A History of Plains ISD
For just over 100 years, many students from approximately 600 square miles of Yoakum County have had the experience of gaining an education from the Plains Independent School District. Long known for its citizens who are dedicated to the idea that an education is an investment in the future, Plains has always placed tremendous value on ensuring that its students receive the best from the best. That tradition has served our people well in the past, provides opportunity for all students today, and will continue to develop the character, minds, and creativity for the future generations of community, governmental, and business leaders of tomorrow.
In 1906, Mr. Hanley and thirty-eight students established a two room schoolhouse on the hill in what is now the southwest part of the city of Plains and appropriately called “teacher hill” – land currently owned by the district and used to house district employees. Earliest records of a graduating class show two graduates in 1922 - Bill Cox and an unnamed lady. In 1925, a six room stucco building, lovingly called “the Alamo” for its flat roof, was built on the current site of the Cafeteria to house Plains students, and the original building abandoned. In this early era of West Texas public education, Plains was not the only area school. Center Point, Glen Park, Liberty, Moreland, and Turner were all schools operated by Yoakum County (incorporated in 1907) but, over time, consolidated into the Plains Rural School District by the 1930s. Mr. Warner Hayhurst served as the Superintendent/ Principal/Coach for the district. Early records show the first unofficial football game by Plains students in 1936, a 6-0 loss to Brownfield. The Cowboys, the mascot selected because of the early ranching heritage of the area, were organized a year later, and the first true game, a defeat, came at the hands of the Meadow Broncos by a score of 12-2. Black and Gold have been the school colors since 1938, a decision most likely influenced by the drilling and discovery of oil in Yoakum County in 1936. Oil and gas production revenue continue to be the single most important financial resource for the district today as approximately 85% of taxed property values are attributed to mineral wealth. With the assistance of this newfound resource, the decision was made in 1938 to construct a larger building to house the growing student population as the “boom” was on. Mrs. Shelby Jobes, the district’s band director in 1941, wrote the school song “Dear Old Plains High.” The first annual chronicling the school year was published in 1943 and has been continually published ever since. A Junior High School building was constructed in 1946, and Plains High School was destroyed by fire in 1948, forcing the high school students to hold class in the Junior High with the younger students while a new High School building was constructed in 1949. In 1953, after a dynamite explosion in the city caused significant damage to the school property, an elementary campus was built, and with continued student growth, expansion projects including the addition of a new wing to the elementary, a new cafeteria, high school gym, administration building, agricultural shop, and auditorium occurred throughout the early ‘50s. Through careful management and constant maintenance, the buildings have been renovated and updated so that the school plant served the local students effectively until a bond issue passed in May 2010 afforded the District the ability to contruct a PK-12 building that was dedicated in the Fall of 2012. A model layout for rural schools. The functional buildings, combined with the very latest in technology and outstanding instructors, provide an opportunity for Plains students to receive an outstanding education.
By the start of the decade of the 1960s, Plains ISD had established itself as a successful district with a tradition of excellence in all areas of academics, athletics, fine arts, and agricultural/vocational education. Fourteen State championships in volleyball (1962-1971, 1985, 1988-1990), three State Championships in Boys Cross-Country (1993, 2004, 2009) along with four State Runners-up finishes (1990-1992, 1995), two State Champion Marching Band Competitions (Fall 1991, 1995) along with three State Runners-up finishes (Fall 1986, 1993, 1997), two State Championships in One Act Play (2011-2012) and a third place finish in 2013, a State Championship in Girls Basketball (2014), two State Runner-up finishes in Boys Basketball (1959, 2009), and four third place (1997, 1999-2001) and two fifth place (2011-2012) finishes at the State UIL Academic Meet along with numerous regional and district titles in every area of competition, signify the dedication of both the students, staff, and community to excel in any endeavor. Community support for Plains ISD is second to none, binding both together. It is common to see more fans in the visitor’s stands when Plains travels than home fans by our opponents. The district is truly the center of the community, serving generations of residents who can always remember what it used to be like when they went to school here.
Currently, the Plains Independent School District serves approximately 470 PK-12 Grade students on three campuses. 63% of the student population is Hispanic and 36% Anglo. The assessed taxable value of the district for 2015-16 is just over $7 million, and the tax rate is slightly under $1.29 per $100 valuation including $0.31 of that tax rate to pay back bonds from an election that passed in November 2010 to build a new 130,000 square foot PK-12 campus - completed in Fall 2013, and another $17 million in bonds passed in May 2013 to renovate current gyms, the auditorium, build a new competition gym, the Cowboy-Cowgirl Arena, which was finished January 2015. As a result of the “Robin Hood” school finance plan of the early 1990s, Plains ISD was named a property wealthy Chapter 41 school. About 50% of locally raised revenues are redistributed to other districts throughout the state in an attempt to equalize the educational opportunities for all students in Texas.
While much of the district’s revenue is generated from the oil and gas industry, it is the farming and ranching community that primarily supplies the population of the community and the district. The close-knit nature of these families, the dedicated work ethic, and the enthusiastic spirit of those who break and work the ground continue to be the foundation for the success of Plains ISD. The district employs 83 full time workers, including 54 certified teachers and administrators, and has always found a way, in boom and bust years for oil, farming, and ranching, to provide the best education possible for the families of the district.
Currently, students are able to participate in activities ranging from Dual Credit academic classes (with South Plains College, Western Texas College, and UTPB), One-Act Play, Band, Academic UIL, TMSCA, FFA, Interactive Television classes, Art, four years of Spanish, and a full athletic program including Football, Volleyball, Basketball, Cross Country, Track, Tennis, and Golf. Each activity provides every student with an opportunity for a thorough and well-rounded education that confidently prepares that student for success as graduation signifies the end of one journey and the beginning of another.
Leading the way through all of the challenges facing public education through the years have been those who have served as trustees and school administrators. Past Superintendents include Warner Hayhurst (1933-1938), H.W. Taylor (1938-1939), Roy Elliott (1939-1949), James A. Ellis (1949-1951), Gerald D. Kennedy (1951-1973), Roy N. Dodds (1973-1980), Dean Andrews (1980-1990), Michael Stevens (Interim 1990-1991), Pete Simmons (1991-1996), Arlon Alexander (Interim 1996-1997), James Haynes (1997-2007), Michael Michaleson (2007-2014), Stephanie Howard (2015-2018), and Robert McLain (2019- ). The history of Plains ISD is written in the accomplishments of those who served and were served by it. The roll of alumni and their success in life has assured the positive impact Plains ISD has on its students and has also justified the dedication of those who work for it. The mission of the district “is to share responsibility with parents and the community for preparing our students to live and work in the 21st Century.” The future, as it did back in 1906, still looks bright for the Plains Independent School District.
*Information for this July 2007 narrative is taken from “The Yoakum County History (1907-1957)”, Mrs. M.W. Luna, Chair of the History Committee, an information brochure about Plains ISD written by Mr. Dean Andrews, and a “History of Plains School” by Sidney Coke Murphey.