Allen ISD History
The Early Years
The history of Allen’s schools stretches back to the early days of Texas.
Pioneers moved into the area called Peter’s Colony from Tennessee starting in the late 1830’s. G.W. Ford, grandfather of W.E. Pete Ford settled on land near Bethany Lakes Park in 1836. As more settlers moved in, the need for schools and churches grew. Crude log buildings were often used for both purposes as well as other community gatherings. Eventually separate school and church buildings were built and small communities grew around them.
Before 1910, a number of one or two-room schools were located near the current City of Allen. Among these schools was the Mustang School which was built in 1851 near Bethany Lakes Park. Others included Wetsel School (Highway 5 and Stacey Rd), Cottonwood School (Cottonwood Drive), Bethany School (Bethany near Custer) and the Allen School (downtown Allen). These “common schools” first fell under state authority in 1867 when every county was required to set up a common school district. Every acre of land in the state had to be assigned to a school. As a result, the state had over 7,000 school districts and Collin County had 56 different school districts.
An election on April 15, 1910, created the Allen Independent School District and moved authority from the county to a local school board. A community vote of 67 out of 70 votes created Allen ISD’s first school board with Milton Whisenant as board president. Other members of the first board included James Garland, J.N. Bush, M.O. Perry, R.W. Eden, W.A. Giddings and A.W. Richards.
The board’s first accomplishment was the successful passage of a bond election for $12,000 to replace the old Allen School with a new brick schoolhouse. The Allen Public School building opened in 1911 with six classrooms and an auditorium. The familiar two story red brick building would remain as Allen’s only school for 50 years.
School records indicate that Allen had an enrollment of 200 students with five teachers and a principal in 1910. Teachers were not allowed to be married and received a salary of approximately $45 per month.
Allen’s longest tenured teacher, Gladys Watson, arrived in Allen from Culleoka in 1924. Miss Watson literally dedicated her life to children as she taught in Allen for 46 years finally retiring in 1970.
“Gladys was an outstanding teacher who came from the old school,” said former Superintendent D.L. Rountree. “She believed in discipline and the three R’s but she loved her children. She also helped us through some lean times teaching both second and third grades for most of her career.”
Watson’s colleague for 33 years was Frances Norton. She began teaching in Allen in 1939 and retired in 1972. One of her most prized possessions was a book of every class she taught during her year career.
No Allen child could look back on his/her education without mentioning Miss Watson and Miss Norton. They were a part of every child who attended the Allen Schools for almost 50 years.
By the 1930’s, many of the smaller county schools were closed and consolidated with larger ones. Faulkner (known as Hog Waller) closed first. The Bethany School closed and students were split between Allen and Plano. Bush School students were also divided – this time between Allen and Frisco. Allen’s request for more territory at the time was denied by the County School Board which explains why the Allen district is significantly smaller than its neighbors in land size.
The State Board of Education pushed Allen in 1934 to either reduce to 8 grades from 10 or expand to grade 11. Students previously could complete high school in McKinney or Plano. The Allen school board voted to expand the grade level to 11 and then added grade 12 in 1936. The addition of two grades led to a 1936 bond election for $12,000 to add four classrooms and a gymnasium to The Allen School.
Segregation laws prevented black students from attending the Allen Schools so students either attended school in private homes, traveled far to school or simply did not attend school. The County moved to formalize education for primary level students to the community by opening the Allen Negro School in 1931. Students had the option to continue their education at the segregated Doty High School in McKinney until 1964. The original Allen Negro School was rebuilt in 1953 and sold in 1964. The building still stands at the corner of Cedar and St. Mary’s Drive across from the Allen Senior Center.
Small businesses, including the local bank, closed down during the depression and the town’s population fell to 400 people in 1950. Superintendent of Schools Pete Moseley felt the pinch himself as his family moved into the school’s gymnasium during WWII.
It was at this same time that an initiative to close smaller school districts and consolidate them with larger ones swept the state.
Allen’s small enrollment made it a target for consolidation if it lost state accreditation. As a result of state legislation in 1949, Collin County School Superintendent moved to consolidate the county into four regional districts: Plano, McKinney, Prosper and Farmersville. Allen’s school board was literally locked out of the proceedings that closed many common schools. As a result, the district remained open but lost the opportunity to draw students from nearby. McKinney, on the other hand, incorporated 13 common school districts.
Efforts by Superintendent Moseley and community leaders such as Alton Boyd, Luther Bolin, Alvis Story, Carl Marion, Major Neely, Frank Howlett, T.H. Cundiff and L.C. Summers brought attention to the possible closure of Allen ISD. A sweep of the district was made to recruit students in the rural areas who were not attending school. Citizens also housed teachers and donated funds to pay them to keep the school district operating. Pie and cake sales, box suppers and a Halloween carnival all helped raise funds.
A timely election in 1950 awarded the County Superintendent’s post to Allen’s own Pete Moseley and Raymond “Gene” Curtis took over as Allen’s superintendent. This averted the county takeover but didn’t eliminate the threat of closure for Allen ISD.“The most critical time was 1956-57 when the district had 158 students enrolled,” according to D.L. Rountree, who became superintendent of schools in 1954. “If a school district fell under 157 students, it lost its accreditation and reverted to common school status.”
