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SAISD Nation is for alumni, former SAISD employees and the greater San Antonio community that want to support the success of students in San Antonio ISD (SAISD) - San Antonio's first school district. 
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About SAISD:

SAISD is as diverse and historically rich as the city whose name it shares. As San Antonio’s founding school district, SAISD neighborhood schools have served the heart of the Alamo City for more than 100 years. Today, SAISD serves about 49,000 students across more than 90 schools in our culturally proud, urban community. From forward-thinking academic and extracurricular programs at our neighborhood schools to a growing list of specialized schools, SAISD students can customize their own educational experience and find what truly drives them. Learn more about SAISD here.

  • Latest from the blog

    SAISD's East Side Legacy: A Story That Must be Told

    On a recent tour of Carroll Early Childhood Center James Howard, a 1969 graduate of Wheatley High School, pointed to a small plaque on a wall honoring the school's namesake, Henry A. Carroll Senior. Stopping his brisk walk for a moment, Howard (whose 21-year role as the district 2 trustee for the San Antonio Independent School District board recently ended) noted "You know when I was a kid, we had to know who our schools were named for. We were expected to know that history. Nowadays it's different." He continued,  "Did you know what  S.J. Davis Middle School used to be Stonewall Jackson middle school? You can't escape the confederacy anywhere." In many ways, truer words had never been spoken.  Henry A. Carroll Senior, who served as Assistant Athletic Director for SAISD’s Athletic Office until he retired in 1986 after 39 years in education. Click here to read Carroll's history It is these bits of history, delivered in snippets, that remind us how complex SAISD's history truly is, and how that now more than ever it's important to share the stories and preserve the legacy of our schools and communities. The following is the beginning of a multi-part series that will highlight SAISD's sometimes-forgotten history, beginning with the story of The Wheatley Lions.  Wheatley High School  Phillis Wheatley High School operated for nearly 40 years on San Antonio's historically Black east side, and is one of many schools that SAISD operated before desegregation. Before Wheatley, Douglass operated as the city's first all Black high school, then became the district's all-Black middle school when Wheatley opened. The aftermath of the school closures proved to be a particularly painful period for many Black alumni, who rightfully felt that their history was being erased and forgotten. The building that now houses the Young Men's Leadership Academy opened in 1933 as Phillis Wheatley High School at 415 Harrison Ave., (the street's former name) as a school for African American students. Named after the famous 18th century African American poet, the high school produced many star "Wheatley Lions" athletes and leaders who continue to influence our city and state.      The Wheatley Lions produced numerous all-star athletes including Cliff Johnson, long-time major league baseball player, Willie Mitchell, who played in the first Super Bowl for Kansas City Chiefs, Clyde Glosson, a world-class sprinter, John “Mule” Miles, a legendary baseball player in the All Negro Leagues, and Gentris Hornsby, a 3-time Courier All-American football player and bronze plaque is mounted at entrance of Alamo Stadium. Learn more about the SAISD Sports Hall of Fame Inductees HERE. At the end of the 1969-70 school year, due to desegregation, Wheatley High School was closed. The name and building then underwent several changes over the years. In 1972 Emerson Middle School was relocated there from its home since 1924, 1023 N. Pine St. The Wheatley name was soon transferred to a new high school which opened on the site of Brackenridge High School. In 1988 the Emerson name was removed from the original Wheatley High School location, and the Phillis Wheatley name was restored. Wheatley operated as a middle school until 2015, when the Young Men's leadership Academy at Wheatley opened as the city's first all boys' public school. YMLA Principal Derrick Brown is determined to make sure The Wheatley history is honored and celebrated. "When I came to YMLA I instantly felt like I was at home. I am the first generation in my family not to go to segregated schools, so meeting with the Wheatley lions alumni was like being with family. It's