The first groundbreaking event of the 2017 Bond program in Spring Branch ISD marks history old and new.
The rebuilding of Landrum Middle School, now a well-worn, 62 years old, is the district’s first-ever traditional middle school replacement project.
The Ridgecrest neighborhood school campus also bears the name of a key SBISD historical figure, H.M. Landrum, who helped shape learning here and then served as the district’s first-ever superintendent of schools.
On Nov. 11, the past, present and future were combined as Landrum Middle held a well-attended afternoon program and outdoor groundbreaking ceremony. Over the next 18 months, a new, three-story building will rise behind the current site at 2200 Ridgecrest. Students and faculty will remain in their current campus during the carefully planned construction period ahead.
“This groundbreaking is especially meaningful to me because not only is it my first as a superintendent, but I was integrally involved in the development of the 2017 Bond package in my former role,” SBISD Superintendent Jennifer Blaine, Ed.D. said during opening remarks in the school auditorium.
The SBISD Board of Trustees approved the 2017 Bond package and election call in August 2017. District voters approved that $898.4 million bond despite Hurricane Harvey’s impact and aftermath, a few months later in November with an 80 percent approval margin.
The new bond follows the successful 2007 Bond program, which has now rebuilt 13 elementary schools in SBISD and made other renovations, improvements and updates districtwide. In addition to the Landrum Middle replacement, funding in this bond authorization will rebuild nine more elementary schools and also improve or renovate several high school campuses, among other approved projects.
Dr. Blaine called the Landrum project “absolutely amazing,” and she also repeated a promise made by former Superintendent Duncan Klussmann at groundbreakings held years ago: “We are excited to know that the caliber of our building here at Landrum will finally be on par with the caliber of the teaching that happens here.”
Landrum’s late afternoon groundbreaking attracted an audience that included six current and several former Board of Trustees, the District A City Council Member Brenda Stardig, and H.M. Landrum’s living son, the Honorable Michael Landrum, who made special event remarks.
Board President Pam Goodson described the Landrum Project Advisory Team’s collaborative design work with district project leadership and Stantec Architect principals as meeting the goals and dreams of the community. “It is going to be incredible,” she said of the building plan.
“Landrum is special not because of the bricks and mortar, but because of the community commitment to excellence. I have every confidence that these qualities will remain steadfast through the next year of transition and we will be back here in 18 months, cutting the ribbon and celebrating something spectacular,” she said.
Council Member Stardig, who also attended SBISD schools, noted that the district remains special because it has always cared about providing for students. “When we get this new school, take care of it,” she told students. “We love you and care about you.”
In his personal perspective remarks, the Honorable Michael Landrum said that his family is proud of his father’s legacy and thrilled that the officially designated H.M. Landrum Middle School will go forward into the future in a new building.
The former superintendent’s portrait will be displayed prominently in the interior design of the new campus.
Michael Landrum’s spouse, Mary Grace Landrum, joined her husband at the groundbreaking. She served as a former SBISD Trustee. His brother, J.B. Landrum, also attended the event.
H.M. Landrum’s own father, Julius Cicero Landrum, arrived in Liberty Hill, Texas, in 1854 to be that town’s first school teacher. H.M. and his wife moved to the Spring Branch area in 1941. They were both just 27 years old, his son said.
“Dad took over as the head of the Spring Branch School – there was no school district then, but a single county school operated by the Harris County Dept. of Education – School No. 27, sometimes called the Hillendahl School, with 300 students enrolled in grades 1 to 8,” Landrum said.
Back then, his father served as the school’s jack of all trades – administrator, personnel department, telephone receptionist, substitute teacher, and even school nurse.
Things changed quickly after the war, however. SBISD formed as an independent school district in April 1946; in its first nine years, enrollment increased from 614 students on a few school sites to 6,500 students on eight campuses.
The area’s population exploded. “The community got behind our district – our schools were often recognized for excellence, and that was a big reason why the Spring Branch community became a great place to raise a family. It remains so today,” he also said.
The Board of Trustees decided to name the middle school in his father’s honor in 1956, over his father’s personal objections that any success and reputation really rested with teachers, parents and community. “His objection was overruled,” Mr. Landrum told the gathering.
School pride remains strong. Eighth-grader Fatima Paez told the gathering how a recent torrential rainstorm, Imelda, flooded part of the school building. Students joined with staff to help push water out on that day.
“Here at Landrum,” Fatima said, “our school follows a motto: Lions Inspire Others to Never Settle. This school has lived up to the saying. Each day, teachers and staff strive to unlock students’ potential and create opportunities for children to grow,” she said.
Kamran Zarea, a 17-year teacher at Landrum, has links to the school going back to his mother, who taught there. He attended the school, too, and recited a memory list of his own that included more than a dozen teachers and staff members.
“Landrum Middle School is not a building,” he said. “It’s a gathering of people, of ideas, and of memories for everyone involved.”
In his own remarks, Principal Steven Speyrer connected Landrum’s past with the district’s current core values – Every Child, Collective Greatness, Collaborative Spirit, Limitless Curiosity and Moral Compass.
He also spoke with anticipation about the future ahead at Landrum.
“For the past 62 years, Landrum has been a place where memories and teamwork are embedded in our culture and climate,” he said. “As we anticipate the amazing new, three-story, high-tech facility with flexible learning spaces, we must remember the incredible spirit and camaraderie that lie within the walls of Landrum.”
Eric Schmidt, KIPP Courage at Landrum Middle School Director, also gave brief remarks. The charter program and Landrum Middle have provided student instruction in the same building for many years, and students in both the charter program and traditional school play together in the band and orchestra, and meet in other shared areas and events across the campus. KIPP’s local leader GET NAME also attended the groundbreaking.
The Landrum Middle School Choir under the direction of award-winning teacher and director Jaime Trigo, performed the Star Spangled Banner and Circle of Life from popular movie, Lion King.