Cougars and Timberwolves
For many years, College Station was home to one comprehensive public high school.
Now there are two, with an additional “choice” high school featuring a smaller school environment and more college dual credit offerings.
A&M Consolidated High School dates back to 1920, and for many years classes were held—as one might expect from the name—on the A&M College campus. Consolidated predates the incorporation of the town of College Station by nearly two decades. It was originally chartered to serve children of the A&M college faculty and staff.
The “Consolidated” in the school name refers to the inclusion of students from nearby townships, such as Wellborn, Rock Prairie, Union Hill, and Shiloh. Full consolidation came in 1928 when rural students were also admitted.
In 1940, “Consol,” as it’s also sometime known, moved off the A&M campus.
The story of how the College Station Independent School District finally grew to include a second comprehensive high school, and then quickly adding a choice secondary school, is a study of managing both community growth and expanding academic opportunity.
Dr. Clark Ealy has been superintendent of the College Station Independent School District since 2014. He joined the CSISD administrative staff in 2000 as director of program assessment, evaluation and accountability. He holds both bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from Texas A&M.
He discussed the growth of the school district.
When did the community first consider adding a second comprehensive high school?
Around 1995, I think, a community group got together and tried to find an answer to the question: As the local area grows, do we want to continue to have one large high school, or do we want to do something different? Ultimately, a consensus was reached that when the city grew to a certain size, we would add a second high school.
Soon after I got here, I watched a videotape of former superintendent Dr. Jim Scales. In it, he was dressed in blue jeans and cowboy boots and walking around what he called “the prettiest 65 acres in the county. That was the land that had been purchased for the district’s second high school. Back then it was “way out in the country.” Today, the school is located at the corner of Barron Road and Victoria Avenue. What’s interesting is that in the video, Dr. Scales was already referring to the future school as “College Station High School.” I don’t think anyone else gave much consideration as to what the name of that school would eventually be.
At what point did the second high school become a matter of necessity?
After Dr. Scales put the community on notice that a second school would someday become a reality, the district began to crunch the numbers. The initial benchmark for expansion was when enrollment at Consolidated reached 2,500 students.
Fast forward to about 2007 and Consol is at about 2,850 students with 12 portable classrooms on site. We were bulging at the seams. Two years later, we took a $144 million bond to the voters which included “Phase I” for the new high school. The bond proposal was approved, but that was really the easy part and just the beginning.
In what way?
Anytime you split one high school into two, there’s lots and lots of decisions that have to be made. There’s a lot of ways you can skin the cat. You can build a ninth-grade center and keep your existing high school grades 10 through 12 in the existing facility. You also could do like some of the large school districts in the Dallas area. Plano has “high schools,” which are 9th- and 10th-grade campuses, and “senior highs,” which are 11th and 12th grade.
The main question was: “How big are we going to be when we ‘grow up’?” We commissioned a study on this question and the results suggested the College Station ISD would ultimately have 25,000 students, including 7,000 high school students. At the time we had less than 10,000 total students, so that figure was a little hard for us to grasp.
What we eventually decided was most important to our community was that we wanted to provide our students as many opportunities as possible. With one high school, you have just one starting quarterback or point guard, one captain of the cheer squad, one lead in the school musical. With two schools, you double the opportunities for all of your students.
So we went to the voters in our bond election and told them that if they approved our request we would have two schools with grades nine through 12. And that’s what we have.
How were boundaries for the two schools determined?
We visited and talked with a lot of two-high-school towns, towns which had recently split. Burleson had just split high schools. Northwest ISD, north of Fort Worth, had just split high schools. Georgetown had split. We were trying to get a feel for how the process could work and what some of the political aspects were.
What we learned was interesting. In some places, there seemed to be a desire to either go to the new school or stay at the established school. Some people wanted their kids to go to the same school they attended. Others thought “newer was better.” I think we’ve been blessed that we didn’t set up a system of “haves” and “have-nots.” We didn’t have a “rich” high school in one area of town and a “poor” high school in another area.
We have two fabulously successful comprehensive high schools here in College Station.
College Station High School opened its doors in 2012 with only ninth- and tenth-graders. Why?
There were two reasons really. First, we didn’t want to move students who had attended Consol for two or three years. We wanted to let them finish high school where they had started. Secondly, when we opened the doors at College Station High School, we weren’t going to have all the facilities that we had at Consol. We opened College Station High School as a “Phase-I” proposition. The campus you see today is far more robust than it was in those first years. Ultimately, it made sense to start with grades nine and ten. Enrollment at College Station High School that first year was a little over 700 students. Today, with all four grades attending classes there, the enrollment is just over 2,000 students.
