Throughout these years many excellent students have passed through our doors, experiencing the highest quality instruction, curriculum, and administration. Excellence in education is the BEST of Wilson's traditions. We who have enjoyed the privileges of Wilson Junior High/Middle School welcome those of you who are just entering. We are a faculty and administration dedicated to the education of children. We are proud of Wilson and its traditions; we want you to share this pride with us.
Woodrow Wilson was one of the first two junior high schools that opened in the fall of 1915. The other was George Washington. Our doors opened with a faculty of ten teachers and an enrollment of 259 students. It was a time when Davis Island was only a swamp. Palma Ceia and Hyde Park were new communities of growing families
Competent and energetic leadership have been qualities of Wilson’s many accomplished principals. J. R. Monahan served as the first principal of Wilson for ten years. During his administration some vivid memories of Wilson involve World War I. Wilson students showed their patriotism and support of their country by making imitation wooden Springfield rifles in the Manual Training Department under the direction of Professor Ralph Crist. The ninth grade boys marched, carrying their “guns”, in preparation for the possibility of war close to home. Gorrie Elementary students would line the curb in front of their school during lunch or recess to watch the Wilson “soldiers” parade past.
In the early years Wilson had no lunchroom. Most students brought their lunches from home or were permitted to leave campus to buy nickel or dime sandwiches at Sumner Grocery, Hixon's Pharmacy, or O'Brien's Drugstore. The Hamburger Stand, a favorite gathering spot, was located on what is now our parking lot. For many years students enjoyed the cherry cokes made with cherry syrup sold there after school.
On unforgettable event of the 1920's was the tidal wave produced by a major hurricane that hit Tampa Bay on October 25, 1921. The tidal wave drove water up as far as Inman Avenue, forcing Wilson students to evacuate the school. The trolley lines were down and much of the town was disrupted. Many boys from Wilson helped police the Hyde Park area during this community emergency.
The original structure, costing $40,000 was the section that faces Swann Avenue. The wings were added in 1920, and by 1928 physical education and art buildings had been constructed. In 1958 additional space was added to the lunchroom area, followed by a new band room and shop in 1960. The shop was converted to the present media center which houses books, reference materials, and computers as well as portable computer labs which can be relocated to classrooms for instructional purposes.
Wilson has historically enjoyed a strong performing arts department. The first class play was performed in Wilson's auditorium in 1925. In the 1960's and 1970's each ninth grade homeroom was responsible for performing a play for the school. The homeroom teachers were the directors, and students came in before school for rehearsals. During the eighties Wilson enjoyed many fine major productions under the direction of Mr. James Wicker. Our Town, Midsummer's Night Dream, The Wizard of Oz, and You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown are standout performances by Wilson’s students during that period. Wilson student performances at the countywide Drama Festival were always highly regarded. Drama is now an elective offered to seventh and eighth grade students.
Traditionally, the performing arts have also included an orchestra and a band. The first stage band in the 1920’s which included Sol Fleischman on the drums and Morris Acton on the piano, performed for the students on a regular basis. This stage band originated in the 1920's and then united to entertain once more at the fiftieth anniversary celebration for Wilson. One former band director, Mr. Warrend Frederick, served Wilson from 1953-1978. During his time at Wilson he composed the "Wilson Pep Song" which was sung at athletic events and pep rallies. Through the years, our band and orchestra have won many awards, always reputed to be of superior achievement. Wilson MS regularly is recognized by the state of Florida FMEA for our high percentage of student enrolled in our music program.
From 1925-1930, Vivian Gaither was principal of Wilson. He was followed by Elmer E. Jeter from 1930-1933. Miss Pauline Bush served Wilson through the years 1933-1960. During these years Wilson maintained a reputation as a school with top-notch curriculum. During her tenure, a student was hit by a car at the front of the school. Although the student was not seriously injured, Miss Bush had a wall built in front of the school to protect students from future mishaps and initiated the first school safety patrol program. The wall was removed in the late sixties.
Wilson's Parent-Teacher Association came into being on April 20, 1937, when a charter was issued by Florida Congress of Parents and Teachers, Inc. By 1940-43 Wilson had the largest PTA membership of any junior high school in the state. Historically, Wilson stakeholders have enjoyed a strong, organized parental support.
