Jacinto City Elementary School
The influx of people working along the Houston ship channel during World War 11 brought about an urgent need for both new housing and schools. In 1941, Mr. Frank Sharp established a subdivision which provided housing for local shipyard, steel mill and war plant workers and their families. The subdivision was located on the north side of the ship channel and was named Industrial City. Galena Park ISD needed to build additional schools to address this growing student population. Dr. Walton Hinds, superintendent of Galena Park ISD, supervised the 1943-44 construction of a single story school building on Burman Street. The school was named Industrial Elementary School and contained an office, small kitchen, cafeteria, and several classrooms.
Mr. Robert E. Wallace was chosen as the first principal. School began the third week in September 1944 with a staff of thirteen. The number of students was so large that students attended school in 2 shifts. Some classes were held at the First Baptist Church. The original staff had grown to 16 by the following school year and the enrollment increased to 619 pupils. In 1947, the city of Jacinto City was incorporated and the name of the school was changed to Jacinto City Elementary. The 1951-52 school year opened with 908 students and 30 staff members. The community continued to grow and the 1962-63 school year began with an enrollment of about 1000 students. Mr. Wallace saw Jacinto City Elementary through many historic and challenging times in our nation’s history. During his years of service our country was involved in World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, the Vietnam War and the desegregation of public schools. Mr. Wallace served as principal for 30 years and retired from the district in May 1974. During his years of service three additional classroom buildings were constructed along with a cafeteria and an office building that also housed additional classrooms, a nurse’s clinic and a teachers’ lounge. The beautiful mural that graced the front of the school was designed from input from teachers and students.
Mr. Leonard “Red” Jones was chosen as principal upon the retirement of Mr. Wallace in 1974. Mr. Jones established a strong relationship between the school and community during his years as principal. His motto was “Jacinto City Elementary: Where Kids Come First.” The school participated in activities celebrating America’s 200th Birthday, the Texas Sesquicentennial, and the 200th birthday of the Declaration of Independence. Students and staff members walked 25,000 miles and were recognized by the Texas governor. JCE celebrated Red Ribbon week and participated in neighborhood bike races and fall carnivals. Mr. Jones began JCE’s celebration of “Cinco de Mayo”, inviting ballet folklorico dancers to entertain students. He also invited Native American dancers to further promote multicultural activities. A new Library Learning Center was built in 1988-89 which connected the office area and first grade building. An open house was held in February 1989 which brought community members, as well as current and former students and staff members together to celebrate this new addition. In 1990 Mr. Jones was honored in Austin by the Texas Legislature for being chosen as the Texas Classroom Teachers’ Association Principal of the Year. This was a source of pride not only for the students and staff of JCE, but for the city of Jacinto City. The JCE Honor Choir, under the direction of music teacher Enrique Collazo, was chosen to perform at the Texas Music Educators’ Association Convention in San Antonio in February 1991. This honor brought much excitement to our school and community. Mr. Jones retired in December 1993. The Library Learning Center was given his name in honor of his service and dedication to Jacinto City Elementary.
Mr. Sal Vega became the 3rd principal of Jacinto City Elementary in January 1994. His focus was on parent involvement in the school and student recognition. Each nine weeks students gathered to celebrate their success at grade level Pep Rallies. The school celebrated its 50th anniversary in September 1994 with an open house held in the library. Community members, as well as, former principals, students, parents, Galena Park administrators and staff members attended the celebration. Mr. Vega continued the celebration of “Cinco de Mayo” by inviting student dancers to perform and mariachis to entertain. In 1995 the original 1944 school building was torn down. In 1996 a new wing of 5th grade classrooms, a music room, multipurpose room, Pre-K classrooms and a hallway that joined all existing buildings together was completed. It was an exciting time of improvement for our campus. For the first time, students and staff members could travel from their classrooms to music, lunch, the library, and the school office without going outside. Mr. Vega encouraged teachers and staff members to participate in team building activities including the annual GPISD Softball Tournament. He resigned at the end of the 1998-99 school year.
Mr. Jim Keal was chosen to serve as the 4th principal of Jacinto City and joined the staff in August 1999. Mr. Keal’s focus for Jacinto City Elementary included increased student achievement on state testing and continuing to promote community involvement. A student Safe Team was organized in the fall of 1999. These 5th graders encourage students to follow the school rules, assist students arriving to school, help during fire drills and welcome visitors on special occasions. The year 2000 brought new construction with the addition of a new kindergarten wing. The outdoor covered PE slab was enclosed in 2001 which provided students with an indoor gym. The office area and clinic were expanded and updated in 2002. The multipurpose room was redesigned into intervention classrooms to meet the changing needs of JCE students. The staff and students continued to participate in community events such as October Fire Prevention Week, Jacinto City’s Annual Christmas Parade, Honor Choir singing at the Pasadena Mall each December, and students performing an annual Christmas musical. Under Mr. Keal’s guidance and the supportive efforts of staff members, the students at Jacinto City Elementary were soon recognized for their awesome academic achievements. JCE became one of the first GPISD elementary schools to earn the title of “Exemplary” by the Texas TEA and maintain this title for several years. Mr. Keal retired in June of 2011.
Dr. Becky Gardea became the 5th and first woman principal at Jacinto City Elementary in August 2011. Dr. Gardea’s focus for the school include increased school safety and improved end of year student recognition. To increase school safety she has implemented a new dismissal program for all JCE students who ride a van, ride a bus or are picked up by their parents. A new fence was installed between the parking lot and the playground to provide additional student safety. She continues to use the existing JCE Safe Team to assist with fire drills and students’ arrival and dismissal each day. New end of year recognition programs have been put in place and a special event was created to celebrate the achievements of 5th graders. This event is held in the Galena Park High School Auditorium. Each 5th grader who attends is invited on stage and their accomplishments for the school year are shared with family, friends and staff members. Dr. Gardea has added an Art teacher, 2 new computer labs to meet the creative and technology needs of JCE students, and has reinstated the annual JCE Prose & Poetry contest. A new electronic school sign was added in the summer of 2015 to improve campus communication with our parents and community. A GPISD phone call-out system is also in place so that parents and staff can receive information pertaining to our school and community. With the passing of a GPISD Bond, Jacinto City Elementary was slated for the creation of a new campus. A committee of JCE administrators, faculty, staff and students added input as the architect began to make plans for the new two story campus. On April 18, 2019 Jacinto City Elementary celebrated its 75th Birthday. A program was attended by many former students, teachers and Principals Jones and Keal. Attendees enjoyed reviewing the Memorabilia stationed in the Library, a Photo Booth in the Music room, a Sweet Treat Cafeteria, and an opportunity to write a “Good Bye Message” on the wall in the 4/5 grade hall slated for demolition in May. A new campus was opened in August of 2020.