, ‘This is not happening. This is not real.’”

As soon as he realized what he had witnessed, he ran to find a phone to report on it immediately. On his way into the Book Depository, Allman encountered a thin young man with dark hair, a sallow complexion and circles under his eyes. Allman asked where he could find a phone. “In there,” the man said, pointing with his thumb as he calmly left the building. Allman would later learn the man’s name: Lee Harvey Oswald.

1952 HP graduate and Dallas Times Herald photographer Bob Jackson was also at the scene that day.

HP Graduate Bob Jackson took this Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of Lee Harvey Oswald being shot by Jack Ruby.HP Graduate Bob Jackson took this Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of Lee Harvey Oswald being shot by Jack Ruby.
HP Graduate Bob Jackson took this Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of Lee Harvey Oswald being shot by Jack Ruby.


“I was in the motorcade, and I saw a rifle in the window. I was one of four people who saw it. I was in the eighth car behind the president. So when the shots were fired and everything, we were facing the Book Depository, and I saw the rifle being drawn in. I had just tossed my film out to a reporter, so I was sitting there on the back seat of the convertible with an empty camera.”

Jackson’s camera was not empty two days later when suspected assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was shot by nightclub owner Jack Ruby on the way to the courthouse. He captured the moment on film and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his photo.

“I was looking through my camera when I was aware that someone was stepping out to my right, and it was very quick. He took two steps and fired, and I fired (my camera) at the right time, apparently,” he said.

“It was almost 2 p.m. before I was able to get back to the paper. I went into the darkroom and ran my film, and I remember looking at the wet film against the light, and it looked good. We made a quick, wet print and carried it out to the newsroom, and we realized what we had.”

The photo remains one of the iconic images of the century, and the camera Jackson used is on display in the Sixth Floor Museum. Allman provides the audio tour narration for the museum, which hosts approximately 315,000 visitors a year.

HP grads make service academy history

In 1960, President Eisenhower honored two district alumni: Charles Otstott (Class of ’55) and Alton Thompson (Class of ’56). They had been their respective class presidents at HPHS, were both winners of the prestigious Blanket Award, and both graduated first in their military academy class.

Otstott attended SMU for one year before attending West Point. Upon graduating from West Point, he was so decorated that it was said he “walked off with everything short of the Kissing Rock.” Otstott went on to serve in the Vietnam War and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and Silver Star Medal.

Thompson commanded his 3,600-man brigade at Annapolis, where he also captained the football team. He served as commanding officer of the nation’s first Trident-class nuclear submarine, the USS Ohio, and as commanding officer of the nuclear attack submarine, the USS Puffer. He retired as a naval captain in 1984.

Time’s 1960 accounting of these impressive accomplishments included an overview of Otstott’s and Thompson’s high school: “Highland Park High School, which serves two upper-class Dallas suburbs, University Park and Highland Park, is one of the toughest high schools academically in the Southwest. From 1957 to 1959, only 40 of its 1,022 graduates did not attend college. In 1960, the national ratio of graduating seniors to National Merit scholars was 1,666-to-1; at Highland Park, the ratio proved to be 183-to-1.”

Changes big and small

The Vietnam War and changes in music, fashion and entertainment impacted the nation’s culture and the district in many ways. Student interest in everything from current events to volunteerism sparked the formation of many new clubs and organizations.

At Highland Park High School, there had always been two graduating classes each year, one in January and one in June. The 1961 graduation marked the end of the two-graduating-class system, which had been in place since 1918.

Another landmark change was the 1963 retirement of longtime HPHS Principal Ben Wiseman, who dedicated 35 years of his life to upholding the standard of excellence for his school family.

Plane crashes into Bradfield Elementary

The Dallas Morning News report on the disaster that killed all seven passengers onboard
The Dallas Morning News report on the disaster that killed all seven passengers onboard

Sept. 27, 1967, was just like any other Wednesday, with students dismissed early at 3:10 p.m. so teachers could attend the weekly staff meeting. Many of the students were on the YMCA football team, which was practicing on the field. The peaceful routine was shattered at 3:40 p.m. when a small twin-engine plane crashed into Bradfield Elementary. The plane’s left wing broke in half, sending the plane into the ground. It hit a car on Mockingbird Lane in its descent, slid through the bicycle racks, then crashed into the north wall of the school.

Tad Heimburger (Class of ’74) will never forget seeing the plane heading straight for him as he was tying his books and clothes onto the back of his bike on the way to football practice.

“I was the only kid at the bike rack. When I looked up — this was very loud — I was seeing a plane spinning, and it was practically right on top of me. I watched it for long enough to see it do almost one rotation. I remember thinking that he was doing stunts,” he said. “I thought, ‘he’s going to hit the trees or the telephone lines above me,’ and I turned and ran inside the building. I had on the football pants, and it had burned the backs of my leg, and the back of my neck and my hair was singed.”