The early curriculum consisted of English composition, spelling, arithmetic, geography, ancient history, biology, and zoology. Physical Education classes were not structured in the early years. Carpentry and woodshop were classes for boys. Sewing and cooking classes, introduced in the 1940’s and 1950’s, were restricted to girls. In the 1970's the classes became coed with expanded curricula. Physical education became coed with the advent of Title IX legislation.
The 1950's saw the institution of Student-Teacher Day at Wilson. For more than 30 years 9th grade students had the opportunity to assume the role of teacher and administrators on one special day. The student-teachers prepared the lesson plans under the guidance of the teacher they were to replace, then actually instructed the classes. Students learned the joys and difficulties of teaching through the process which solidified some of their goals to become teachers.
A yearly event that began in the 1950's was the Magazine Drive that continued for 65 years. For those years it was Wilson’s major fundraiser. Students sold subscriptions to magazines and Wilson was able to use the profits for school equipment, beautification, and other "extras" for the classrooms. With the advent of expanded use of technology, magazines were no longer read in many households and the drive was discontinued. Our very popular Dance-A-Thon started in 2014.
Interscholastic sports while Wilson was a junior high school saw the Bulldogs compete in many sports with many Tampa schools. Prior to 1974, almost all sports competitions were for boys. During the 1974-1975 school year, girls’ sports began to transition into the schools and soon became commonplace. Many trophies for county-wide championships in various sports are displayed in our building.
Strong leadership continued at Wilson with Eddy G. Hauer as principal from 1960-1971. During his tenure, the building was wired for closed circuit television for news and instructional broadcasts. Wilson, along with one other junior high school, installed the first cutting edge Audio Lingual Method lab for teaching foreign language. Joe S. Conte led Wilson from 1971-1978 and Bernie Wilson followed as principal from 1978-1981. During this time period, "Red and Blue Day" was initiated, a tradition that continues to this day. On game days, spirit days, or Fridays, students, faculty, and staff wear their school colors to show their school spirit. In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s there was conversation of closing the building. The PTA launched a successful campaign to save the Hyde Park
As we moved into the 1980's our school saw structural changes. Under Robert Godwin as principal in 1980-81 air condition was finally installed tin the building. Gordon Burnett, principal from 1981-88, supervised a 2.4 million dollar renovation which began in 1986. The extensive work on the building required school take place in another building; so, the entire student body was moved to George Washing Center. Faculty and staff prepared for the move for months in advance, then again for then again for the move back nine months later. Gordon Burnett's commendable organization and commitment to a smooth transition were instrumental in maintaining the high morale and school spirit. After one and a half years, Wilson reopened its doors to the students. On May 17, 1987, Woodrow Wilson Junior High was officially
rededicated in a ceremony in the auditorium.
On August 19, 1992, under the leadership of Jacqueline Heard, 1988-1996, Wilson once again led the district opening one of the first four middle schools in Hillsborough County with a faculty/staff of 58 and an enrollment of 610 students. The renovated building sits in the same location amid large oak trees in Hyde Park on Swann Avenue. As Wilson’s ninth graders were moved to Plant High school, Mitchell and Gorries’ sixth graders were moved to Wilson; and, for the first time, sixth graders walked through the halls of Wilson as part of our student body. To transition to middle school, the faculty experienced many hours of training new instructional methods. Familiar language among the staff became cooperative learning, alternate assessment, teachers-as-advisors, time blocks, and teaming.
Middle school teams took field trips to Lowry Park Zoo, the Tampa Theater, and the Performing Arts Center. Teams participate in community service projects, which included visitations to Tampa General Hospital, and local nursing homes. Gifts were made for the children at Moffitt Cancer Center around the holidays. Canned food drives continued to help the needy. WOW, “Working on Wilson” was a periodic Saturday project for grounds and building beautification. All of the community related service based learning and volunteer projects that were done, many under the direction of Kelly McWilliams, earned one of President George H.W. Bush’s 1000 points of Light awards.
The precursor to the present outdoor classroom area by the gym was the original outdoor classroom set up in the grassy area of the parking lot, Abel Park. Set up for classes to use and take advantage of the beautiful Florida weather, Abel Park was named for Charles Abel, longtime assistant principal and former physical education teacher and coach.
