Woodrow Wilson High School (Dallas)

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Woodrow Wilson High School
Woodrow Wilson High School.jpg
"Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life."
100 S. Glasgow Rd.
Dallas, Texas, 75214
United States
Coordinates 32°48′21″N 96°45′03″W / 32.805903°N 96.750726°W / 32.805903; -96.750726Coordinates: 32°48′21″N 96°45′03″W / 32.805903°N 96.750726°W / 32.805903; -96.750726
Type Public, Secondary
Established 1928
School district DISD
Grades 9-12
Principal Kyle Richardson
Enrollment 1,599
Color(s) Crimson and Gray          
Athletics UIL District 12-4A
Mascot Wildcat
Newspaper Wildcat News
Yearbook Crusader

Woodrow Wilson High School is a public secondary school located at 100 South Glasgow Drive in the Lakewood neighborhood of East Dallas, Texas (USA) in the ZIP code 75214. It was named in honor of former U.S. president Woodrow Wilson, who died just three years before the school building was completed. The structure is a Dallas Landmark,[1] as well as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark,[2] "the highest honor the state can bestow on a historic structure."[3] It has been called a "Historic School Success Story" by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.[4] The school has the highest ratings given by the Texas Education Agency. It met criteria in all four indices: student achievement; student progress; closing performance gaps; and college readiness. It earned distinction in all possible areas: reading/language arts; math; and top 25% student progress.[5] Under the new STAAR tests in 2013, Woodrow upped its cumulative scores by 49.5 points and was cited as number one in academic gains for the district by The Dallas Morning News.[6] The school also improved graduation rates by 19.8% from 2009 to 2012.[7] The new 2014 TEA rankings are the same, with the school improving to four areas of distinction.[8]

Woodrow enrolls students in grades 9-12 and is a part of the Dallas Independent School District. In 2009, DISD authorized Woodrow to apply to become certified as the first Dallas school to be authorized as an IB World School offering the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme,[9] a/k/a the IB Degree. It earned its official designation as an IB World School on March 18, 2011.


In addition to its regular program, Woodrow offers the IB program to students.[10] Woodrow students earn an average SAT score of 912 out of 1600, below the state average of 976, but above the DISD average of 863.[11] On the ACT, Woodrow students earn an average score of 18.5 out of 36, compared to the state average of 20.5 and DISD average of 17.1.[11] 39.6% of students took an AP or IB exam, with 21.1% of those exams receiving a passing score.[11] In 2014, the school improved its number of college ready students (defined by DISD as a 990 SAT score) by 137% despite the fact that 150 more juniors took the test.[12]



Designed by noted Dallas architect Mark Lemmon, the school opened in 1928 and was constructed in the Elizabethan style.[13] At the cornerstone-laying ceremony in April 1927, a piece of the wedding cake of Woodrow Wilson's second daughter, Jessie, was included in the cornerstone "in memory of Mr. Wilson."[14] At US$700,000, the school's cost exceeded that of the district's previous four high schools by at least $100,000.[15] The ornamental lighting was made by Potter Art Metal Studios of Dallas; a 90 year company still in existence. Special features of the building included a gymnasium boasting "one entire wall of glass windows" and an auditorium that was to be the "best equipped and best lighted" in the district, with footlights and a separately ventilated orchestra pit.[16] A theater organ was later placed in the pit and pipes put in special lofts on the third level. Also on the third floor was 'the largest eating place in Dallas', the school cafeteria; in previous Dallas high schools the cafeteria was at grade level, so at the new high school a special elevator was installed to service the eating facility.[citation needed] The September 1928, Dallas Herald said the school "presents a rare spectacle from afar."[citation needed] Photos and the original blueprints of the school building were featured in an exhibition celebrating the works of Mark Lemmon at The Meadows Museum.[17]

The school has been colloquially called "Woodrow" by students and community members from its beginning, fostered by first principal G.L. "Pop" Ashburn, who led the school until 1956. The mascot of the school is the Wildcat. A Parent Teacher Association chapter was formed for the school even before its 1928 opening.[18]


Until 1957 (when Bryan Adams High School opened), Woodrow was the only "East Dallas" high school. Woodrow still serves most of the upper east side of East Dallas, including Swiss Avenue, Mount Auburn, Junius Heights, Lakewood, Munger Place, Peaks Addition and Hollywood Heights.