All seven people in the plane died on impact. Had it not been an early-dismissal day, the results might have been more tragic.

The Dallas Morning News gave the following details in a front-page story Sept. 28, 1967:

“A witness, C.W. Culwell, was with one of the teams when he heard the plane coming in low.

Culwell, the owner of a men’s clothing store and himself a private pilot, said he looked up when he heard the plane and saw it heading down at a 45-degree angle.

The left wing was folded back against the fuselage, Culwell said … and it was obvious the airplane was totally out of control.

When the plane exploded, he said, ‘There was no way we could get up close to help. What we ought to say our prayers about is that if it had hit 20 minutes earlier, there’s no telling how many of our kids it would have killed.’”

Construction highlights

  • 1961: A new science wing was built at the high school.
  • 1964: New floors were installed in 49 new classrooms, and 1,400 movable desks were added to both the high school and junior high. Also in the high school, a 30-seat language laboratory was added to help in the study of French and Spanish. The auditorium was modernized, and new seats were added.
  • 1968: Bond passes to finance renovations at all four elementary schools and construction at Highland Park High School, including:

A field house, swimming pool, and new basketball gym were added to the high school. The new basketball gym provided space for 1,600 spectators. 200 of the seats were padded seats for season ticket holders. The new 75x42-foot pool added in 1966 was designed not only for the swim team but also for physical education classes.

· Improvements were also made to the cafeteria, Highlander Stadium, and administrative and custodial offices.

· Construction began on two new wings, adding 22 new classrooms, a library, and a planetarium. Carpeting and air conditioning were added. The cafeteria was updated, and computers were introduced to make schedules. 

HPISD HISTORY: 1970-1979

Progress marches alongside conflict

The ’70s were a decade of contrast and conflict. In reaction to the continued U.S involvement in the Vietnam War, a wave of protests swept the country.

Technological advances made pocket calculators, VCR players, microwaves and cassette or eight-track tapes part of daily life. The computer industry was on the rise after the world’s first microprocessor, the Intel 4004, was introduced, and personal computers were sold around the world. All of these developments influenced lifestyles immensely, especially those of students in the latter half of the decade. New technology began to spread into the schools, greatly affecting the process of education. HPHS acquired 10 new electronic calculators. which were referred to as “mini-computers,” to replace slide rules in physics classes. Also, The Clan (the high school’s student directory) was converted to computer sheets, which made it possible to be printed earlier and kept more up-to-date. Students gained easier access to information and tools, and teachers had new, exciting ways to present the information.

Robin Rees-Jones, ’71, co-editor of The Bagpipe, reflected on the paradoxical nature of human progress, writing, “Man [had] learned to build a machine complex enough to travel to the moon, yet man still [could not] understand the most complex machine of all - man himself. Man cannot live on the moon, yet man [could not] live peacefully on earth.”

HPISD's fourth superintendent
Dr. Winston Power


Dr. Winston Power worked at Dallas ISD before joining HPISD as an administrative intern in January 1966. He served as assistant principal at Highland Park Junior High, as principal at University Park Elementary and as an elementary/secondary consultant before being named the fourth superintendent in Highland Park ISD’s history. He served as superintendent from 1974 to 1990.

HPISD grew under Dr. Power’s watch, as voters approved two bond issues that allowed renovations and additions to all of the district’s campuses in addition to the construction of Highlander Stadium in 1980, which is still used today for athletic competitions in grades 7-12.

Dr. Power was a remarkable man and a very effective leader,” said Becky Nugent, former HPISD Director of Communications. “He was a visionary with high expectations, and he also knew there was always room for improvement.”

The HPISD Alumni Association honored Dr. Power with the Distinguished Service Award in 1994.


Title IX spells out requirement for gender equity

In 1972, Title IX was passed “that requires gender equity for boys and girls in every educational program that receives federal funding.”

The law applies to many areas of education, but it is perhaps best known for the changes it made to athletic programs. Before Title IX, only one in 27 female high school students participated in school athletics. After the law was passed, HPHS allowed girls to enroll and participate in many other activities previously restricted to boys, such as woodshop and ROTC, and made plans to expand and add girls locker rooms and a gym in upcoming construction projects.



Although there was a dramatically increasing student population, the ROTC was rapidly losing members since the program became voluntary in 1963. This plan was initially enacted as a means to better the unit but eventually played a role in its downfall. Because of low membership and increasing necessity of resources for other programs, ROTC was disbanded in 1978.

