Iowa Heritage Digital Collections
State Library of Iowa

038_Hillis and Hoak Schools


038_Hillis and Hoak Schools


This is a page from the collection "Bicentennial Reflections: History of Des Moines Public Schools, 1876-1976" by Dr. Robert R. Denny, published by the Des Moines Public Schools in Des Moines, Iowa in 1976.

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36 HILLIS SCHOOL 56th and Hickman Grades K-6 Dates of construction 1949 An annex unit was moved to site 1953 Main building of 18 rooms 1961 4 room addition at east end of building Site—7.5 acres The old wooden temporary building that was moved to the site in 1949 was called Tower School. It was so named because of its proximity of the water tower at 48th and Hickman. The main structure of 22 rooms was named after Mrs. Cora Bussey Hillis who was instrumental in organizing the Iowa Congress of Mothers. Mrs. Hillis made many other contributions as noted below. Mrs. Cora Bussey Hillis was born at Bloomfield, Iowa, in 1858. She grew up in New Orleans but in 1880 she married Isaac Lea Hillis and moved to Des Moines. In 1887 she was one of the incorporators of the Des Moines Women's Club. She soon began her notable career as a worker and organizer in the cause of child welfare by securing the first public bath house in Des Moines for children, so they could in safety enjoy the river. In 1898 she attended, in Washington, D. C, the second meeting of the Congress of Mothers as a delegate from the Iowa ChiM Study Society, a department of the Iowa State Teachers Association. Soon thereafter she organized the Iowa Congress of Mothers. She introduced the penny savings system in the Des Moines schools and m 1901 secured the first children's room in the Iowa Methodist Hospital. In 1902 she opened a public sewing room in connection with the Des Moines public schools, where children who were out of school for lack of clothing were supplied with garments by mothers' clubs. In 1904 she organized the Iowa Child Welfare Association and in 1915 urged the legislature to adopt a bill providing for the establishment of a Child Welfare Research Station at the University of Iowa. This Station was set up in 1917, having as its objective the investigation of the best scientific methods of conserving and developing the normal child. This station was the first of its kind in the United States and set the example which others have followed. It is indeed fitting and proper that the Board of Education named an elementary school to honor Mrs. Hillis, a pioneer in child welfare who perhaps had no equal in the country. In 1973 it became apparent that enrollments at Hillis were declining to a point that it would be possible to house all of the Riley students in the Hillis school building. Thus, a decision was made to close Riley at the end of the 1972-73 school year. Those students were given the option of attending several elementary schools but most chose the Hillis attendance center at their closest school. In the mid 1970s Hillis has an underpartmentalized program for grades K-4 and a six-unit plan B program for grades 5 and 6. In the six-unit Plan B program the art and music teachers remain in the buildings and teacher arithmetic. Hillis has been an EEO receiving school since inception of the voluntary transfer program in 1969. During the 1974-75 school year a student council was begun, and as an activity the council adopted the "Hound" as the school mascot. In the 1975-76school year the Hillis staff will implement a continuous progress reading plan in an effort to improve instruction. During the 1975-76 school year we plan to observe the silver anniversary of the construction of the permanent building. Principals of Hillis School include: 1949-1953 James L. Daugherty 1953-1962 Pearl Leander 1962-1966 Don Brubaker 1966-1968 Kenneth Rankin 1968-1973 Eleanor Singer 1973- Joseph Turner HOAK SCHOOL 18th Street and McKinley Grades K-5 Dates of construction—1955 Site—7.7 acres Hoak School was opened in September, 1955. It was named in honor of Percy E. Hoak, long time member of the school board. Mrs. Patrick, the principal, received the picture of Mr. Hoak from Mrs. Hoak during the 1956-57 school year. The family also presented a bronze statue of a boy in honor of Mr. Hoak. In 1956-57 a decision was made not to enlarge Hoak School because of new traffic patterns at the Des Moines airport. When originally planned this matter had been checked out with appropriate authorities and was not a problem. Pupils for grades 5 and 6 may attend Wright School which is nearby. Hoak and Wright Schools are operated as a single unit under the jurisdiction of the same principal. In the mid-1970s Hoak elementary school is operating on a K-5 undepartmentalized program. During this time declining student population has created space for two new programs: (1) a theraputic learning center for children with emotional problems severe enough to prevent their functioning within a regular classroom, and (2) a learning disabilities resource teacher to provide for the specific needs of learning disabled students. Also, space has been accrued through student attrition to allow students to utilize a double room for physical education activities. The small school atmosphere allows for a close relationship to be developed between students, parents, and teachers, and this "caring" climate is perhaps the most singular characteristic of the school. Principals of Hoak School include: 1955 - 1956 Kenneth Rouse 1961 - 1965 James L. Daugherty 1956 - 1957 LoRetta Patrick 1965 - 1972 Mildred Kaisand 1957 - 1961 Ruth Pritchard 1972 - 1976 Barbara Sloan