In 1981, interiors for the movie Crisis at Central High starring Joanne Woodward, were filmed at the school.[19] Many students, including the late Lance Bircher '83 (cited for his scene by imdb.com), were used in the filming. Of course, Woodrow students (actually the old alumni) were thrilled to receive a visit from Miss Woodward's husband, Paul Newman.

In 1979, Woodrow Alums planned and held Woodrow's 50th Anniversary Celebration, established the Woodrow Wilson High School Hall of Fame, and inducted the Hall of Fame's first class of members. Nine years later, in 1988, Woodrow Alums formalized their activities by creating the Woodrow Wilson High School Alumni Association, Inc. as an IRS-approved 501(c)(3) Texas nonprofit corporation, to maintain and improve communications for and among Woodrow Alums. In 1989 and 1999, the Alumni Association held Woodrow's 60th and 70th Anniversary Celebrations and, at each, inducted additional members into Woodrow's Hall of Fame. Since the 70th, Woodrow's Anniversary Celebrations have been held at 5 year intervals.

In 2004, thousands attended Woodrow's 75th Anniversary Celebration, which included a parade (from Lakewood to the school, with Congressman Sam Johnson as Grand Marshal, chauffeured in a new Ford Mustang driven by fellow alumnus Carroll Shelby, the legendary auto designer and builder), followed by an auditorium-packed program at which a new group of members was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Scores of "mini-reunions" also were held during that day in assigned rooms throughout the school.

In October 2007, the school was cited as one of 39 model schools in Science and Math by the Texas Public Policy Foundation.[20]

Around 2008, Woodrow parents launched "Choose Woodrow," a program aimed towards attracting families in the Lakewood neighborhood towards Woodrow. Rod Dreher, a politically conservative columnist in The Dallas Morning News, argued that the program was unfair. Dreher argued that even if the campaign attracted more white students who would raise the school's test scores overall, it would not help lower performing minority students who are enrolled at Woodrow.[21]

In 2009, Woodrow celebrated its 80th Anniversary. In honor of alumnus Carroll Shelby's designation as Grand Marshal of the 80th Anniversary Parade, scores of non-Woodrow graduates joined the parade — most showing off their Ford/Shelby Mustangs or Cobras, but a few were driving Dodge Vipers (another vehicle Shelby helped develop). During the main ceremony in the school's packed auditorium, the Alumni Association inducted twenty more individuals into Woodrow's Hall of Fame. The celebration concluded with an "Alumni Band Roundup" at Eddie Deen's Ranch that evening, where hundreds of Woodrow alums ate, drank, and enjoyed each other while listening and dancing to music played by eight bands, each composed of Woodrow Alums (with a few ringers here and there) from various classes between 1960 and 2008. A documentary video of the 80th Anniversary Celebration was produced by Michael Barnes and Kathy Kilmer Moak, both from the class of 1967. It featured historical photographs and interviews with many alums interspersed with clips of events during the 80th Anniversary Celebration. It premiered at the Lakewood Theater in the fall of 2009.[citation needed]

In the fall of 2009, Woodrow became one of four high schools in Texas to be designated as candidates for designation as an IB World School.[22] In March 2011, the school earned the IB designation after a rigorous three-year application process, including an extensive site visit by the IB Organization.

In December 2009, Woodrow earned the Texas ACT College Readiness Award,[23] the only Dallas comprehensive high school to receive that honor.