HPISD named in desegregation lawsuit

Among the changes occurring in the ’70s was desegregation. It proved to be a struggle because the only way to desegregate schools was to incorporate busing to change the racial makeup of individual schools within each district. HPISD and six other districts were named in a lawsuit for not achieving a proportional percentage of all races that matched that of the City of Dallas and Dallas Independent School District. HPISD’s request to be dropped from the lawsuit was denied. One issue was that the only way for HPISD to change its racial proportion was to bus students across district lines. Even if HPISD changed attendance zones within the district, it would not affect racial makeup.

According to Highland Park’s attorney Dick Gray, HPISD did not currently permit inter-district transfers “and did not permit them at the time of the plaintiff ’s second amended complaint … nor did it permit them for years prior to them.” Gray also pointed out that since the late ’50s, the district had a policy “of accepting all students that live within [district lines] without regard to the race, creed, color, or national origin of such students,” and that the policy had been strictly followed ever since. When Gray submitted a breakdown of HP’s school enrollment since the ’60s, it was clear that the minority enrollment in each school had barely exceeded 2 percent of the total enrollment, and that number matched that of its community. Finally, after five years, Highland Park became the last district to be dropped from the lawsuit in 1975.

Fighting Scot emblem
  • On Nov. 18, 1977, the popular Fighting Scot emblem was created and published on the front cover of the program for the Highland Park vs. R.L. Turner football playoff game at Texas Stadium.
  •  It was designed by nationally renowned sports and political cartoonist Bill McClanahan, a 1927 graduate of HPHS. McClanahan was a staff cartoonist at The Dallas Morning News for many years, and variations of his drawing of the fighting Scot are now used by many athletic teams at Highland Park.

Reconfiguration of grades occurs throughout the system

When the 1970 school year started at Highland Park High School, freshmen were part of the student body for the first time since 1936. The junior high changed its name to Highland Park Middle School, and the sixth grade was moved to the school from the four elementary schools.

Three years later the school board voted to change the name of the junior high to McCulloch Middle School, in honor of the late Arch H. McCulloch, the longest-serving trustee in HPISD history (1950-1972). 

Governor Bill Clements

  • In 1978, Class of 1934 grad Bill Clements was elected governor of Texas.
  •  “Highland Park is a wonderful place,” he once said, “second only next to heaven.”

Dress code gives students more options

  Girls at HPHS were allowed to wear long pants in 1975
  Girls at HPHS were allowed to wear long pants in 1975

The dress code began changing drastically for the first time in decades. Girls were required to wear skirts or dresses. Culottes, which were shorts cut to look like skirts, were first permitted during the 1969-70 school year. In 1971, girls were allowed to wear pantsuits, and they were allowed to wear long pants in 1975.

Boys’ hair was allowed to hang below the top of the dress shirt collar in 1975. In 1977, socks and belts became optional, and overalls were permitted if worn over a shirt.

Construction highlights

Work continued on construction funded by the 1968 bond issue, including the installation of air conditioning in all HPISD campuses.
Construction additions to HPHS included:
  • a student commons where the east courtyard had been
  • an elevator for the handicapped
  • additional parking spaces
  • a new physical education facility adjacent to the boys' gym that included basketball, volleyball, gymnastics and weight training facilities
  • an all-sports facility that replaced the health and safety education rooms
  • renovations to the pool area, including the installation of a diving board, a new ceiling, and windows
  • additional classroom space to accommodate the ninth grade, which had previously been part of the junior high
  • a new library and a new planetarium

HPISD History: 1980-1989

 The new Highlander Stadium was completed in 1980.
The new Highlander Stadium was completed in 1980.
Celebrating a new stadium in style

In 1980, Highlander Stadium opened its gates to a crowd that was ready for a true home game. The Scots had been playing at SMU’s Ownby Stadium while the new stadium was being built.

Before the game began, a man parachuted in and delivered the game ball to Gov. Bill Clements, a proud graduate of the Class of 1934.

“It was a really exciting event with a lot of built-up anticipation,” said Jeff Berry, a 1981 graduate. “Our motto, Scots Got Pride, was never more evident, and the opening fanfare was equally over the top. We crushed our opponents that night.”

HP graduate awarded Nobel Prize in Physics

1980 was also a notable year for the Scots in the field of science when it was announced that 1948 graduate Dr. James Cronin and his fellow researcher Val Fitch won the Nobel Prize in Physics. They were lauded "for the discovery of violations of fundamental symmetry principles in the decay of neutral K-mesons,” according to the Nobel Foundation.
That research led to the theory that the universe was formed by a “big bang” explosion billions of years ago.
Dr. James Cronin
Dr. James Cronin
Asked to translate his research into layman’s terms, Dr. Cronin said, “It’s highly technical, and it deals with quantum mechanics and particle physics. Interpreted in the broadest way, it allows us to understand why we live in a matter-dominated universe.”
Cronin said it was gratifying to see how his discovery created a spark.

