KATY MAGAZINE NEWS
February 25, 2019
By Katrina Katsarelis
With its early academic standards and passion for children, Katy ISD always seemed to be a legacy in the making. Now as the district celebrates its 100 year anniversary, Katy Magazine takes a stroll down memory lane and looks back at the way we were in the earliest years of Katy ISD.
On February 25, 1919, the Texas legislature established Katy ISD to educate children in parts of Harris, Waller and Fort Bend Counties, Texas.
The Forming of Katy ISD
According to historical documents, residents in the area voted to establish the Katy Independent School District in the Spring of 1918 but the state prohibited an independent district that included two or more counties, and Katy had three. In 1919, local businessman W.H. Weller (representing the residents of Katy) spoke before the court of county school commissioners and petitioned for a new district. The court granted his request and Katy ISD was officially established. At that time, the district only extended about 3-miles east and 3-miles west of the town of Katy, 5-miles south and 2-miles north of the town site of Katy.
The actual district included the two buildings in town and incorporated the rural Hennessey, Dishman, Sills, McGinnis and Schlipf schools and what was then known as the "Negro School", which was moved into town to meet at the Antioch Baptist Church. Students who lived in the country came to school by horse and buggy or horseback.
Barn Side Learning
To accommodate the horses, there was a barn beside the school where at lunchtime, the children would have to feed their horses as well as themselves. With an hour for lunch, those living in town would walk home. Others could either buy a lunch for five cents, or bring a sack lunch. Some of them chose to go to one of the stores in town for candy.
Original Board of Trustees
Katy ISD's first board of trustees were J. Cope, T. H. Wallace, F. R. Hoyt, C. E. Hegler, F. A. Poorman, S. J. Porter, and John Sills. Over 80 hardworking, volunteer trustees have served on the board through the years including prominent names like Judge Glen Beckendorff, Bill Callegari (State representative), and Don Elder Jr. (Former Katy Mayor).
The first superintendent was J.B. Oliphant followed by J.B. Oliphant, who served until 1920 followed by J.B. Bolton (1920-1924), C.T. Sims (1924-1926), John Merryweather (1926-1928), and J. H. Sandlin (1928-1929).
Original Katy ISD School Houses
In 1927, Katy ISD's old wooden school house was sold to Apostolic Church and moved to a nearby lot. A new brick school building with an auditorium was constructed to provide additional classrooms for the elementary grades. The pre-Katy ISD 1909 schoolhouse was also updated with indoor plumbing and steam heat, and the bell was removed from the tower.
Katy ISD's first teachers, Mr. and Mrs. A. K. Hogue, Daisey Smith, Gail Laphan, N. Ball, and J. W. Parten were hired. Roberta Wright Rylander who was born in 1920 and attended both elementary and high school in Katy, was part of the 29 member Katy High School graduation class of 1936.
Immersing Lives with Teachers
In an interview from 2005 with Katy Magazine, Rylander recalls one of Katy ISD's all time favorite teachers. Mrs. Mary Wilkenson, who was highly sought after by local families because of her devotion to the children. According to Rylander, teachers were often immersed in the student’s personal lives too because they usually lived with local families and they often knew everyone's business. Rylander says Wilkenson was extremely proud and patriotic and instilled that sense of pride in her students. “Everybody wanted their children to have Ms. Mary.”
Football & Sports Roots
J.E. Fox was Katy ISD's Superintendent from 1938-1940 and during his tenure, Katy established its first football team, known for the first time as the Tigers. Tiger Field was built on the north side of the school in 1940 and a group of Katy dads purchased lighting equipment for Tiger Field and a softball diamond as well. The project cost about $1000 and was raised entirely by donations, none larger than $10 per person.
Katy Boys Basketball Team
First Graduating Class
Katy's first graduating class comprised of 17 seniors who went all the way through Katy ISD and graduated from Katy High School in 1941.
Future Farmers of America
In 1942, the director of the Texas Education Agency, J.D. Marshall, hired L.D. Robinson to take over as the vocational agriculture teacher and serve as FFA advisor in Katy ISD. At the time, the program was in danger of being discontinued by the state, and Marshall knew that immediate action needed to be taken. When Robinson got there, he saw an opportunity to make Katy's agriculture science program great, which he quickly went to work doing. With the help of some of his students, he built a scale model replica of an FFA chapter farm, livestock barns, a show barn, feedlots and pens, and a lighted rodeo arena and presented the at the first Katy FFA Father and Son Banquet, the Katy I.S.D. school board, and State officials including Mr. Marshall. It was emphasized that the program would be self-supporting and would not cost the school district one cent - another long shot. But the district gave him the go ahead and the rest is FFA history.
Oil & Gas Invasion
Katy was primarily agricultural and rice farming, but when Humblie Oil Co. opened the Katy gas plant on January 1, 1943, growth in Katy ISD really took off. Morale at the plant and in the town was at an all-time high because the oil industry was booming and people were starting to prosper. The Humble Oil company's gas plant doubled Katy's population from 400 in 1942 to 800 in 1943. While rice farming made Katy a thriving agricultural area, revenue from the plant made many Katy land owners very wealthy and Katy ISD had plenty of funds to buy land and build new schools and upgrade equipment.
Growth and a New School System Begins
In 1945, 100 acres were purchased on Highway 90 to build a whole new school system and in the Katy high school yearbook a passage thanked the Humble, Stanoline and thirty other oil companies who brought riches to the area allowing for the construction of the new senior and junior high campus.