Those who have tended to the children at Fowler Elementary School since its opening in 1956 talk about the little school in the personal language of close family.
As the Killeen Independent School District has grown to 52 campuses stretching from Nolanville to West Fort Hood, the smallest school has remained cocooned in its neighborhood just north of U.S. Highway 190.
On May 17, the Fowler faithful will gather to remember almost six decades of service to children as the school prepares to close its building.
The school staff will relocate to the district’s newest school, set to open in a developing part of town off Clear Creek Road and bearing the name Fowler Elementary School.
The closing ceremony begins at 9:30 a.m. and the program includes words from four former principals, a walk-through of the building and time to reminisce.
FLOOD OF MEMORIES
Fowler principal Debra Drever said the event will be a time to recall the happy memories of growing up. She began working at the school as assistant principal in 2005 and became principal in 2008. She also attended Fowler from fourth to sixth grade.
She remembers hearing about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy just before walking home in silence at dismissal. She also remembers standing in line to receive a polio vaccination. Mostly, though, she remembers the fun of friends and learning.
The school at 1020 Trimmier Road is named for Dr. Joe A. Fowler, who came to Killeen in 1932, where he practiced medicine 40 years in the days of house calls and walk-in office visits. That personal touch is also part of the school named for him.
“It was a family,” said Dick Thomas, a retired 38-year educator who was principal at Fowler from 1986 to 1992. “It was more than that.”
The retired educator who continues to live in Killeen described an environment where teachers worked hard because they cared about the children. They also found time for fun because they cared about the children.
“We were always doing something,” Thomas said. One time the staff painted a box to look like a casket and the principal, wearing a Dracula costume, got in it. “They thought that was the greatest thing in the world.”
Becky Smith was principal at Fowler from 1992 to 2004. She retired from Killeen ISD with 37 years in education, all in Killeen.
She called Fowler “a true neighborhood school” pointing out that in many cases three generations of students matriculated through the campus.
“We knew families by name and we had high expectations,” she said. “The staff built relationships. They encouraged and pushed and stayed with them.”
Fowler typically served low socioeconomic status families and typically received accolades for high academic performance, Smith said.
The basic reason, she said, is that staff members usually chose to stay at Fowler, where they gained teaching skills and built strong and compassionate relationships with people.
“There was not a lot of ‘teaching to teach,’” Smith said. “We were able to do a lot of ‘out of the box’ things. It was a gift of love every day.”
The former principal said anyone connected to Fowler could be proud of the school’s heritage. “They will carry on that Fowler name and make their own mark.”
“I hope it’s a time for wonderful memories at this campus that has served the community for 59 years,” said Drever of the closing ceremony.
“Hopefully with all of us together we can think about how this building can serve the community another 59 years.”
Local history describes Dr. Fowler as a sort of everyday hero, practicing medicine at times as the only doctor in town before the area became home to Fort Hood.
He served on the Killeen ISD board of trustees and the Killeen City Council, was president of the Killeen Chamber of Commerce and was city health officer and a Bell County Water Control and Improvement District director.