“It inspired a huge amount of research. I followed it up by doing additional experiments for about 10 more years, and then I moved into astrophysics and subjects concerned with cosmic radiation.”

Cronin traces his interest in science to his days at HPHS and in particular, to his physics teacher Charles H. Marshall.

“He was a superb teacher. He made us build things and do real experiments, as opposed to just working problems in a book,” Cronin remembers.

As a Nobel Laureate, Cronin joined the ranks of the top scholars in the world, including Albert Einstein, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1921.

Dramatic changes in the classroom, playing field

Even as people around the world scratched their heads trying to understand Cronin’s findings on matter and antimatter, the landscape of public education in Texas was undergoing its own transformation. The 1984 passage of House Bill 72 introduced dramatic reforms to the state’s system. The No Pass No Play rule stipulated that all students in extracurricular activities must have passing grades in order to continue participating. This affected students in all UIL competitions — athletics, the fine arts and academics.

The new law also required students to pass exit-level exams in order to graduate and put more stringent teacher certification requirements in place.

Students and teachers adjusted to the new system, and Highland Park ISD continued to grow, most dramatically in the area of activities for girls.

“To be a female athlete in any sport at Highland Park means you earn respect,” said Jerry Sutterfield, who joined HPISD in 1985 as a metal shop and woodshop teacher. Sutterfield went on to coach boys and girls track and cross country, and he became the district’s first Director of Women’s Sports in 2003. “Being strong, being outspoken and achieving high academic levels are the hallmarks of a female athlete at our school,” he said. “Our girls want to succeed, whether it’s on the field, in the gym or in the Academic Decathlon.”
The Belles ring in a new era

  The Highland Belles first took to the field in 1983
The Highland Belles drill team began in 1983, and from the start, the organization was about hard work, discipline, and character, in addition to excellent dancing.

Cathy Wheat, the founding director who went on to lead the team for 22 years, said the very first Belles came in with high expectations and a willingness to do what it takes to build a new program.

“These girls could unflinchingly devote themselves to the hard work ahead, wholeheartedly submit themselves to the hard work and discipline necessary to create a successful drill team, and willingly act as role models for girls throughout the school,” she said.

With the team selected, the next big decision was the uniform. The girls considered the usual boots, cowboy hats, and sequins, but they wanted something unique, so Wheat collaborated with art students. The result was a blue uniform with a yellow “V” symbolizing victory, white fringe and white Keds with high socks. More than three decades later, the uniform, fondly known as “the fringe,” is still worn today.

The Belles celebrated their 30th anniversary in 2013 with the screening of a 30-minute documentary film “Beyond the Fringe.” There were three shows Dec. 17 at Highland Park Village Theatre, and the place was packed with Belles alumnae, friends and family, a testament to the lifelong effect that being on the iconic drill team has had on many of its members.

A precursor to Robin Hood

In May 1984, the landmark case of Edgewood ISD vs. Kirby, the Mexican American Legal Defense, and Educational Fund challenged the state’s methods for funding public schools.

 “The plaintiffs in the Edgewood case contested the state’s reliance on local property taxes to finance its system of public education, contending that this method was intrinsically unequal because property values varied greatly from district to district, thus creating an imbalance in funds available to educate students on an equal basis throughout the state,” according to the Texas State Historical Association.

The case wound its way through the court system, and in October 1989, the Texas Supreme Court unanimously ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor. The court ordered the legislature to put an equitable school funding system in place by the 1990-91 school year.

While “Robin Hood” had not yet become a household phrase, leaders in Highland Park closely followed the case and understood that big changes were in store for the district and the community in the years to come.

Education Foundation opens

It was clear that the court battle over school finance was far from over, and that a public-private partnership was the wisest strategy for preserving the tradition of educational excellence in HPISD. So community leaders organized the Highland Park Education Foundation, which incorporated as a nonprofit in 1984. For the first 10 years, foundation projects were volunteer-driven, and annual distributions were directed to student scholarships with occasional special gifts, such as seed funding, to start the HPHS Alumni Association.  

As the years went on, the Foundation grew from a small operation to a fundraising powerhouse that partnered with PTAs, La Fiesta de las Seis Banderas, individual leaders, and other community groups to help fund faculty salaries, teacher grants, teacher training and technology. Foundation fundraising efforts have grown steadily, thanks to the annual Mad for Plaid campaign. Gifts increased from $17,000 in 1993-94 to more than $2.5 million in recent years.
HP swimmers bring home 6 Olympic medals

Three outstanding HP graduates made their mark in swimming in three consecutive Olympic competitions. Back home, Scots fans cheered on their hometown athletes during the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, the 1988 Olympics in Seoul and the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. The winners are:

  • Bruce Hayes, 1981 graduate: gold medal, men’s 4x200-meter freestyle relay (1984 Olympics)
  • Mike Heath, 1982 graduate: gold medal, men’s 4x100-meter freestyle relay; gold medal, men’s 4x200-meter freestyle relay; gold medal, 4x100-meter medley relay; silver medal, individual 200-meter freestyle event (1984 Olympics)
  • Shaun Jordan, 1986 graduate: gold medal men’s 4x100-meter freestyle relay (1988 Olympics); gold medal, men’s 4x100-meter freestyle relay (1992 Olympics)
  • As a note, while these three Olympians earned their medals within just a few years of one another, 1948 graduate Skippy Browning is also a gold medal winner. He earned his gold medal in springboard diving in Helsinki in 1952.

