Namesake LaFaye Johnson Lee, who passed away on June 3, taught middle and high school English for 14 years, was a middle and high school counselor for 16 years and served as CFISD's academic achievement coordinator/director for eight years. Prior to her passing, Lee, who was the Class of 1968 Carverdale valedictorian, played a key role in helping develop the new Carverdale School web page, preserving the rich history of Carverdale's beginnings, high standards of instruction, parental involvement and student life.
Carverdale School had its beginning in 1925 when Louis Depsloff, a German dairy farmer, offered his one-room wood frame farmhouse to the residents of Independence Garden, currently known as Carverdale. The Tanner Road farmhouse served as both a church and the first school for students who lived in the community of Independence Garden in Fairbanks, Texas. In 1926, the farmhouse was moved to Dancy Road. The school, then called Fairbanks Colored School, opened its doors to 19 students in grades one through six. Lacy Houston, the school’s first teacher, taught for one year during the the 1926-1927 school terms. Melissa Depot taught the following year,1927-1928. Then during the 1928-1929 school term, Clara Scott began teaching in the one-room farm house. Since the farmhouse was also used as the community church, Greater Macedonia Baptist Church, each Monday Scott’s students stacked church benches to the back and replaced them with desks. At the end of the day on Friday, the desks were stacked away until the next school week.
In 1937, the Wright Land Company donated property on Clara Road (named in honor of Clara Scott). By 1938, the old Bane Elementary School building was moved to the Clara Road site, and this became the first permanent school building for Fairbanks Colored School. It was not until 1938 that Scott had her first official graduating class of four students – Savannah Jones, Bertha Mae Strait, R. A. Strait and Hazel Scott. At that time students who finished grade seven would attend school at Harper Middle School and then Booker T. Washington High School in Houston Independent School District. Scott would continue as the single teacher of Carverdale Colored School until 1951. She and her husband John dedicated the property for the new wing and new parking lot area for Carverdale School.
In 1951, the school received its first principal, E. S. Waddy. By this time, the old Bane building was moved to the site on Clara Road. The name of the school was then changed to Fairbanks Elementary School. Waddy had three teachers on staff: Clara Scott, Madgelene Snell and Arlene Archer.
In 1955, J. D. Richards became principal, and he had a staff of 11 teachers. The campus now featured a library, band hall and choir room as well as multiple classrooms. By the following year, the school was officially dedicated as a fully fledged campus consisting of grades 1-12. The school was also renamed Carverdale in honor of the surrounding community.
Four years later in 1959, W. M. Batts became Carverdale School’s third principal. Batts was a progressive principal and assessed the community for future growth, shared the information with the school district administration, and later the School Board decided to purchase land to expand Carverdale School into a 25-acre campus.
When the school’s new wing was completed, it boasted a modern home economics department, an auto mechanics shop, a state-of-the-art science lab and multiple classrooms. Later a new gymnasium was added. Batts started Operation Head Start at Carverdale, utilized the Teacher Corps Program from Prairie View A& M College, and was one of three Cy-Fair ISD schools to pilot the open concept model that was also at Bane and Lamkin elementary schools. Dr. Eaton and two professors from the University of Texas directed the project that would allow for large-group instruction led by one teacher while the other teachers assisted students. When appropriate, students could also be divided into smaller groups to receive more individualized instruction. More than 200 educators from all over Texas visited Carverdale to observe the open-concept method.
In 1966, Carverdale School had a total of 214 high school students, 200 junior high school students and 350 elementary students. Carverdale School was the life’s blood of the community. Carverdale teachers and staff invested in the personal education of each student. All teachers had bachelor's degrees and many had or were pursuing master’s degrees. No one ever questioned the work ethic of Carverdale teachers because they worked hours well beyond what was expected. Teachers arrived early in the morning and worked later than established working hours, planning ways to enhance and extend their students' learning. Carverdale teachers were firm, focused and instructed with love. They understood the value of teacher training and continuous improvement, and as a result, participated in professional development. They also utilized the latest innovative teaching methods. Not only did the teachers evaluate student progress, they also re-evaluated their own methods, resources and evaluated whether to change or adapt lessons and re-teach. Carverdale teachers never sat behind their desks. This was mainly because they were aware of economic needs of students in the community. Many teachers kept extra supplies on hand for those students who could not afford them. They interacted constantly with each student, individually as well as in group settings. Establishing a close relationship with each student and maintaining high expectations were paramount to improving student achievement.
Many teachers lived in the community and knew most parents personally. This easy access to parents at the grocery store or at church services made additional school communication easy. Also, parents were encouraged to attend conferences such as Parent Teacher Organization meetings, and Education Week programs.
Every teacher was committed to sponsoring some after-school activity which kept students heavily involved in wholesome activities that kept them safe and engaged. Assembly programs showcased students’ talents and Spelling Bees tested their knowledge of vocabulary. Occasionally, special guests like Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, Congressman George H. W. Bush and Dr. Thomas Freeman (debate coach from Texas Southern University) spoke at assembly programs.
Since Prairie View A&M College was only 30 miles from the Carverdale community, teachers constantly encouraged students to think early about going to college. For students who were interested in a more urban college environment, teachers reminded them about Texas Southern University and other historically black colleges and universities in and beyond the state of Texas. Not only were teachers hammering home the value of education, but office workers, like Bertha Lee, bus drivers like Doc Murrell, custodians like Isaac Alfred and cafeteria workers like R. A. Strait and Earnestine Lewis were all on board to keep Carverdale students walking in the right direction.
Due to a mandate by the federal government for Cypress-Fairbanks ISD to desegregate its school district in 1967, the school Board voted to close Carverdale School on Aug. 3, 1970. In later years, Carverdale School was used by the Houston Community College System as its Carverdale campus. After the Carverdale branch of Houston Community College closed, the Carverdale School facility was demolished, and sadly, the site where Carverdale once stood is now lined with industrial warehouses.
Academic achievement was the primary focus and priority for Carverdale elementary and secondary students. The students understood their teachers expected them to become successful, independent, and self-confident learners. In addition to students being immersed in their six or seven classes of English/language arts, math, science, social studies, fine arts, and after-school tutoring (as needed) students were also encouraged to participate in a wide-range of extra-curricular activities.
In addition to their regular course of study, Carverdale students were immersed in extra-curricular activities that helped to extend their academic knowledge. These after school activities allowed students to meet and make connections with students who have similar interests. Students also learned the value of teamwork, individual and group responsibility as they socialized with their peers. Organizations like Student Council, National Honor Society, Cobra Year Book Staff, Spanish Club, and Future Teachers of America reinforced many concepts learned through the regular curriculum.
Teaching students leadership skills, etiquette and social graces were also important. Several clubs and organizations focused on respect for self and others, table manners, good sportsmanship, values and ethics as well as building positive relationships. The Mademoiselles helped young girls to master these skills whereas the young men were involved in The Esquire Club. Other organizations that helped model appropriate social skills were participation in coronation balls, Future Homemakers of America, and Cadets, Explorer Scouts, and Class Favorites.
Carverdale had many clubs and organizations that supported the athletic and general school program. The Choirs (general and a cappella), the Cobra Band, Drum Major and Majorettes, Cheerleaders, and Drill Team all contributed to school pride and spirit.
Homecoming queens and attendants and prom queens were also a major part of school life.
The Carverdale Athletic Department was a major part of the extra-curricular program. Boys and girls could choose from among football, basketball, baseball, and tack.
Under Batts' leadership, the athletic department also won multiple district basketball and football championships as well as two state basketball championships in 1965 and 1966 under the leadership of Coach Tommy Johnson.