The Woodrow Wilson High School Community Foundation was formed in 2009. The Community Foundation's purpose is to raise funds, grants, and scholarships to support the faculty, students, and programs at Woodrow and its feeder schools. It also exists to cultivate other area programs and projects.[24]

In 2011, The Washington Post ranked high schools based on the quantity of AP/IB exams taken per graduating senior, without taking scores on those exams into account.[25] In the so-called "challenge index", Woodrow finished at 588 out of the top 1,900 high schools in the nation.[26] In 2012, the school moved up 157 places to 431 out of the top 1,900 high schools in America, or the top 9%.[27] In 2015, the school moved up to 271 out of the top 2,300 high schools in the country. This placed Woodrow above all area suburban comprehensive high schools except Highland Park and Colleyville Heritage [28]

In 2015, D Magazine put Woodrow and its feeders at the top of the list in a real estate analysis, "Where to Buy for the Best Schools" [29]

In September 2011, a Dallas Morning News analysis by education reporter Holly Hacker showed that Woodrow Wilson High School ranks high[clarification needed] in college readiness. The survey took socio-economic levels and other statistics into account to show true performance among high schools with differing student populations. Woodrow was one of only twenty schools in the North Texas area to be found "exceeding expectations" by the analysis. It was one of only two Dallas comprehensive high schools to make the list.[30]


$14 million Science (STEM) and Performing Arts Addition under construction from 2008 DISD bond election funds

A ground-breaking ceremony for the new science/performing arts wing at Woodrow was held on May 23, 2011. The $14 million, 40,000-square-foot (3,700 m2) structure was authorized in a 2008 DISD bond election. It is only the third expansion of the school's facilities in its 83-year history. (A boys' gym was added in 1953 and another addition was opened in 1979 in time for the school's 50th Anniversary Celebration.) The addition is three-stories tall and located at the rear of the 7-acre (28,000 m2) campus near "Downtown Lakewood". It houses the new Performing Arts Academy and three state-of-the-art laboratories for the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Academy. These academies are part of the school's redesign into four college prep academies which began implementation in the fall of 2010 as a four-year roll-out (the other two academies are the IB Academy and the Business & Entrepreneurship Academy).

The building addition was designed by Brown Reynolds Watford Architects with offices in Dallas, Houston, College Station and San Francisco. Principal Architect Craig Reynolds is a current Woodrow parent. It features two-story separate choir and drama rooms. The choir room has practice rooms and the drama room features a black-box theater, costume shop and prop facilities. A large dance rehearsal hall is also on the first floor. Three large science labs are on the third floor, along with new restroom facilities. The new addition replaces part of the 1979 wing, which cost $1 million. The areas replaced are former wood and metal shops - no longer needed with the school's new college-prep curriculum. The rest of the 1979 addition is being remodeled into a larger band hall and athletic facilities. There is room left for a future competition-size gymnasium to connect to this area.

As part of this same project, Woodrow's main 1928 building had its original windows restored and HVAC replaced, including new air exchangers in the auditorium courtyards. The first-floor restrooms were restored to the historic marble and wood and the second and third level facilities were gutted and replaced with modern fixtures. Electrical fixtures and computer lines throughout the campus were brought up to current standards. Drainage and landscaping improvements were also included in the construction, along with resurfacing of the parking lots and the Tim Brown-Davey O'Brien Track.

As of January 2013, the wing has been occupied by students, although work continues on some finishing touches. The official ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on March 23, 2013.