How were College Station High School’s mascot and school colors chosen?
What we learned when we talked to some of the other two-high-school districts here in Texas was that better off leaving those kinds of decisions to the kids rather than the adults.
The “adult” thinking was that perhaps we could honor the city’s former “second high school” in choosing a mascot and colors for the new high school. Keep in mind that College Station was once segregated and the Negro school was the Lincoln Panthers. Today’s Lincoln Center is located where the old Lincoln High School used to be. Lincoln shared the same mascot and school colors—purple and gold—as Prairie View A&M College.
A lot of adults wanted to stick with maroon as the primary school color. Texas A&M is maroon. Consol is maroon. Truthfully, there’s a lot of “maroon schools” in this area: Tomball, Bastrop, Magnolia, etc.
Fortunately, the kids got to decide.
Even before we began construction on the new high school, we knew which of our seventh- and eighth-graders would ultimately be going there. So they went through a process of designing the color schemes. As I remember, they boiled it down to two choices: purple and black or steel-blue and black. As for the nickname, I think Panthers was a finalist. Then there was the whole “alliteration” thing like “College Station Cowboys.”
Keep in mind that when you’re asking a group of 12- to 14-year-old kids to choose a school mascot, they’re also going to come up with some stuff that’s a little “different,” like “Chupacabras.”
So the future students of the school ultimately decided on “College Station Cougars,” keeping with the “big-cat” theme of Tigers (Consolidated) and Panthers (Lincoln). And purple and black won out as the school colors.
And just four years after becoming a true four-year high school, the College Station Cougar football team won a Texas high school state championship.
That certainly meant a lot to the school, but it’s not the only competitive success the district’s high schools have had. College Station High School also won state titles in girls’ cross country and baseball. Consolidated won a state football championship of its own in 1991 and has earned top academic honors in a number of statewide competitions, including the University Interscholastic League Overall Champions in 1997, 2005, and 2006. We’re proud of all our schools.
Which now include College View High School. How did that campus come to be?
Prior to the 2013 bond, we took a close look at the needs of our district. We had an alternative school at the time, called Timber Academy, located on the corner of Timber Street and George Bush Drive. That building was tiny. It was this cobbled-together place that we could only get about 40 kids into. It had all these little rooms and these little narrow hallways. For students to get meals, they had to walk to the nearby Oakwood Intermediate School, go through the cafeteria line there, and then walk back to the Timber building.
The students there at the time were split into two groups: 17 year-olds who only had enough credits to be freshmen or sophomores, and 19 year-olds needing credits to graduate. Basically, all students at Timber Academy worked through a self-paced curriculum which was mostly workbooks at first and then later offered online.
We felt like we could do something better than that.
We had the opportunity at that time to buy back the adjacent College Station Conference Center from the City of College Station. That had been the site of the consolidated high school when it first moved off the A&M campus. Then in the 1980s, it became the city’s conference center. Over the years, the conference center was used less and less frequently. In that time, the building had fallen into disrepair. We bought it back from the city and knocked it and the old Timber Academy down. We then rebuilt on the Timber Street property and decided to do something different.
We envisioned educating a hundred, two hundred students in that new facility and giving them a more traditional high school experience, but not the same experience that students received at the other, larger high schools. Finally, instead of it being an alternative school, we turned it into a “choice” school. What that means is that we wanted to offer a “choice,” or an option to any student living in district.
Again, we looked at other school districts and what they had done going down the choice-school route. After exploring various options, we settled on a program that was going to be rooted in developing strong relationships with our students—which was very much in the Timber Academy model—but we also wanted to offer, not just a path to a high-school diploma, but a means to get a head start to a college degree. Our comprehensive high schools offer those advanced-placement opportunities, but College View High School goes a little farther. There you can get 30 to 40 academic dual-credit college hours.
What we’ve found is that the smaller size of College View, which opened in the fall of 2016, really helps a certain type of student, one who may get lost in a larger-school environment. We have just under a hundred kids there at the present time, with a capacity to probably double that. So, it serves an important need in the district, providing different opportunities and giving students a choice for their secondary schooling. CVHS is not going to be a 1200 student high school. It can’t be, it’s not designed to be that.
And I love the mascot the students came up with for their new school. Reflecting the name and legacy of the old alternative school, they call themselves “Timberwolves.”