To help make ends meet, Rountree taught five classes, coached football and basketball, performed custodial duties and drove a school bus.
The city and school populations slowly began to grow by 1960. The town incorporated in 1953 and began modernizing city services which eventually led to early suburban growth. Planning began for a new high school in 1956 and Allen High School opened for the 1959-1960 school year. The building, which is part of the current Lowery Freshman Center, was built on 12 acres which were donated by Enos Brown. Over the next 25 years, this small high school would be expanded or portions remodeled ten different times.
While many people had an influence on Allen ISD in the 1960’s, two educators are remembered by all for their devotion to Allen children and our schools: George Anderson and Max Vaughan.
Reverend George Anderson began teaching at Allen’s segregated school in 1949. As one of only two teachers at the school, he taught grades 5-8 until 1964 when the school was permanently closed. He remained a prominent figure in Allen’s African American community as a social studies teacher and coach at the Allen Middle School and as pastor of St. Mary’s Church. George and his wife Hazel had no children of their own but they cared for the children of Allen their entire lives.
Max Vaughan came to Allen as a teacher and football coach in 1953. He later became high school principal and a central office administrator serving Allen ISD over 32 years. Every teenager in Allen knew “Mr. Vaughan” and he knew every teenager. He coached many successful 6-man, 8-man and 11-man football teams leading the Eagles to a 43 game winning streak in the late 1950’s. Longtime residents recall the town being deserted on game nights. There was a parade of vehicles that left town for the away games and the Allen visitors often outnumbered the home team fans.
Together Anderson and Vaughan helped smoothly transition the closing of the Allen’s segregated school and integration of Allen’s schools in 1964. “People around the country were all worked up about it,” Vaughan once said. “Here in Allen it just happened. The kids all knew each other and the community wanted it. That says a lot about Allen.”
Enrollments topped 500 by the year 1968. The slow but steady growth led to the opening of Rountree Elementary School in 1974 and Boyd Elementary in 1978. Rountree had been Allen’s superintendent for 23 years and Boyd had served as a school board member for 27 years.
Growth and ExpansionAllen had modestly grown through the 1970s but fast suburban growth in Richardson and then Plano made it clear that Allen would not remain a quiet community for long. Enrollment almost doubled in 1975-76 which led to the opening of Gene Reed Elementary School in 1981 and Pete Ford Middle School in 1983. By 1985, enrollment had reached 3,367 students compared to 1,100 ten years earlier.
The Allen High School band program began in 1968 under the direction of Earl Haberkamp.The first marching band took the field at the 1970 homecoming game with 30 members under the direction of Randy Bartlett. Putting the numbers in perspective, Allen’s total enrollment in 1970 was 588 students. Today, the Allen Escadrille (band, color guard and drill team) has more than 700 members.
During the 1980’s, Allen began to modernize the original Allen School and expand the high school. Cafeteria, auditorium and classroom additions were completed in 1985 and are still used as part of the Lowery Freshman Center.
The year 1985 was a big one for Allen ISD. The Board of Trustees was named Outstanding Board of the Year by the Texas Association of School Boards. These board members included Dr. E.T. Boon, Glen Renfrow, Mary Evans, Glenn Andrew, Chuck Williams, Jim Kerr, Jack Callicutt and Superintendent Dr. John Horn. Allen also celebrated the school district’s 75th anniversary in 1985 with a series of community and school events.
The 1990s would be characterized by a housing boom in Allen and the efforts of Allen ISD to keep pace. Large developments, particularly west of Central Expressway, brought thousands of new students into Allen. Walter and Lois Curtis Middle School opened in 1994 and Flossie Floyd-Green Elementary opened in 1995. Two more elementary schools honoring George Anderson and Frances Norton opened in 1997. The Pat Dillard Special Achievement Center also opened in 1999.
Because of these many construction projects, Allen ISD was able to incorporate cutting edge technology into its new campuses to meet the demand for student access to video and data in the mid- 1990’s.
Eighty-five years after community leaders planned Allen’s first school, a group of 120 community and staff members formed the AHS 2000 committee to plan a new high school program and facility. The result was the new Allen High School, which opened its doors in August 1999. The former high school was converted into a ninth grade center in honor of school counselor Becky Lowery.
Nine more elementary schools and a third middle school would open over the next ten years. These included schools named for James Kerr and Luther & Anna Mae Bolin (2000); James & Margie Marion (2003); Thomas Ereckson (2004); Dr. E.T. Boon (2005); Carlena Chandler (2006); Mary Evans (2008); James and Lynda Olson (2009); Beverly Cheatham (2010) and Lois Lindsey (2013).
As Allen High School grew in size, it also earned state and national recognition for academics and athletics. The school was named as a National Blue Ribbon campus in 1999. The Girls Golf Team won the school’s first team state championship in 2005 and won again in 2006. The wrestling team won a state title in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. The Allen Eagle football team has won the Texas 5-A State Championship in 2008, 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Today, Allen ISD serves more than 20,100 students on 23 campuses but one thing has remained constant over the past 100 years... the Allen community is proud of their schools and has stepped up to support them countless times. Many of the founding families are gone, but their vision for an independent school district that would serve our community for years to come still thrives.