Since the school district is building several new schools, the matter of naming them will emerge soon as a topic of discussion. 

I still stand by my admonishment that schools should be named for those who are long gone from this Earth.  And not just recently departed, but gone long enough for their legacy to still be remembered and valued.

With that requirement in mind, may I suggest that there is a local historian, Carol Adams, whose historical articles on the Katy area appear in Absolutely Katy, who should be on a school naming committee. Also, Brenda Ritter, who has also done historical research and written about the Katy area and its people in the past, should also be on such a committee. I'm sure there are others who are familiar with the Katy area who could serve.

Put whoever else on it you chose, but at least give it some credibility by adding these women.


 By Mary McGarr

Written in October 2006

Since it appears that we will be building public school buildings in the Katy school district into perpetuity, I thought it was a good time to make some suggestions on the naming of such buildings.

A while back I suggested elsewhere that the existing school board should just name the next seven schools after themselves and move on.  It appears to me that some of them are hanging on much too long hoping to institute the longevity factor as a good reason for there to be a (fill in your favorite board member’s name) Junior High School.

In the spirit of Ken Lay (of Enron fame), whose name graced our local YMCA for many years, I would like to suggest that naming schools after anyone who’s still living is a really bad idea.  No one ever knows what someone is going to do before they depart, and having their name on a building if they stray is terribly embarrassing.

The KEN LAY YMCA became over time, first the KEN LAY YMCA and eventually the KEN LAY YMCA.  Fortunately Mr. Lay, shortly before he passed away, wisely allowed the YMCA to remove his name altogether. 

How embarrassing that must have been for the YMCA and Mr. Lay’s family, as well as all the rest of us.

Such a situation never needs to exist if the practice of naming schools is limited to those who are no longer with us.  

Waiting until someone is gone also insures that no one gets caught up in the moment and rushes in with a name of someone that may not be deserving of the honor. The passage of time has a way of separating reality from the impulses of the moment.

The KISD School Board in the 1990’s decided that schools should be named for people instead of geographic areas because sometimes the people of an area do not get to go to the school of their area if the capacity is filled.  That makes for troubles the school board likes to avoid. Unfortunately, the Board, having no sense of history, short memories, and a propensity to sometimes go back on what a former Board has decided--creates their own world and comes up with such designations as Cinco Ranch, Morton Ranch and Seven Lakes which are not people at all!

So I’m suggesting here that there are quite a few honorable and deceased citizens of our community who could be honored by having their names placed on a school building.  I would also suggest that it would be wise to go back in time a bit to find such people.  If we still remember someone twenty or thirty years after they are gone, then certainly their legacy is worth recognition. We have some schools now who were named for people, and after the passage of not too many years, no one has a clue who they are or were.

The early settlers of the Katy area are the first who come to mind who would be deserving candidates.  After all, without them, the development of the area would not be the same, and they surely had an impact on it.  Family members of the Cardiffs, the Stockdicks, the Woods, the Marks, the Monigolds, the Freemans, the Poormans, the Thompsons, the Fussells, the Bings, the Dollins, the Jordans, the Roberts, the Sills, the Blacks, the Campbells, the Peeks, the Brands, the Nelsons, the family that lived on the Cinco Ranch and James Oliver Thomas (who helped lay out the townsite of Katy in 1895) should certainly be considered.  There are probably others than I am forgetting.

There are some people who may still be living, who, down the road need to have tribute paid to them.  There are many long time teachers and other employees of Katy ISD whose service in public education is notable.  For example Anna Baker, a KISD employee for 30 years, was a school bus driver for 22 years and managed the cafeteria at Wolfe (Addicks) Elementary for 18 years. Such service as that needs to be recognized.

In 1993 I received a letter from the family of Eugene (Gene) Hoyt, Jr. who was the President of the Katy school board in 1941-1942 and served for nine years on the board.  He was responsible for procuring the property on which Katy High School and the Administration buildings sit.  He was one of the original organizers of the FFA Stock Show and Rodeo.  He farmed the property where Winborn Elementary now exists (and his name was suggested when Winborn was renamed).  Three Katy Citizens who signed the letter (Nancy Hoyt Cardiff, Rhonda Hoyt Steen and Cynthia Cardiff Menefee) stated that “The naming of an elementary school should be a means of honoring community forefathers and leaders.  Eugene Hoyt was a community leader who exemplified hard work, intelligence, sound judgment, honesty, and success.  A Texan who was admired by his community, his friends and his family.  Yes, it was many years ago, but the foundation he helped provide for Katy’s schools has become a reality.  Future generations deserve to know of and honor Mr. Hoyt who symbolized the heritage that made their community great.” I couldn’t agree with them more. These citizens were asking the Board to name Williamsburg Settlement Elementary School for Mr. Hoyt.  Since that did not happen, perhaps sometime a Board will find another suitable structure that would adequately honor Mr. Hoyt.

Recently schools have been being named for living people to whom board members or superintendents owe a favor.  Also, the additional new practice is to name schools for administrators!  Since somehow, the Superintendent has wrested control of the School/Facilities Naming Committee from the School Board, those folks seem to be naming schools for each other!  How common!  How plebian!  How self-serving!

Most administrators are in the Katy School District for a relatively short period of time.  They come here from other places--usually at the behest of a friendly superintendent as he works his way up the ladder.  They have no roots here.  They have no intention of staying here--the Hill Country or Bentwater calls.... It is a bad practice, and the Board needs to stop approving their recommendations.  That's all they would have to do to end it.

There also could be the problem of naming a school for the person who owned the land and sold it for way too much because he had friends on the Board who would approve such a deal.  Such deals as that have been occurring for many decades.  We have schools and facilities that are located in abominable locations because the District purchased the land from a "friend," and then they had to do something with it to save face.  We even have (had?) a piece of land purchased in the past that was totally land-locked and with no way to get to it!

I’m sure if honorable, well-intentioned people were on a committee, the Board could be apprised of many deserving individuals who represent the individualism and enterprising spirit that we all revere and which should serve as inspiration to our students. There is no higher tribute than to have a school named after one, but the honor needs to be for recognizable, long term, and genuine service to the students or the community, and not to honor the superintendent who may not be around next year, or a bond committee member who helped get a bond referendum passed, or as some other type of political payback. And it certainly should NOT be an honor bestowed on a local sign salesman!

Let’s not get caught up in the moment, and let’s not have any more “Ken Lay” YMCA’s.

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