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What’s in a name? For Northwest ISD, school names contain its history

By Erika Pedroza | Published Saturday, March 23, 2013

Four elementary schools and one combined junior and senior high campus comprised the Northwest school district pioneered by Rhome rancher V.R. Eaton and longtime educator Wayne A. Cox in the late 1940s and 50s.

Cox-and-EatonNow the district’s third comprehensive high school and 17th elementary will bear the names of the two district forerunners – both of whom have Wise County ties.

At the recommendation of a selection committee, Northwest trustees Monday unanimously approved naming the district’s two newest facilities V.R. Eaton High School and Wayne A. Cox Elementary.

After accepting nominations from the community from Jan. 7-Feb 7, the committee appointed by Superintendent Karen Rue reviewed the recommendations, considering a list of established criteria.

The committee – which included DeAnne Hatfield, executive director of business services; Kyle Copp, executive director of human resources; Damon Edwards, executive director of secondary education; and Jerhea Nail, executive director of communications and government relations – brought forth the names of the two monumental contributors.

“It has been told by many that Mr. Eaton’s involvement with the consolidation of the district has significant historical value to NISD and the Northwest communities,” Nail said during the recommendation at Monday’s meeting. “The same can be said for Mr. Cox, who played an instrumental role in laying a firm foundation for the Northwest school district. Their contributions to the district as a whole were very solid.”

V.R. EATON HIGH SCHOOL

Eaton organized a cooperative of business leaders and agriculture community members in Rhome, Justin, Haslet, Roanoke and Fairview. The common thread was that they all faced crisis in their respective schools and desired a quality educational program.

“Mr. Eaton was among the core group who worked many hours overcoming almost unbelievable obstacles on a local and state level to make the district a reality more than a half-century ago,” Nail said.

Eaton’s son, Roy, is the Wise County Messenger publisher and a graduate of Northwest High. The younger Eaton recalls specific examples of the arduous hours his father invested to realize the dream shared by so many in the community and its surroundings.

“I remember walking door-to-door in Decatur with my dad, passing out leaflets urging Decatur residents to vote against the consolidation,” he said, “They did, and that paved the way to form Northwest lSD… There were many trips to Austin at their own expense. I’m not sure the Texas Legislature or the Texas Education Agency had heard of a multi-county school district before Northwest.”

After the district was formed, V.R. served on its founding school board, which oversaw the issuing of bonds that opened a new high school west of the Texas 114 and Farm Road 156 intersection (which now houses the district’s Special Programs Center) in 1950.

He helped scout out that 40-acre tract of land that is now also dotted by NISD Stadium, baseball/softball fields, Texan Stadium, the new Northwest High School, Pike Middle School and Hatfield Elementary.

“I remember riding with my dad and then-Wise County Sheriff Carl ‘Rook’ Ramsey to inspect several possible building sites on Texas 114 to make sure the ‘safest’ location was picked,” Roy recalled. “I remember driving our farm truck to move furniture from the Justin school to the new Northwest building the summer before it opened.”

His father, who owned Chisholm Trail Ranch near Rhome, strongly advocated for the vocational agricultural program at Northwest High. He was a member of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association and the Texas Hereford Association.

V.R. Eaton High School, located at Willow Springs and Blue Mound roads just off of U.S. 287 in the north Fort Worth/Haslet area, will open in 2015 – and its 2,500-student capacity more than triples the number of students in the district’s inaugural year. Funds to build the school were approved through the 2012 bond referendum.

School officials are meeting weekly with contractor representatives to finalize the school’s design, and construction is slated to begin this spring. Discussion about school culture elements – such as colors and mascot – will begin next spring.

WAYNE A. COX ELEMENTARY

In his 42-year career in education, Cox missed only six days of work. That steadfast devotion translated to a lasting impact on the students he encountered – whether in a school setting as teacher, coach and principal or on the road or home as grandfather.

“He was a teacher who loved learning and loved to teach – there was no getting around that fact,” his granddaughter, Lynda Tidwell of Roanoke, wrote in the nomination form.

A former student once shared with her one particular instance where Cox converted the distraction of a thunderstorm brewing outside the classroom to a lesson.

“(He) counts, ‘One-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, one-thousand-three, one-thousand-four’,” Tidwell wrote. “Then, as if on command, the thunder rumbles and crashes the silence in the room.”

Cox went on to explain the science of rain and how to determine the distance of a thunderstorm based upon the delay between the lightning and the thunder.

“What could have been a detriment to learning became a teachable moment,” Tidwell wrote. And that was exemplary of her grandfather, she said.

“When visiting… Granddad would create math problems for us to solve,” Tidwell recalled. “Summer vacations were spent driving around the United States and visiting historic sites. The very first lesson of the trip was how to read the map… from there it was to… destinations with the intent of learning something new. Of course, these are personal stories, but Granddad’s influence went much farther.”

Before embarking on a 21-year career with Northwest community schools, Cox served as superintendent and vocational agriculture teacher in Alvord, shortly after graduating from Texas A&M (with a degree in vocational agriculture) in 1931.

In 1941 he, his wife, Delora, and their daughters, LaFlora and Maria, moved to Justin, where he assumed the same role he held in Alvord.

Six years later, just as talks of consolidation surfaced, Cox became the coordinator for Veterans Adult Education for Denton County.

“Unable to serve the U.S. during World War II due to a hearing loss, he was able to assist war veterans in continuing their education once they returned to the states,” Tidwell wrote.

He returned to educating youngsters in 1951 as principal and coach at Ponder High School before returning to Justin schools five years later. He was principal of the elementary from 1956 to 1967 then led Northwest Junior HIgh from 1967 to 1971 before retiring.

Several generations of his family have attended Northwest school. His daughters, sons-in-law, six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren graduated from Northwest High School. Today, four of his great-great-grandchildren attend district schools.

Cox was the grandfather of Penni Green and Dwayne Hicks of Decatur and Scotti Lott of Bridgeport.

Wayne A. Cox Elementary, located on Litsey Road in the Fairways Ranch housing development in Roanoke, will open in August. The 109,926 square-foot campus will feature a large cafeteria and gymnasium, open space, enclosed courtyard, flexible spaces and energy-efficient amenities.

“I am so proud of the honor they have given my grandfather’s memory,” Green said. “He loved children, and he loved teaching. My grandfather was my hero.”

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