Construction highlights

  • 1980: The new Highlander Stadium opens
  • 1983: Indoor Seay Tennis Center opens, thanks to a generous gift from Charlie and Sadie Seay
  • 1988: HPHS science wing is completed, including 10 classrooms and eight labs; renovations included journalism, business, typing, math, homemaking and photography classrooms

HPISD History: 1990-1999

HPHS revives Alumni Association

In 1990, HPHS revived its Alumni Association to provide an organization that would allow graduates to keep in touch and strengthen their connection to the district. Art Barnes, 1951 graduate served as the first chairman in 1991.

Over the years, the association has built an alumni directory, planned numerous reunions and established scholarships for graduating seniors.

In addition to class reunions, there are two large celebrations every year: the Distinguished Alumni Awards and the Golden Scots Reunion.

The first Distinguished Alumni Awards program was held in 1989 and helped build the excitement for the re-establishment of the Alumni Association in 1990. In addition to the Distinguished Alumni Awards, which are given to three graduates every year, the association also gives a Distinguished Service Award to a former employee for outstanding service and the Highlander Award, which is given to an individual who has made a major contribution to HPISD. 

The Golden Scots Reunion began in 1994 to honor alumni who graduated at least 50 years earlier. With between 500 and 700 attendees, it is the largest gathering of alumni every year.

HPISD's fifth superintendent

Dr. John P. Connolly

In 1990, the School Board hired Dr. John P. Connolly as its fifth superintendent. Dr. Connolly came to Highland Park from Chappaqua Central School District in New York, where he had served as Superintendent of Schools.

Dr. Connolly assumed leadership of HPISD during a challenging time. He addressed the issues of rapid enrollment growth and the loss of local control that resulted from Robin Hood legislation. Dr. Connolly helped found the Texas School Coalition, an organization made up of more than 100 school districts that advocates for meaningful discretion of local boards over their district funds. He served as the group’s first full-time executive director. Dr. Connolly served as HPISD superintendent from 1990-2001.

In 2012, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Award for his years of service.


Robin Hood: Recapture of local tax dollars presents growing challenge

The 90s marked the enactment of Robin Hood, the state’s practice of recapturing local tax dollars and redistributing them to districts across Texas. This was the legislature’s solution to the Texas Supreme Court’s 1989 order to put an equitable school funding systeplace. Under Robin Hood, Texas recaptured property tax revenues from property-wealthy school districts and distributed those dollars to property-poor districts. Because of its valuable local tax base, Highland Park ISD was hit hard, with recapture payments hovering around 70 percent for many years. For example, in 2013-14, HPISD’s recapture rate was 68 percent, requiring the district to send $69.3 million to the state. From 1991 to 2014, Highland Park ISD taxpayers paid a grand total of more than $1 billion to the state in recaptured dollars.

The so-called Robin Hood system is now a household phrase, and district and community leaders took a two-pronged approach of raising money locally while trying to work with state leaders to mitigate the dramatic effect of so many tax dollars leaving the district. The reliance on private funding grew, and the Education Foundation, HPISD PTAs, Dads Clubs, Sports Club, Booster Clubs, La Fiesta de las Seis Banderas, HP Arts, and other community supporters stepped up to raise the millions needed to fill the gap.

Construction of first new school building in 40 years

In 1992, with a $35.45 million bond election approved, a plan was finalized to build a new facility to house fifth through eighth grades.
Land acquisition and construction cost $24 million.
The new building opened in 1995 as two schools housed in one building with McCulloch Intermediate School serving fifth and sixth grades and Highland Park Middle School serving seventh and eighth grades. The 1,700 students shared a band hall, cafeteria, auditorium and library.
The old building was demolished in 1997, and the school district published a commemorative booklet honoring the history of the school.
Literary Festival

The first Highland Park Literary Festival began in 1995 as a collaboration between interested parents and the HPHS English Department. Now an annual event, the festival features more than 100 workshops conducted by accomplished journalists, novelists, songwriters, poets, and playwrights. There is a student-run open-mic night, where students read their own work and an evening featuring a keynote speaker is open to the community. The Literary Festival is supported by La Fiesta de las Seis Banderas, HP Arts, the Highland Park High School PTA and individual donors. 