In early February, 1996, Wilson Middle School received notification from Washington that we were selected as a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence. On February 21, 1996, Jean Hamilton became principal of Wilson Middle School. On March 5, 1996, Wilson faculty, staff and parents gathered at the Raymond O. Shelton School Administration Center to be honored by the School Board for the Blue Ribbon Award, which was later formally accepted by Mrs. Hamilton, Jayne Hobgood.
When junior high schools were built before the 1990’s they did not include gymnasiums. We were fortunate to add a spacious gymnasium when Mrs. Hamilton was principal. A sports tradition that brought great fun and excitement to Wilson during the 1990’s and 2000’s was the “WBT”, Wilson Basketball Tournament. During lunch, teams of three competed against each other in the form of a round robin tournament. Teams participated under creative names such as "Hyde Park Hustler", "Armadillos", and "Shake and Bake". During the WBT there were constant comments, trash talk, arguing, and boasting amongst teams; students repeatedly begged their teachers to give them a pass out of class to go to first lunch to see the day’s match.
A student favorite built during Jean Hamilton’s tenure was the iguana cage. Assistant Principal Bob Morgan build a cage behind the main building which housed several iguanas which were of huge interest to the students at lunchtime. Students loved naming the iguanas and watching their habits and simply talking about nature. During Mrs. Hamilton’s tenure, Jane Hobgood, eighth grade language arts teacher, was the countywide Teacher of the Year, honored not just by Wilson, but also by the entire county. Mrs. Hobgood was a deserving teacher who worked tirelessly to impart the love of language and literature to her students.
When Stephanie Woodford took the reins of principal in 2003, one of her first initiatives was to establish the Woodrow Wilson Foundation for the purpose of supporting the instructional program in all of its aspects. The Foundation has provided much for Wilson over the years, not the least of which are the murals that adorn the cafeteria and media center. Splat Paint (Jeff Monsein, Wilson parent) turned the cafeteria into Tuscany and the media center into a Renaissance haven with his artistic talent. The Foundation has bought computers and provided the capital for extra instruction for students. Over a period of three years, the Foundation purchased enough textbooks so that the student could have a set a books at home and no longer needed to carry them back and forth to and from school. Mrs. Woodford also helped to establish professional
learning communities. Small groups of teachers discussing students and curriculum lend itself to more specific goals and methods to help better instruct Wilson students.
The second and third floor original wooden floors were worn after 85 years of use! Mrs. Woodford and a group of parents scavenged wood from the demolition of the George Washington Center, brought it to Wilson, clean it, and laid it to make our beautiful renovated wooden floors of the present.
Colleen Faucett began her tenure as principal at Wilson in 2010. Mrs. Faucett added a paved patio with covered student seating outside the cafeteria to alleviate the crowded lunchroom. Today, students can choose to eat outside on the patio as they wish. The 100th year anniversary of Wilson was celebrated in 2015. Mrs. Faucett sponsored a reunion of former teachers and students. A pep assembly for the students to honor Wilson’s’ golden anniversary was attended by local dignitaries and accompanied by a proclamation by Mayor Bob Buckhorn. Students also got a bit of perspective on the 100 years of Wilson by dressing as thought they were from various decades on certain days of the year. Mrs. Faucett also set the school schedule to allow time for weekly meetings about student needs with all stakeholders present, an
invaluable tool to share information to help students.
Wilson boasts about several of our former students who have become well known within their professions. Wade Boggs, former third baseman for the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees was a Wilson student as was Luis Gonzalez who played for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Mychal Givens, a Wilson graduate, presently plays for the Baltimore Orioles. A famous Wilson graduate in the music industry is Steven Stills, famed member of Crosby Stills Nash and Young.
Our most enduring Wilson tradition and the question most often asked when one says they are from Wilson is, “Do you still play the bugles?” Yes, we do. The traditional bugles sound at Wilson to begin the day. The homeroom bell rings and students and faculty stand at attention while the bugles play "The Morning Call." This is the "Pledge of Allegiance" and the WBN Morning Show. When the afternoon bell rings, students stand once again for the playing of "Evening Call." Students are then dismissed. This is probably the most unique tradition we have at the Home of the Bulldogs.