By Arielle Johnson
We have been updating you regularly with the latest information concerning the $52 million dollar facelift and internal makeover planned for South Oak Cliff H.S. and the simultaneous move of students and staff to the Village Fair School in Oak Cliff, Dallas. Well…as of Monday, January 8th it became official. In South Oak Cliff fashion, a Block Party was planned which drew scores of teachers, students and neighbors to the new temporary S.O.C. home. And although no one from the media was allowed to film or photograph the students, we did have an opportunity to speak with some of the staff, members of the S.O.C. Alumni Association and the principal, Dr. W.F. Johnson.
As you can see from the photograph, there were still some maintenance going on when we arrived; more than likely it was just last minute touch ups in preparation for the masses of students who would be returning from holiday break the following day, Tuesday, January 9th.
There was no one to guide us on our tour of the new facility so we wandered around, amazed by how spacious the classrooms were and how shiny and new everything appeared to be. In one classroom, we met with a Life Skills teacher named Ms. Jones who has been teaching life skills for the past 13 years. She too was adding last minute touches to the classroom, to make sure her students felt welcomed. We had her describe to us what all her job entails, so our readers understand what an asset she is to SOC H.S.
Life skills is a part of the special education class curriculum. Ms. Jones states the most amazing accomplishment she has witnessed in her students over the years, has been the ability of many of them, to obtain employment and be able to function on their own and become productive citizens. Two recent employment success stories have been about a student obtaining employment at SMU and another who found a job at AT&T. “Don’t sit at home after high school; work and be a part of society,” is what Ms. Jones has offered as advice to students on more than one occasion. “Initially, they feel at a disadvantage because they are in this class, but she teaches them about being advocates for themselves. The 9th graders have a tendency to be shy, so I teach them how to speak for themselves. I stress upon them, after high school, there is no more teaching. I understand it is a big transition going from middle school to high school. Follow the rules so i can teach you.” Ms. Jones has a unique and rare bond with her students. They have her cell number, and have been calling her over the Winter Break inquiring about the new school. “Is the room ready? Is it nice?” Ms. Jones’ response was, “It is very nice, now we have to be good stewards of it.”
After meeting with Ms. Jones, we asked Mr. Derrick Battie, SOC alumni member and community liaison, if we could talk to the Principal, Dr. W.F. Johnson, so he guided us through the massive hallway to his office. As we expected, everything was all shiny and new. Dr. Johnson has a two room office with a beautiful mahogany desk and a Keurig coffee machine directly across from his desk. The other room, which faces the front door and is to the right of Dr. Johnson’s desk, is the conference room, which has a seating capacity of 10. Positioned above the coffee machine is a 40-inch flat screen television.
When questioned about what he thought about his fancy new digs at Village Fair, Dr. Johnson said because he spends most of his time at the school, he needs to make sure he has all the necessities to stay focused and keep his eyes on the prize.
We asked Dr. Johnson what some of the last minute preparations and concerns were with the SOC move to Village Fair and this is what he had to say, “Juniors and seniors are here gaining community hours today, helping to get the school ready for students tomorrow. Parents and students are coming in later on this evening, to get some logistical information for themselves and the children who will be coming for a full school day tomorrow.”
It is basketball season for the SOC girl and boy teams, and although they don’t have a basketball court of their own, the Townview and Spragg DISD facilities are willing to make room for the SOC students.
Before leaving the Village Fair grounds we hunted down the President of SOC ALumni Association, Douglas Grace. He reminded us that the children will be in their temporary home for the next 18 months, by which time their school grounds will be completely transformed. Mr. Grace is a big believer of community support and says, “As long as we support each other, we can make things happen. Even some of our recent high school graduates have come out to support us today.”
Shout out to S.O.C. H.S. for having the courage to make such a big move. And before closing we want to briefly mention how much of a support alumni member, Brianna Hogg has been to SOC as the Director of Public Relations for SOC Alumni. We have never showed up at a major SOC event and not seen Ms. Hogg doing her best to make sure media is taken care of and connects with the right people to get the best story to share with their readers and viewers.