so important that we honor this history. We need to showcase it in our hallways." he said. Brown also made the deliberate decision to ensure that the Wheatley name was added to YMLA uniforms, an intentional move to ensure that the school's legacy was honored. Now that YMLA has grown to include high school students, it is bringing back traditions. This August YMLA at Wheatley will field its first varsity football team-- the first to represent this historic campus since 1969. Wheatley High School at Brackenridge Wheatley High School (aka Brackenridge HS) kept the Wheatley name until 1988 when the school changed its name back to Brackenridge. In 2017, Alia Malik wrote an article for the Express News to capture Brackenridge High School's history, including the time when it operated as Wheatley. In the article, Malik articulated how the name change did not come without controversy, as evidenced by this key excerpt: "Brackenridge reopened in 1974 with the Wheatley High name, an attempt to appease East Side community members who thought white students should have been bussed to Wheatley. The switch infuriated Brackenridge alumni, who fought to keep the eagle as the school’s mascot over the Wheatley lion. “Someone suggested calling the new team the Griffins, a mythological creature with a body of a Lion and the head and wings of an Eagle,” wrote Harry Page of the Express-News. The eagle eventually won out. [Dianna] Buxkemper came to the school as a guidance counselor in 1980, when it still was named Wheatley. Seven years later, alumni of Brackenridge High and the former Wheatley High on the East Side asked the SAISD board to restore the old names to their respective buildings, setting off a battle royal documented in Express-News archives. “Most of the students were sons and daughters of Brack graduates,” Buxkemper noted, so a student survey chose Brackenridge by a 2-1 ratio. Some told the Express-News they thought the name change would attract more scholarship money from Brackenridge alumni. Members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People called the proposal racist and said they’d accept nothing less than a high school named for Wheatley, the first published African-American poet. About 250 people packed the Jan. 25, 1988, school board meeting, some accusing teachers and coaches of campaigning for the name change despite a board-ordered moratorium on the debate during exam week. The board’s vote to return the Brackenridge name was divided, with its only black trustee dissenting. It brought both cheers and tears, the Express-News reported." SAISD's East Side Schools While the Wheatley name may no longer headline an SAISD campus, various alumni and community organizations have worked to preserve and honor SAISD's East Side story. In fact, in 2012 then Interim Deputy Superintendent Peggy Stark-Wilson organized a district-wide effort to research and document every school's history. The project charged students with researching their individual schools and authoring a written history. The individual histories were then compiled into a book, and each campus received a copy. Many of these stories now live on school web pages, including those the following SAISD schools named after distinguished Black citizens: S.J. Davis Middle School Frederick Douglass Academy  Martin Luther King Jr. Academy Booker T. Washinton Elementary Samuel Houston Gates Elementary Dorie Miller Elementary Henry A. Carroll Early Childhood Center Storytelling Through Art and Time Capsules The following is a short film which highlights a 2017 partnership between the SAISD Foundation and Public Art San Antonio, and includes peek into the arts program at Wheatley Middle School in its last year before it became the Young Men's Leadership Academy. SAISD alumna Mary Cantu (Brackenridge, class of '97) oversaw the partnership, and worked with local artists to develop a program that also gives us a peek in the African American history of Wheatley. Of note is a time capsule that students prepared to preserve the Wheatley legacy and history. Wheatley alumna and former alumni president Pat Harris also worked with the students to tell the history of the school as they prepared the capsule. The time capsule currently lives in the library of the Young Men's Leadership Academy.   Have a story to share about SAISD's East side history? Join SAISD Nation today and submit your Alumni update HERE. If you are interested in submitting a guest blog for publication, please email us at
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    The Lanier Voks, The Pride of the Westside