Literary Festival keynote speakers

  • Carol Higgins Clark, 1996-97
  • Doug Wright, HP grad and Tony Award-winning playwright, 1997-98
  • James Kelman, 1998-99
  • Marion Winik, 1999-2000
  • Don Graham, 2000-01
  • Tim O'Brien, 2001-02
  • George Plimpton, 2002-03
  • Russell Banks, 2003-04
  • Michael Chabon, 2004-05
  • Kaye Gibbons, 2005-06
  • Anchee Min, 2006-07
  • Scott Simon, 2007-08
  • Billy Collins, 2008-09
  • Tobias Wolff, 2009-10
  • David Wright, 2010-11
  • Naomi Shihab Nye, 2011-12
  • Marcus Zusak, 2012-13
  • Mark Salzman, 2013-14


Voters turn down 1998 bond issue but pass smaller version in 1999

With enrollment still increasing, HPISD proposed a $76 million bond package in 1998, which was not approved by voters. The most contentious issue surrounding the bond issue was the proposal for the construction of a fifth elementary school.

Voters approved a smaller bond issue of $49.95 million the following year to fund district-wide renovations, new technology systems, and equipment and additions to HPHS.

Construction highlights

  • Early in the decade, the baseball field at the high school underwent construction. In 1990, an anonymous donation led to a new infield tarp and sprinkler system. In 1991-1992, bathrooms, concession stands and covered batting cages were also installed.
  • In 1997, the site of the former junior high was repurposed, and a baseball diamond, sports field, and jogging track were built.
  • In 1999, money from the $49.95 million bond package funded major renovations to the high school, including classroom and cafeteria expansion, outdoor tennis courts, a softball field, and a parking garage.

HPISD History: 2000-2009

Economic and international ups and downs

The convergence of internet usage, technological advances and the globalization of business and culture came together to create a newfound ability for everyday men and women to reach across continents in their day-to-day lives.

Nations became so profoundly interconnected that political, social and economic events created ripple effects that were felt instantly around the globe. The stock markets expanded for most of the decade before plummeting in the fall of 2008.

   Armstrong students recite the pledge of allegiance with Principal Dr. Mary Richey
  Armstrong students recite the pledge of allegiance with Principal Dr. Mary Richey

9/11 – A day that changed our world

The world watched in horror on Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists flew two planes into the World Trade Center towers, a third into the Pentagon, and a fourth plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania after its passengers overtook their captors. President George W. Bush declared a War on Terror, a war that knew no traditional boundaries or enemies.

Superintendent Dr. Cathy Bryce remembered when the news bulletins began to arrive.

“I was in an early morning meeting, and we heard the reports of what had happened. At first, it was that moment of, ‘What is this? What is this, really?’ And then when we got our arms and minds around what had happened, we immediately went into crisis management mode. We had training and procedures for that. We locked down our campuses initially, and we worked with city and town public safety officials to filter through what they were hearing about any possible threats to us here in Dallas.

“Our focus was on keeping everyone safe and getting through the day. The bulk of our parents left their children with us that day, and any parents who wanted to pick up their children were able to do so right away. It was a comfort to know that our children were going home to loving families who would wrap their arms around them and try to make sense of what had happened that day.

“That day changed the way we think about school security. It made us focus in a new way on how to protect our campuses and how to keep our students and staff members safe,” she said.

 HPISD's sixth superintendent
Dr. Cathy Bryce  


In 2001, the School Board hired Dr. Cathy Bryce as its sixth superintendent. A native of Altus, Okla., Dr. Bryce was a lifelong educator who had served in leadership roles in many Dallas-Fort Worth schools. She came to Highland Park from Weatherford ISD.

Dr. Bryce was known for her strategic thinking, limitless energy and gift for communication. She was named Superintendent of the Year by the American Association of School Administrators in 2000 and Key Communicator of the Year by the Texas School Public Relations Association in 2008.

Dr. Bryce served as superintendent from 2001 to 2008. In 2014, Dr. Bryce was awarded the Highlander Award for the difference she made in HPISD.


HPISD expands and aligns curriculum, technology

The decade marked a concerted effort to align curriculum, both vertically (in successive grades) and horizontally (across grades and, in the case of elementary schools, across campuses). Teachers worked together to ensure students were prepared for future years by embarking on intensive curriculum writing workshops over the summer. They also demonstrated their commitment to lifelong learning by participating in teaching conferences and writing institutes. In 2002, HPISD trustees voted to expand the kindergarten program to provide all-day instruction.

