Early women principals of the Ysleta Independent School District

In 1891 Ysleta schools educated their girl and boy students separately. Kitti Gorbutt was principal of the Ysleta public Girls School in 1891. As early as 1901, Anna Hannah Ellison was serving as principal, until she left in 1904 and taught in the El Paso schools. Carrie Coleman, from Maybank, Texas, was appointed principal in 1910 to replace R.E. King. During these three women’s tenure as principal, the Ysleta High School, and elementary school classes were held in the old stone Ysleta courthouse on Harris and Alameda. In 1918, Mary Ellen Page was appointed as principal and presided  over the first graduation of the then 2 years Ysleta High School in 1918. At this point, a new grammar school was built from the stones of the courthouse on Harris and Alameda. In 1924, Willie Herron worked as assistant principal of Ysleta Grade School, serving alongside her husband, F.C. Herron, who served as principal of the school.

In 1924, when Cadwallader Elementary opened, Janie Alexander Kelly was principal. In 1925, Johnnie McCaughlin  was serving as principal until 1930 and was succeeded by Opal Carruth. In 1943, when  Principal E.F. Imle was transferred from Cadwallader and Gwen Page Sides succeeded him as principal, serving until 1946. Sides went on to serve as director of secondary education for YISD. In 1929, Helen Higgarson, a teacher at Ysleta High School succeeded J.M. Hanks as Principal, when he promoted as superintendent in 1929. She served until 1931, and continue at the school as  a teacher, librarian, and counselor until her death in the 1940s.

In 1934, Ascarate Elementary School opened with Mrs. J.H. English as principal. When she left El Paso she was succeeded by Clint Superintendent of Schools, Sybil Bowie. Bowie had been teacher, principal, and Superintendent of Clint schools. Bowie resigned to serve in the Women Auxiliary Corp during WWII. In 1937, when North Loop Elementary opened, Miss Vada Gilleland was appointed principal serving until 1967. She also acted as principal at Ysleta Elementary during WWII, when it’s principal,Forrest Binon was away serving in the U.S. Army. Gilleland also became an accompanist painter. She was a member of the El Paso Art Association. She painted landscape and plant life. Her paintings were exhibited  at St. Joseph’s Hosptial, Rodeway Inn, El Paso Art Association Shows. She trained under some famous painters such as Carl Coger.

In 1958, Gilliland was the only principal in the district. In 1960 the Ysleta Independent Schools built a school in the newly developed Sageland Subdivision. It was, of course, named after the subdivision, Sageland Elementary. Kathyrn May was named as the first principal of the school. May was born in El Paso, she earned a B.S. degree from Texas Women’s University  and a master’s degree from UTEP. May taught at Cadwallader and Ascarate  Elementary schools. In 1959, May was serving as assistant  principal at Hacienda Heights Elementary. She served as principal of Sageland until her retirement in 1973. She was succeeded by her assistant principal, Mary Catherine “Myrty” Good Peatschman. Peatschman was born in Yeso, New Mexico and went to school in Fort Sumner. Peatschman graduated from New Mexico State University and earned her masters from UTEP.  Peatschmann was a member of the Ysleta Hall of Honor and president of the Ysleta Teachers Association. Peatschman retied from Sageland in 1995 and was succeeded by Triana Olivas.

In 1967, Lora Martin was appointed principal of Parkland Elementary, before Martin was assistant principal and teacher at the school in 1964. Martin served as Secretary of the Elementary School Principals and Supervisors Association. Martin also taught the adult Sunday school at the First Baptist Church. Martin earned a B.S. degree from Sul Ross and earned her masters from UTEP. Matin retired in 1974 and was succeeded by Alice Adams Bourland. Bourland was born in Dona Ana County, New Mexico. She graduated from Valley High School and later from UTEP. She also worked her way through college in Silver City, New Mexico. Bourland became a teacher at North Loop Elementary in 1965 and later became principal at the school in 1973.

Dorothy Brandt Hunt Adams was born in El Paso. She was the daughter of Everett Brandt, an architect, who served as president of the Ysleta school board and help designed the school. Adams graduated from Ysleta High School and was named an Honorary Ex by the high school in 1967. Adams taught at Cadwallader as a physical education teacher and became assistant principal. In 1964 Adams was promoted to principal at Cadwallader, serving until her retirement in 1974. Adams served as treasurer of the Ysleta Teacher’s Association, she also served on the advisory committee of the Ysleta Teachers Federal Credit Association and was a member of the Ysleta Women’s Club.

Helen Henry was a graduate of the university of Arkansas. Henry taught at Ceder Grove Elementary and also served as principal. Henry served as chair of the YISD Language Arts Committee and headed the 7th and 8th grade Language Arts workshops. She served as an assistant principal at Riverside High School. In 1975, Henry became principal at Pasodale Elementary. In 1977, Alice Codero Yapor(Lang) was appointed the first principal of Vista Hills Elementary. That same year Mary Dwyer was appointed the first principal at Capistrano Elementary. In 1978, Sharon Duncan was appointed the first principal at Glen Cove. She also was assistant principal at Cadwallader and Edgemere Elementary Schools. Duncan also served as principal at Ramona and Pebble Hills Elementary Schools. That same year Melinda Marlin was a principal at LeBarron Park Elementary School serving until 1988.

Carmen Zamora, principal at Eastwood Knolls Elementary and the first principal at Rio Bravo Middle School, Nellie Morales, principal for 23 years at Ascarte and then opened up Constance Hulbert Elementary in 2002, Celia Salazar, principal at Ysleta Pre-K, Isela Ramirez,principal at Ysleta Elementary, Valley View Middle and Riverside High School, and Gloria Palonco McNealy, who served as principal at Del Norte Heights Elementary were among the first Latinas to serve as principals in YISD. Morales was the teacher and assistant principal at Ascarte before serving as principal. During her tenure, the school was recognized as a Blue Ribbon School. Alice Davis was the first African-American women to serve as principal in YISD, serving as principal at North Loop and Pasodale Elementary schools.

In 1984, Mary Hensley was appointed principal at Bel Air High School, she was the first woman to serve as principal of a high school in YISD since Helen Higgerson. Hensley also served as principal of Parkland Middle in 1981.

Joseph Longo

EPHS Curator and Archive Chair

Since 1954 the El Paso County Historical Society has been a driving force in the historic scene of El Paso. EPCHS strives to foster research into the history of the El Paso area; acquire and make available to the public historic materials; publish and encourage historical writing pertaining to the area; and to develop public consciousness of our rich heritage.