Life on Campus
Picture 1: Student standing in front of the Moss’s house on the far left. Picture 2: Student standing in front of the Moss’s house Picture 3: Julia MossIn the fall of 1978, Roy McGee was principal and there was one teacher per grade. Ann Udall began teaching that same year in a portable building just to the west of the main buildings. The small portable building later served as the nurse’s office and even as a temporary administrative office when there was construction.There were several portable buildings set up for the teachers. There was another portable building directly to the south of the other portable building which served as a classroom and a library. Michelle Young, another longtime Higley school teacher, taught in that building for many years. Later, it was used as a special education room.Mr. Jim Moss arrived to Arizona from California in the late 70s, looking for work. Jim’s father was already working for the school. He was good friends with principal Roy McGee. As a result, Mr. Jim Moss and his wife, Mrs. Julia Moss, were hired and moved into the District. They lived on campus in the house to the south of the main building with their two children.It had two bedrooms, one living room and one kitchen. The house was used in the late 20s through the late 30s as a Mexican school for Spanish speaking children and some Native American children in the segregated days.To keep an eye on things, Jim and Julia lived there from 1977 until 1985. Sometime after 1985 the small house was projected to be torn down. Julia Moss recalls the building being very old and each door way and room was never the same size.Mr. Moss served as the school janitor and maintenance worker, with additional various duties. He helped maintain the school buildings, vehicles and yard, while Mrs. Julia Moss worked at the cafeteria.The winter 1989, Mr. and Mrs. Moss left the school for about 11 years. In 2000, Mrs. Julia Moss was hired to work back at the school. Three years later Mr. Moss passed away and Julia continued to work at the school despite her loss. She retired in 2013.1982
Country SchoolCarolyn Fairall began teaching at Higley in 1982, retiring in 2007. She taught for 10 years before joining Higley.
Back then, Higley “was a little country school way out in the boonies,” Fairall said. “We were surrounded by cotton fields, grape vineyards, dairy farms.” She recalled being late for school a couple of times because sheep were being herded down the road and she couldn’t get around them.
It was a “little brick school surrounded by cotton fields.” The floors in her classroom were wooden, and there were large windows. The school's bell tower was rung when it was time to go to class. “I don’t even think the road was paved in front of the school,” Fairall said. “The first buildings had evaporative cooling. We had to anchor paper down to keep it from blowing.”
Throughout the years, Fairall spent most of the time as a third grade teacher, but she also taught first, sixth and fourth-fifth combo. In addition, she coached girls and boys basketball.1983
A new beginningPicture 1: Students posing for the 1983 school year book Picture 2: Principal Larry LikesThe start of the growing phase began with Superintendent and Principal Larry Likes. In 1983, Likes replaced Barbara Roskell, who moved to California with her husband when he retired from the military.
“Always arriving early, our principal, Mr. Likes, might write the daily staff bulletin, start school, deal with administrative matters, sub in a classroom for an hour, teach band, supervise a construction project and drive the bus all in one day. Not unusual for most of us, for our days were just as crazy. However, we knew what it was like to walk in each other’s shoes, and that brought us closer,” said Vicki Simer, Higley teacher in 1985-2012.
By 1983, there were seven different athletic classes held on campus for volleyball, soccer, basketball, track and softball. There were nine teachers in total and 14 staff members. Much work needed to be done to keep the school building up to date with the different fire codes. A lot of repairs and remodeling took place to help accommodate students and keep the school in session.1984
Major RenovationMain building 100 was part of a multi-building school campus that had buildings constructed between 1915 and 2000. The 1985-1986 school yearbook began its introduction with “the year of construction and remodeling.” The picture above shows Mr. Laird Taylor from the 1985 school yearbook, who was on the Chairperson Citizen Advisory Council, opened the Ground Breaking Ceremony along with the Board of Education.
In 1984 and 1985, major renovations took place on campus. The main building went through a complete make over. Anodized aluminum windows were installed in the exterior parts of the building that closely resembled the original wood sash windows.
Part of the major renovation included the finishing construction phase of building 400. “School was delayed a week that year as the 400 building wasn’t quite finished. There was only one teacher per grade level at the time, and each of us had to get on the phone to tell parents about the school delay,” said Vicki Simer.
In that same year, there were 175 students attending Higley Elementary School, a K-8 campus. The budget of $590,000 was adequate to maintain educational programs for the kindergarten through eighth-grade school, but more was needed for additions to be made.
“We just don’t have the enrollment now to do what we want, yet. We need a plan before the growth hits. We’re expecting rapid development in two years,” Larry Likes said in an old newspaper article from The Phoenix Gazette. Most high school-aged children attended classes in Gilbert or Chandler.
Bilingual teachers were assigned to kindergarten and first grade to help children from other cultures adjust to using English. Even before the late 90s, there were bilingual aides who would help throughout the school for those that didn’t speak English. The students were from surrounding rural areas.
Several lived on farms or horse properties. Many were minority children, the sons and daughters of humble migrant workers or dairy farm workers. Some students only spoke Spanish. Some understood English, but couldn’t read or write the langauge.
The community consisted of a diverse population of Mexicans, Indians, Blacks and Anglos. Even still, there were only 11 teachers and most of them had more than one duty. “We had limited resources and every teacher had an additional job, such as being the first grade teacher and home economics teacher, or the second grade teacher and also the art teacher,” said Michelle Young. Despite the hard work juggling several tasks, teachers were very happy in school and in their positions.1987
The Growing Phase Part IIn January 1987, Higley Elementary School had 30 students that attended special education classes with Michelle Young. Michelle remembers the school being surrounded by three cotton fields.
Since Higley was mainly made up of farmers, many children came from families who worked in the fields as dairy workers. “I remember very well in teacher meetings Larry showing us the growth that was to come and we did not believe him. He showed us how he was handling the growth and planning for new schools and obtaining the land,” said Young.
By 1988, Higley School had 203 students enrolled in grades kindergarten-eighth grade. The average class size was 17. Class sizes ranged from 13 to 28 students. There were a total of 12 certified staff members and 15 classified staff members.1989
The LibraryIn 1989, a library was built, making it building 800.
A special activity took place after the library was built. Principal Larry Likes, wanted all the children and staff to participate in the moving of the books from the old 1983 modular building where Ann Udall worked as a librarian to the new library building. One morning, students and teachers formed a long line from the old library building to the new one.
Each person passed a book to the next until all the books were in place. Teachers called it the “book brigade.” Since it was the largest building that the school could then meet in, it was used for board meetings, community gatherings and programs.
During that time, building 900 was constructed and a concrete porch was put in on the south side of the main building.
In 2006, over the summer, members of the school’s Parent Teacher Organization painted the walls of the library in shades of blue and Merrie Cox added a mural of three children reading. Literary quotes, such as the Latin proverb “Great oaks from little acorns grow,” also adorned the walls.