    Guest Blog by By Dr. Ricardo Romo Photos courtesy of the University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures Photo Courtesy The UT Institute of Texan Cultures at San Antonio No. 3086 - Ramiro Bernal, Tony Rivera, and Henry Escobedo. San Antonio, Texas    Sidney Lanier High School Voks are known regionally for their competitiveness in sports, ROTC Drill Teams, and creative arts.  But it was the boys  basketball teams  that first brought them statewide recognition,  and in the process shattered several long held  myths and stereotypes about Mexican Americans. San Antonio has produced many great athletes as well as many outstanding teams over the last century.  Local athletes played in the NFL, in the NBA,  and several won major tennis and golf tournaments.  In addition, San Antonio natives have won at least two world boxing championship trophies.  Unfortunately,  no one has compiled a thorough  list of the many great San Antonio athletes or teams and that  is a loss to all of us.  It is   especially a loss to young students who seek role models. I have always loved sports,  and as a youngster I enjoyed  reading  about the great achievements of  famous sports figures such as Babe Ruth, Rocky Marciano,  Jesse Owens, and Jackie Robinson. A few former Lanier graduates are making current youth aware of  inspiring Latino sports role models.  In this essay I would like to recognize and thank  Raul Zuniga and Noe Medina,  co-founders of  the National Hispanic Sports Hall of Fame based in San Antonio, for their excellent research and commitment to Lanier Voks athletics.   Zuniga and Medina both played sports at Lanier and have undertaken painstaking research to highlight the school’s great sports tradition over the past 80 years.   The Lanier Voks, pride of the Westside of San Antonio, had many great athletes in various sports, but in basketball and track they achieved “best in state” status.  An important  authority on the early basketball achievement--the glory days of the 1940s-- is Dr. Ignacio Garcia, a Lanier graduate and a professor of Western American History at Brigham Young University.  His book, When Mexicans Could Play Ball: Basketball, Race, and Identity in San Antonio, 1928-1945, documents the golden years of Lanier’s dominance in basketball.  His book is a first for Latino high school sports. To my knowledge no one in the United States has written a book about Latino high school championship teams in basketball and baseball. My family lived  four blocks from Lanier High School, and growing up I heard many stories of the great teams of the 1930s and 1940s. Some of Lanier’s great players lived in my neighborhood.  Everyone had heard of the legendary Coach William Carson “Nemo” Herrera who led eight high school teams  to the Texas Statewide play-offs.   Photo Courtesy The UT Institute of Texan Cultures at San Antonio No. 2874 - Nemo Herrera Coach Herrera’s Lanier  teams won two State Championship tournaments  in basketball-- 1943 and  in  1945.  Herrera was known as a “skill coach.”   He taught the fundamentals of basketball and developed  exceptional game strategies.  Among his best players were  Henry Escobedo, who led Lanier to three  trips to the Texas State Basketball Tournament. Escobedo was selected All-State twice (1943 and 1944).  Tony Rivera was Lanier’s leading scorer in 1943 when they won the State Championship.   Lanier lost the State Tournament in 1944  by one point.   Tony was selected All-State in basketball in 1942 and 1943, and also led the State Tournament in scoring in 1942.   Herrera's 1944 team included  Joe Bernal, who  played basketball for Lanier High School. The 1944 team was undefeated until the  State Championship game, which they lost by one point, 19-18.  Bernal, who was a  5 foot 6 inch tall shooting guard,  scored 6 points in that game.  It was a low scoring game because during those years a  time clock was not  applied to basketball and teams could hold the ball for long periods of time.   But scoring was also low because Coach Herrera developed a very aggressive  full-court press which  kept the other teams from taking many shots. There were three Bernal brothers on the Lanier teams between 1942-46. [Ramiro, Joe, and Gabby].  Joe Bernal went on to become an important role model for civil rights in Texas.   Dr. Joe Bernal and family pictured on March 1, 2019 at Alamo Stadium at the SAISD Foundation's "Run 4 Education" event. Dr. Joe Bernal is pictured with son Patrick and daughter Becky and her two sons, Joe's Grandboys. Another accomplished  player on Lanier’s early basketball teams was David Rodriguez, an All-State selection in 1943, 1944, and 1945.  Rodriguez  led Lanier High School to  three State Tournaments in Basketball. [Lanier won two of those three].  Rodriguez   was also a Jr  College All-American and  led Tyler Junior College to the National Championship. At the U. of Houston Rodriguez earned  All-Conference honors  and  was selected to the Mexican Olympic team in 1948. [Players whose parents or grandparents were born in Mexico qualified for the Mexican teams].   Herrera, with a 545-193 win-loss  record over his lifetime,  left Lanier in 1945  to take a coaching position at Bowie High School in El Paso.  In 1949 Herrera took the Bowie High School baseball team  to the State Championship  and won.  Lanier’s team continued to be good, but not like the glory years with Coach Herrera.  Other great players for Lanier included Mario Cortinas who lettered in football, basketball, and baseball in 1957. Cortinas  was followed by Raymond “Spider” Gonzalez who earned All-City  and All-State in 1963  and played professional basketball in the Mexican Professional League. Fifty years later, Rudy Bernal, the son of Ramiro Bernal and nephew of Joe Bernal, coached the Lanier High School basketball teams and achieved a 567-442 won-loss record at Lanier.   Coach Rudy Bernal led Lanier High  School to the State Tournament in 2000 and 2001. Lanier finished in 2nd place in 2001 losing to Beaumont in the Championship Game. In the semi-final game in 2001, Lanier upset the nation’s number one ranked team,  Dallas,  Oak Cliff.  Bernal  currently coaches at Antonian Catholic High School teams. The early Lanier Vok team accomplished the near impossible in winning several state basketball championships. The players came from one of the poorest school districts in the state. Many of the players had grown up in poverty and graduated from high school at a time when the majority of their classmates were dropping out to find jobs. Their history has been largely neglected. The great Coach “Nemo” Herrera, who is only one of three high school coaches to ever win state championships in two different sports, was finally inducted to the San Antonio ISD Athletic Hall of Fame in 2016, thirty-two years after his death.   Dr. Romo is an accomplished Author, Educator, and Latino Art Collector who graduated from Fox Tech High School in 1962.  A native of San Antonio's Westside, Romo graduated from Fox Tech and attended UT Austin on a track scholarship. Romo was the first Texas Longhorns athlete (and the 19th American in history) to break 4 minutes in the mile, running a time of 3 minutes, 58.8 seconds in 1966. The time set a school record that lasted 42 years. He holds a mater's degree in history from Loyola Marymount University and a Ph.D in history from UCLA.              
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