School operations[edit]

The Texas Education Agency campus profiles state that the funds spent per student at Woodrow are similar in amount to those spent per student at Highland Park High School.[31] Woodrow receives financial support from Alumni, its Parent Teacher Organization, and the Community Foundation. As of 2011, due to budget cuts, the school ended its "Professional Learning Community" and reduced its custodial staff to two employees.[24]

Extracurricular activities[edit]


Principal Ruth Allen Vail '91 presents plaque to son of Heisman winner David O'Brien Jr (father Davey O'Brien '35) and Heisman winner Tim Brown '84 in January 2010

Woodrow has been called the "High School Home of the Heisman" because it was the first high school in the nation to be the alma mater of two Heisman Trophy winners: Davey O'Brien (1938) and Tim Brown (1987), and it remains the only public high school in the U.S. to have that distinction. As a relatively small inner-city Dallas public school that is coeducational and builds its athletic teams from the ethnically and economically diverse students within its tight attendance zone, Woodrow was proud to remain unparalleled among all public and private U.S. high schools as to the number of its graduates who had won the Heisman among until 1995, when Eddie George's Heisman Trophy win allowed Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia (a private school that build teams from "[y]oung men, from around the country and the world")[32] to share the distinction with Woodrow. And in 2004, private, Catholic, Mater Dei High School of Santa Ana, California gained its second Heisman Trophy winner in Matt Leinart. Nevertheless, Woodrow achieved this distinction first and it remains the only public high school in the U.S. with two Heisman winners.

Notwithstanding Tim Brown's efforts, from about the 1980s until fairly recently, Woodrow's football program struggled. However, the Wildcats made the state playoffs in 1991, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005, advancing to the second round in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2011. Previous Woodrow teams made state semi-finals in 1951 and 1969, and even earlier teams of the 1930s and 1940s were successful and produced such stars as O'Brien, I. B. Hale '35, Mal Kutner '38, Herschel Forester '48, and Bill Forester '49.

Woodrow's basketball team won state back in 1938, and later produced Alton Lister '76, a pro player on five different teams. Recent Woodrow graduate Anthony Randolph was one of the nation's top recruits, according to Rivals.com. He was a small forward for the LSU Tigers during his freshman year in college. Currently, Randolph is a professional basketball player for the Minnesota Timberwolves. He was selected as the 14th overall draft pick in the 2008 NBA Draft by the Golden State Warriors. Woodrow's 2011 basketball team lost in the Regional Quarterfinals to Kimball (62-57), after leading most of the game. Kimball eventually won the state championship. The Wildcats, however finished ahead of Kimball with the number one total team offense in the Dallas Morning News' rankings.[33]

In 1953, Woodrow Wilson won the city and state golf championships with brothers Gene and Ross Teter.[34]

In 2007, Woodrow's athletics program was ranked No. 6 out of all 4-A high schools in the Dallas Morning News All-Sports competition. The Wildcats' score of 81 was better than 95 other local 4-A and 5-A high schools. That year, seven Woodrow football players made the state all-academic team: Thomas Simpson, Sam Ashbrook, Ian Mackinnon, and Jared Muston on the first team; and Ryan Gunter, Jack Hlavaty, and Preston Richmond on the second team.[35]

In 2010, Woodrow placed 19th in 4-A All Sports Award competition sponsored by The Dallas Morning News - out of 62 4-A schools. Its score of 74 was higher than that of 88 4-A and 5-A schools. The girls' volleyball team and the boys' basketball team went deep into state playoffs with the basketball team being ranked 7th in the state. The tennis team, girls' swimming and both golf teams also did well in playoffs.[36] In 2011 the school moved into the top ten out of 70 ranked schools from Wichita Falls to Texarkana. Its score of 91 points ranked ahead of 133 4-A and 5-A schools.[37] In 2012, Woodrow won nine district titles and several teams advanced in the playoffs, which should have moved the school up in ranking (but the newspaper discontinued the awards).

Bill and Herschel Forester were Wildcats who played college football at SMU as well as in the pros. Dallas' Forester Field was named for their father, Herschel, who taught at Woodrow from the opening of the school until the late 1950s.