At the high school level, participation in challenging Advanced Placement courses skyrocketed. From 2000 to 2013, the number of students taking AP exams rose from 429 to 1,095, and the total number of exams taken grew from 997 to 2,719. In keeping with the commitment to prepare students for their future in the global workplace, the district introduced Mandarin Chinese as a foreign language class option.

As technology expanded its role in day-to-day life, HPISD decided to allow students to use their own devices in the classroom when teachers deemed it appropriate. Many teachers also introduced cell phone “parking lots,” which were bins where students would put their phones when they weren’t using them for research and learning.

Science Festival

Inspired by the Literary Festival, HP parent and chemical engineer Marie Naklie McCoy organized the first HPHS Science Festival in 2006.

During the one-day event, more than 50 speakers representing careers in science, technology, engineering, and math visit the high school campus. These accomplished leaders discuss their careers, educational paths and work experience with students. All high school science students have the opportunity to engage in conversation and gain a deeper understanding of these vital and in-demand careers. Sponsored by the Science Department at Highland Park High School and organized by parent volunteers, the mission of the Science Festival is to encourage and inspire students to pursue careers in medicine, research, technology, engineering, and science. The tradition continues today, with nearly 75 parent volunteers hosting the Science Festival each year.

Voters overwhelmingly approve $75.4 million bond issue

In 2008, HPISD voters overwhelmingly approved a $75.4 million school bond issue with 91.15 percent supporting the proposition.

“I am deeply grateful to the community for supporting the bond issue and for investing in the maintenance of the historical schoolhouses that have served the students of HPISD for many decades,” Dr. Bryce said. “We pledge to manage the money with the utmost care and to work closely with a community-based bond oversight committee to ensure that the projects are completed in accordance with community expectations.”

HPISD School Board President Jeff Barnes called the results “a tremendous vote of confidence from our community.”

HPISD School Board votes to limit class rank

The HPISD School Board voted to limit class rank in the fall of 2009. Under a state law passed in 1997, school districts must rank the top 10 percent of their students because Texas public universities rely heavily on those numbers when making admissions decisions.

After hearing the report from a study committee, the HPISD School Board and HPISD administrators came to the consensus that the practice of ranking all students puts those students who are not in the top 10 percent of the class at a disadvantage.

The policy went into effect with the senior class of 2010. Parents and students overwhelmingly supported the change, and many Texas school districts followed HPISD’s example by revising their class-ranking policies.

A mighty merger

In 2003, the Alumni Association merged with the Highland Park Education Foundation to form a single organization serving the needs of students, alumni, parents, and friends of the school district.


Construction highlights

  • 2003: A major four-year renovation of the high school was completed, and the new wing provided more classroom space and allowed for a new, larger cafeteria. The project also included the addition of outdoor tennis courts, a softball field and a parking garage.
  • 2008-2010: Highlights of projects funded by the 2008 bond issue:
    • Construction of additional classrooms
    • Replacement of portable classrooms with classrooms in the main buildings for all campuses
    • Safety measures, such as the purchase of security cameras and the configuration of front offices as mandatory check-in points for visitors
    • Expansion of repairs and maintenance to infrastructure needs such as heating and air conditioning systems
    • Roofing replacements and repairs
    • Purchase of land behind the HPHS parking garage
    • Gym renovations on all campuses, including the addition of a competition gym at MIS/HPMS
    • Dining and kitchen expansions at all elementary schools
    • Artificial turf on the softball field
    • Technology upgrades and replacement for network infrastructure and data storage
    • Partial funding for the construction of a multipurpose activities center at HPHS
    • Construction of  the Business Services Annex at the Administration Building along with infrastructure updates and repairs


HPISD's seventh superintendent

Dr. Dawson Orr is known as an articulate, thoughtful and respected leader. He has served as president of the Texas Association of School Administrators, chairperson of TASA’s legislative committee and president of the Texas Leadership Center Board. 

He was named Superintendent of the Year by Communities in Schools in 2008 and Key Communicator of the Year by the Texas School Public Relations Association in 2005. He continues to serve as a member of TASA’s legislative committee and the Visioning Institute, a study group made up of educational leaders focusing on school district redesign.  

HPISD History: 2010-Present

Leaders advocate for changes to state’s school finance and mandatory testing systems

Superintendent Dr. Dawson Orr and the Board of Trustees rallied to advocate for school districts across Texas on two critical fronts: school finance and state-mandated standardized testing. In 2011, HPISD joined in a lawsuit over the school finance system. The Texas School Coalition, which is made up of revenue-contributing districts, challenged the constitutionality of the Texas school finance system, claiming that it fails to provide schools with sufficient funding to meet state educational standards and that the system has become a statewide property tax. As of this writing, the lawsuit has not been resolved.

At the same time, Dr. Orr led a challenge regarding the increasing number of standardized tests required by the state.

