Bringing the schools together: Recollections from Red Simon – first Hays CISD school board president

Longtime resident Delvin J. “Red” Simon remembers when the eight miles between what were the Buda and Kyle High campuses wasn’t nearly enough separation. 

Sure, Buda and Kyle High students and supporters expressed pleasantries when they passed each other on the street back in the day. When it came time to face off on the football field or a smoke-filled gymnasium, however, all bets were off. 

“Buda and Kyle, when they were playing ball, it was like a dog and cat fight,” said Simon, who began serving on the Kyle school board in 1955.

From the founding of both schools in the late 1800s to the early 1960s, the Buda and Kyle school districts, like many rivals, shared a healthy, but respectful, disdain for each other.

Coming together for anything, much less to combine a school district, wasn’t an option.

And then 1967 happened.

After a six-year crusade, the state’s education agency’s push to consolidate the Kyle and Buda school districts, which were struggling financially, hit a fever pitch. Consolidation of Kyle, Buda and Wimberley, which in 1966 began transferring students from San Marcos to Kyle, was an inevitable reality. 

Through the course of many meetings, and eventually a referendum, residents agreed to create what is now Hays CISD.

Fifty years, 23 campuses and just over 19,000 students later, the idea, crafted by a brave group of individuals, continues to stand as a monument to the willingness of two communities to come together. 

Crafting the district

Simon’s involvement with the old Kyle school board began in 1955 “or something like that.”

Many teachers in the district tried to talk him into becoming a part of it. Simon said he didn’t want to and didn’t feel like he had the time to participate.

“My wife, she said, ‘you’re going to take time,’” Simon said.

Red Simon poses with photos of his late wife Louise and his family at his home in Kyle. (photo by David White)

Simon was eventually appointed to the Kyle school board and served as president until the creation of Hays CISD.

Simon never felt potential consolidation of the Buda and Kyle districts could take place, even as the state’s education agency pushed for it,  until an ultimatum from the state got the gears in motion. Simon recalled the state essentially threatened to cut state funding if the districts didn’t band together.

But the fear of Kyle going to San Marcos and Buda to Austin was a prospect that didn’t sit well with educators.

“We decided we could do that,” Simon said.

The Kyle and Buda boards met and decided that consolidation was the only option.

Over the course of several months, a coalition of 21 school board members from Buda, Kyle and Wimberley met and discussed how they were going to consolidate.

“We had a lot of meetings and burned a lot of midnight oil,” Simon said.

The proverbial elephant in the room, however, was convincing the public it was a good idea. Many were skeptical such a feat could be accomplished.

“We were mad at folks because they were for consolidation and my friends and I were saying, ‘I’d rather go to San Marcos than go to school with Buda,’” said Jane Kirkham, who in an interview with Simon reflected on her experience.

Over time, the mood changed regarding consolidation. The overall consensus was to avoid splitting up the area.

On May 6, 1967, the district put the consolidation idea up for a vote.

It passed with flying colors in all three communities.

“We didn’t think Buda and Kyle people would ever vote to consolidate,” said Simon, who later added, “but we got it done and it could not have been any better.”

Putting the district in place

Of course, with a new school district comes the prospect of filling the positions that come with it, starting with the school board.

Because Kyle had the higher enrollment at the time, state law called for that district’s board to rule.

But in a 2006 account of the district’s origins, Moe and Gene Johnson recalled a “gentlemen’s agreement” that called for the resignation of four Kyle board members.

That allowed for two Buda and two Wimberley board members to join the school board. Johnson wrote that the step of “good faith” helped solidify consolidation.

Johnson, who passed away in 2014, was unanimously selected as the district’s first superintendent.

Joining him as school board members were Simon, Ted Lehman, Tim Harris, Lloyd Hennig, Raymond Czichos, Robert Schneider and Ralph Pfluger.

The board took on the task of filling teaching positions in the district. Simon said they “kind of picked” the teachers they wanted to keep.

“It went real smooth,” Simon said. “The teachers that had to go, they found a job somewhere else and we kept the ones we wanted.”

Building a high school became the next critical phase for board members. Everyone involved wanted the school to be as close to them as possible.

But Simon said he did his homework, and eventually stumbled upon friend Buster Haupt, who was a professor at Texas A&M. Haupt, as it just so happened, had 35 acres located along FM 2770 that he was selling for $500 per acre.

Before bringing it up to the board, Simon talked with Haupt about the land. He went to the board with his assessment and said he felt the land would be “satisfactory.”

He then convinced the board to drive out to the property to view it. The board ultimately “made the decision right then and there.”

Paying $500 per acre in the late-1960s, however, featured blowback unlike any other. Simon said many disapproved of the district purchasing the land, especially when Haupt was selling other parcels for $100 to $200 per acre.

Yes, the public got after Simon and the board for the purchase “pretty bad.” Simon maintains the price is a “bargain today.”

The Hays CISD board paid $500,000 for the school, which was completed in 1968.

“I don’t think we could have found a better location,” Simon said.

One critical component was naming the new high school campus after Jack C. Hays, who was a Texas Ranger. After taking it to the Buda and Kyle student body, the board settled on the Rebel mascot, as Hays was seen to have a rebellious attitude.

Fifty years later, Simon marvels at the rapid growth of the district.

Hays High’s first graduating class in 1971 had less than 200 students. In 2016, Hays CISD graduated over 1,100 seniors.

With time comes change. In 1986, Wimberley split off from Hays CISD to create its own new district.

The rapid growth led to the construction of multiple middle and elementary schools. In 2004, Hays CISD opened Lehman High to accommodate the growth.

A third high school is now in the works.

But Simon, who served on the Hays CISD board until 1971, never imagined just how big the consolidated district could become.

“Never thought it would get this big and have 22 or 23 elementary and middle schools and two high schools, and talk about a third one,” Simon said. “Everybody wants to move to Kyle and Buda. The school (district) brought a lot of people to start with.”

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