It was September 1960, and time for a new school year to begin. This was a very special time for Sammy Spratt, five teachers, and 183 children. They were the first principal, educators, and students at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School. Workers were still adding finishing touches to the new school building, and the cafeteria would not be finished for several weeks. Despite these obstacles, school began on the second day of September.
Ms. Nette Shultz donated land to the Denton Independent School District to be used for a new elementary school on June 8, 1956. On February 9, 1959, an additional three acres were purchased by the School Board. Ms. Shultz was a county home demonstration agent in Cooke County, Texas. In 1935, she purchased 191 acres that were two and a half miles northeast of Denton. The property she gave for Woodrow Wilson Elementary School was in the middle of that farm. Ms. Shultz taught at Texas State College for Women (presently TWU) from 1944 to 1952. She was interested in a good education for the children of Denton.
The name Woodrow Wilson was submitted by Ms. Shultz (she asked that the school not be named for her) to the Denton Independent School Board. She admired the former president and felt he would be an inspiration to the children attending the school named in his honor.
The physical structure of Wilson Elementary was constructed in seven phases. The first was completed in 1961, consisting of six classrooms, a music room, a library, a cafeteria, and an office wing. A second wing was completed in the 1961-62 school year east of the office wing with six additional classrooms. The approximate cost for this section was $273,575. In November 1964, another wing was completed. It was extended east of the first wing, adding another six classrooms and a workroom area at a cost of $74,844.
In 1970, the installation of air conditioning brought welcome relief to the entire school building. The cost was $95,500. In 1972, another addition was added enclosing everything under one roof. This wing consisted of eleven classrooms and an upper level to the library, as well as a conference room. The cost for this was $316,700. The next addition was an activity center for physical education that was completed in 1984. The facility then consisted of 29 classrooms, a music room, a library, an office area, a counselor’s office, a computer/work area for the office, a principal’s office (formerly the conference room), a cafeteria, a staff lounge, a health room, a teacher work area, an audio-visual media room, various storage areas, the activity center, and a portable building that Mizar (Denton ISD’s Gifted and Talented Program) occupied as an office. This portable was purchased at a price of $4,700.
The next renovation came in 1992 when Woodrow Wilson came into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act by making the library all on one floor. A new roof and new carpet were also added at this time. In 1999, the next large renovation occurred. It added a new wing on the north side of the school. This new wing housed an art room, a counselor’s office, a new parking lot, a health room, twelve new classrooms, two computer labs, five new restrooms, a Reading Recovery room, a new P.E. facility, a new music room, renovations to the cafeteria, and the new office area. The new office area housed the secretary, receptionist, principal, assistant principal, and a conference room. The front of the school was changed from the Emerson Street side to the Windsor Drive side. The architect for this addition was Russell Bates, and the construction firm was Lee Lewis.
On Aug. 2, 2005, Wilson began renovation. This included a new 3,500-square-foot library, renovation of all bathrooms, painting the entire building, the addition and renovation of the Emerson bus canopy, the installation of a new concrete bus circle and new VCT floors throughout the building, enclosing the glass windows in the cafeteria, the addition of two new classrooms and one Reading Recovery room from the old library space, new ceiling and lights in the second and first-grade halls, and converted all remaining chalkboards to whiteboards, and put new laminate around the sinks in the second and first-grade halls. This renovation updated and unified the look of the entire building at a cost of $1,619,652. A Library Open House was held on Sept. 15, 2005, where Eric Horstman of Corgan Architects and Rick Hansen of Charter Builders were honored for their outstanding work at Woodrow Wilson.
The enrollment started at 183 students in 1960 and has steadily climbed upward. The highest enrollment was 785 in the early 80s. In August 2005, the enrollment was 665 students, pre-kindergarten to fifth grade. Currently, we serve kindergarten through fifth grade with an average of 600 students attending.