"The tremendous work of Highland Park ISD principals and teachers to provide for academic excellence has continued, even in the face of ever-increasing bureaucratically driven mandatory testing," Dr. Orr said. "We need to fight to ensure that the learning environment that allows our students to excel is not eroded by a combined state and federal system that continues to require more standardized assessments."

Dr. Orr, along with other superintendents in the North Texas Regional Consortium, a group of high-performing districts, continued to advocate for Texas schoolchildren by communicating with community members and state leaders about the detrimental effects of over-testing. As of this writing, HPISD is working to develop a community-based accountability and assessment system that is more effective than the state model. 

On May 1, 2013, seven HPISD students were among the first 43 visitors at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum. They were surprised and delighted when the former president himself greeted them in the Oval Office room.

"Welcome to the Oval Office," he said. "You're our first guests, and we're thrilled you're here."

Bush visited with 43 Dallas-area schoolchildren for more than 30 minutes, covering subjects ranging from a typical day at the White House to the profound role faith has played in his life.

Bush intentionally requested that the first visitors be schoolchildren - not dignitaries or donors - because he wanted the Bush Center to be a place of learning.

Learners & Educators for the Future

In mapping out HPISD’s path for the future, the district leaders began with the most important person in mind: the student. The vision for preparing students to become tomorrow's leaders and responsible citizens led to the development of the profiles of the Learner for the Future and the Educator for the Future.

Learner for the future graphic Educator for the Future graphic

In 2012, the district assembled a study team made up of parents, students, teachers, administrators and university professors to identify the knowledge, skills, attributes and dispositions the HPISD student would need to become an accomplished person and lifelong learner. After months of study, discussion and collaboration, the team produced what you see today: the profile of the Learner for the Future. A similar team developed the profile of the Educator for the Future in 2013. The themes and goals embedded in those profiles continue to guide the district’s work to this day.

HPISD sets new enrollment record, HPHS moves up to 6A

HPISD’s enrollment hit a new high of 7,022 students in the fall of 2013. The district was growing at all levels, including the high school, which was reclassified in the 6A large high school division, a change that took effect in 2014. 

"The Scots are always competitive," Superintendent Dr. Dawson Orr said. "We look forward to the challenge."

Although the funding supplied by the 2008 bond issue allowed the district to add square footage and eliminate portable classrooms, the steady growth quickly filled that space. Once again, Highland Park ISD trustees studied the best strategies for serving the growing student enrollment in a 6.2-square mile densely developed and populated area. The growth is a testament to HPISD’s reputation of excellence, which continues to attract new families.

Celebrating the past and hailing the future

While it is not possible to capture a century of stories in one book, the small mosaic collected here reflects what is possible when a community joins hands with its schools. Over the years that have passed since 1914, the students educated in Highland Park schools have gone on to lead lives rich in opportunity, experiences, and leadership. They have truly entered to learn and gone forth to serve in every possible arena.

“The enduring legacy of this district is found in the families that for generations have contributed to excellence, whether academic, athletic, artistic or in the spirit of service,” Dr. Orr said. “We celebrate the past, recognizing all the traditions that have been built over the years and the outstanding individuals upon whose shoulders we stand today.

“When I look back to the 1924 Highlander, I am struck by the wisdom of the members of the senior class who wrote, ‘Many schools live merely on the momentum and traditions they have gathered in the more flourishing days of past. We are proud of our short past, but we are prouder of the Highland Park High School that is to be.’ ” Dr. Orr said.

“Just like those 1924 graduates, we hail the future, looking forward to seeing what today’s kindergartners will go on to do as they continue to write this remarkable story.”

In honor of its 100th anniversary, Highland Park ISD hosted a weekend full of fun events Oct. 17-19. The celebration began on the afternoon of Oct. 17 as each campus released students early and hosted an open house for the community. Each school featured a display case of cherished historical items for visiting alumni and other visitors to view, along with student tours and other special events.

The next day, the HP Education Foundation and the Alumni Association hosted the annual Golden Scots reunion. The luncheon hosts graduating classes from 50 years or more, and this year's event welcomed more than 700 alumni.

Golden Scots reunion

Golden Scots reunion

On Oct. 19, the community enjoyed a block party that featured performances from student groups, bounce houses, and games for kids, photo booths, food trucks and more. The highlight of the event was the Scots Museum held inside the Multi-Purpose Activities Center. The museum showcased the spirit of HP schools and highlighted each campus and many of the clubs and organizations from the high school. Special items at the museum included Doak Walker's Heisman Trophy, yearbooks, and scrapbooks from every campus, athletic uniforms from nearly every decade and much more.

As we celebrate a century of excellence, we harken back to those words that have inspired generations of Scots:

Enter to Learn. Go Forth to Serve.

Bagpipers playing outside of HPHS