The idea for a new elementary school for the Galena Park ISD began taking shape back in 1995. District administrators realized the growth that was taking place on the north side of the district and knew that a new elementary school would be necessary to prevent overcrowding on the other campuses. During 1995, Deputy Superintendent Rick Kirk and Assistant Superintendent Margaret Goolsbee put together a committee that would meet to design this new elementary campus. The design the committee developed was a campus built in pods with large multipurpose areas in each pod and large carpeted room that would serve as an indoor PE area and meeting room. This design was very different from any other elementary campus in Galena Park. The school was originally scheduled to open in the fall of 1997. However, the campus did not open until 1998.
During the fall of 1995, a posting went out to name the principal of this new campus. Applicants were interviewed in February and Frances Ramsey was named as the principal of this new school at the Board of Trustees meeting in March, 1996.
The first thing that needed to be completed to give the school some identity was the name. A suggestion was given to the Board of Trustees that the campus be named after a gentleman who had served on the Galena Park Board of Trustees for 29 years, Mr. James B. Havard. This suggestion was unanimously accepted by the Board. Dr. Neeley, Peggy McWhorter and Miss Ramsey made a surprise visit to Mr. Havard's place of business to give him and his family and friends the good news.
Due to the delay in the opening of the school, vigorous planning did not begin until the fall of 1997. A new principal was named for Woodland Acres Elementary so that Miss Ramsey would be able to concentrate solely on the new campus. Groundbreaking for James B. Havard Elementary took place in September of 1997. Following the groundbreaking was a year full of planning, hiring, ordering and organizing. Kathy Bundy was hired as Principal's Secretary and David Smolka was named Assistant Principal in the spring of 1998. It was a very exciting year as we began to build our staff, order materials, organize records of children transferring from the other campuses and much cooperation from all the elementary campuses.
Another committee was chosen from among the new staff members in order to select school colors and adopt a school mascot. This committee chose to carry out a Texas theme throughout the school. Pods were named for the regions of Texas and classrooms were named for cities in those regions. The committee wanted the school to be a teaching tool as well as a place for learning. Colors for each pod were selected as well as icons representing that region of Texas. The fourth and 5th grade Encounters classes designed and painted individual tiles to be used at the entrance to each pod. The teachers felt this would give students more ownership in the school. The committee selected orange and denim blue as the school colors and the Cowboy was chosen as the school mascot.
Another very important part of any campus is parent involvement. It was important that a new P.T.A. be created with parents coming to Havard form three different Galena Park campuses as well as many private schools. The organizational meeting was held in April of 1998, officers were selected with Pam Phipps as the new president and Havard Elementary P.T.A. was on its way. The group of parents selected to serve as officers for the first year represented all sending campuses and looked like a team that had always been together. It is still a strong organization today.
As soon as school ended for the 97-98 school year, teachers were at the front door of Havard anxious to get in their new classrooms and get them set up for the next year. Unfortunately this was delayed until July, but the staff worked day and night to have their rooms ready. Dr. Neeley allowed us to come in five days earlier for staff development and to allow us time to build a team since we were coming from many different places.
The predicted enrollment for the first day of school was between 700-750 students. However, with the many new homes being built in this area, our doors opened and 855 students entered them. We spent our first semester trying to hire teachers to accommodate this many students and by January this task was completed.
Dedication of the facility was held on September 22, 1998, officially naming it James B. Havard Elementary. The ceremony was attended by friends and relatives of Mr. Havard. Dr. Gerald Cobb and Mr. Johnnie Rountree who had worked with Mr. Havard during his time on the school board were featured speakers.
Miss Ramsey was offered a different job in GPISD and transferred in January of 1999. Karen Sutera, former principal at Cloverleaf Elementary and Cimarron Elementary, was named as the new principal and has served in this capacity with Mr. Smolka as her assistant since that time. Enrollment in the school has continued to climb and almost all of the large multipurpose areas have been enclosed to make classrooms to accommodate the growing enrollment.