Woodrow Wilson Elementary School has had many accomplishments and takes pride in having piloted many programs. In 1964-65, the school was selected to pilot the Physical Education program. Mr. Spratt was selected to serve on the committee to write the first Physical Education curriculum for elementary schools in Texas. In January 1965, Elizabeth Teasley became the first elementary librarian at Denton ISD and later was named the coordinator for all elementary libraries. During the 1967-68 school year, the first elementary counselor in Denton ISD started at Wilson. In the spring of 1968, the first preschool screening for first graders took place.
During the 1969-70 school year, Wilson was involved in the start of using educational television in the classroom. The first televisions were bought and placed in classrooms for instructional use. This was also the year the first full-time P.E. teacher was hired. Woodrow Wilson Parent Teacher Association helped to purchase the television equipment necessary to set up a studio for recording and producing local programs in 1970-71. Wilson was selected to be a pilot school for Channel 13 of Dallas. In 1970-71, we took great pride in having one of our former students become Miss America, Phyllis George. Phyllis’s mother, Louise George, was Wilson’s first PTA President. Ms. Phyllis George also did her student teaching here in first grade. In 1973-74, the parent volunteer program started and the following year health room volunteers began.
Woodrow Wilson Elementary School was selected to be a Texas Education Agency Demonstration school for three consecutive years, 1973-74, 1974-75, and 1975-76. In 1977, the Aesthetic Education Program was piloted at Wilson. In 1975-76, 1976-77, and 1977-78, the Guidance Associate Program, under the direction of Counselor Barbara Gouge, was funded. In 1981-82, the Apple Computer Program was started. In 1998-99, the Woodrow Wilson All-Star Choir was recognized as a Texas Music Educators Association Elementary Honor Choir. The All-Star Choir was once again recognized in 2004-05 as the TMEA Elementary Honor Choir. Both years, the choir performed in San Antonio for the February state conference, under the direction of Mrs. Cecile Johnson. Wilson is the only Denton ISD Elementary Choir to have received this honor twice.
From 1998-2003, Wilson was a five-time TEA Exemplary campus. In 2002, Wilson became a bilingual campus and began the first Denton ISD Dual-Language Program in Fall 2006. The program began with a Kindergarten group and has added an additional grade level each year since. In 2003, Wilson became a Title One campus and added pre-kindergarten for both Spanish and English speakers. In 2004, Wilson was recognized as a TBEC Just for the Kids Honor School for our outstanding academic achievement.
Since 2004, Wilson has received the Texas Education Business Coalition recognition in 2008, 2009, and 2010. This acknowledgment recognizes only the top 4 percent of the 8,000 Texas schools. In the Fall of 2010, district preschool programs were moved to the Popo and Lupe Gonzalez School for Young Children. The Wilson All-Star Choir earned the title of TMEA Elementary Honor Choir under the Direction of Mrs. Cecile Johnson.
Wilson is a 7-time Exemplary Campus, and 6-time Recognized Campus. In 2012, TEA changed its accountability system and started giving out distinguished distinctions to schools. Each year the students at Woodrow Wilson have earned distinctions in different areas, such as math, science, language arts, Closing Achievement Gaps, Top 25% Student progress, and post-secondary readiness.
Woodrow Wilson Elementary has been under the leadership of several principals. Sammy Spratt, the first principal, served from 1960 to 1975. He retired because of poor health. Blake DeHart came in the fall of 1975 and served until 1978. Doug Key started in the fall of 1978 and left in the fall of 1987 to open a new school south of town, McNair Elementary. Gerald Stevenson took over the reins and retired in the spring of 2000. Audrey Staniszewski became the fifth principal at Wilson Elementary in the fall of 2000 after serving as assistant principal for seven years. Caleb Leath was named her successor in 2014 after serving for two years as the assistant principal. Mr. Leath served as principal until 2021, when he became the first principal of the Denton ISD Virtual Academy. Matt Preston is the seventh principal in our school's history. Mr. Preston began his teaching career at Wilson Elementary in 2003, serving as a 4th grade teacher for eight years before moving into campus administration.
In August 2021, after 61 years in our original school building, our Mustangs transitioned to a new campus constructed on the original site of our larger playground. Renamed as Nette Shultz Elementary, our proud Mustang traditions of excellence continue in our new school home!