In March 2010, Freshman Grace Choi was ranked first in Texas in girls' golf.[38]

In April 2014, Seniors Barrett Blaker and Javier Gonzalez were ranked 12th out of hundreds of policy urban debate teams across the country at the Urban Debate National Championships in Washington D.C.[39]


From the school's beginning, a Junior ROTC program has been part of Woodrow's high school program.[40] In the 1930s, 1940s, and early 1950s, the school had the largest JROTC program in the nation, with 16 different companies and an ROTC band; a May 1941 article declared the program "largest of its kind in the world."[41] During World War II, students at the school raised enough money to buy the Navy a Wildcat fighter plane.[citation needed]

Performing Arts[edit]

The Performing Arts Department got its start from a member of the original faculty, H. Bush Morgan. Mr. Morgan was also sponsor of the Senior Publication. J. William Brown, a math teacher who joined the faculty in 1952, subsequently took that sponsorship until the late 1980s. Morgan originally produced class plays and in 1929 "Giants Stairs" swept all the city contests. In the 1940s, some musical productions were added, such as "Best Foot Forward". In the 1957–58 school year, drama teacher Helen Eckleman started producing Broadway musicals each year with the first being "Oklahoma". She continued until 1971, when choir teacher Jerry McKinney took over the productions with "Calamity Jane". Marca Lee Bircher took over from McKinney in 1975-76 with her first production "Oliver!". She continued for 28 years, assisted by choreographer Patricia Hardman. Following this team, John Beaird and alumnus Sean Morrison '98 took over the program. Morrison left to earn his doctorate and Beaird continues. The 56th production was "Anything Goes" April 18–21, 2013. This was Woodrow's third production of that show. The 1980 effort produced American Ballet Theater star Margie Hardwick. The 1999 show spawned Travis Willingham to a successful career in television, movies and anime.

The Bircher-Hardman era went from flying monkeys in "The Wizard of Oz" to a real rain storm onstage for "Singing in the Rain". In 1979, Bircher formed the school's award winning show choir, Variations. The group was originally formed just to perform at the school's 50th Anniversary Celebration, but continues to this day. Bircher and Hardman finished out in 2003 with a book-end production of the school's first annual musical, "Oklahoma". "School Zone Dallas" did an extensive television show on this production and the history of the duo's reign. Many of their students have moved to New York and Los Angeles to pursue careers in theater, writing and acting.

Student body[edit]

As of 2011, 80% of the students are racial and ethnic minorities,[31] and 55.9% live in low income households, about the average for Texas high schools. Many of the students, as of 2011, cannot afford the fees required to participate in the International Baccalaureate program: As of that year, the per student cost for registration and examination was $750. In November of that year, the school stated that it would receive grants from the Jacobus Folz Fund for IB Financial Assistance, which would help cover costs of 15 students enrolled in the IB program. By 2011 a The Dallas Morning News report stated that 47% of Woodrow students were "college-ready" (ready to attend post-secondary educational institutions). The study showed that the school was one of only 20 in North Texas to "exceed expectations" for college readiness.[24]

School uniforms[edit]

Students are required to wear school uniforms.[42] The Texas Education Agency specifies that the parents and/or guardians of poor and minority students zoned to a school with uniforms may apply for a waiver to opt out of the uniform policy so their children do not have to wear the uniform; parents must specify "bona fide" reasons, such as religious reasons or philosophical objections.[43]

Feeder patterns[edit]

As of 2008, J.L. Long Middle School (6-8) feeds into Woodrow Wilson.[44]

Oran M. Roberts (PK-5) north of I-30, Lakewood (PK-5), Robert E. Lee (PK-5), and Stonewall Jackson (K-5) Elementary Schools feed into Woodrow Wilson High School. William Lipscomb (PK-4) and Mount Auburn Elementary School (PK-3) feed into Eduardo Mata Elementary School (4-5), which in turn feeds into Woodrow Wilson High School.[44] Lipscomb is adding fourth and fifth grade and will feed directly into J.L. Long and then to Woodrow in the next two years.

As of the 2013-2014 academic year, the entirety of O. M. Roberts will be assigned to Dade Middle and Madison High School[45]

Notable alumni[edit]


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External links[edit]