“Red” Simon at Simon Middle School. Hays CISD photo.
KYLE — Sept. 11 will be full of commemorations and ceremonies, but one that speaks directly to the future is Hays CISD’s dedication ceremony for D.J. “Red” Simon Middle School at 3839 East FM 150 in Kyle.
The school is named for Delvin John “Red” Simon, a 12-year board member of the Kyle Independent School district, which later merged with the Buda and Wimberley school districts to form Hays CISD in 1967. Simon led the Kyle board, then served as the first Hays CISD board president until 1972.
By then, Simon had begun to make a name for himself in San Marcos, opening Red Simon Ford in 1963. Simon, 84, spent 63 years in the local car business before selling his San Marcos dealership to Chris Griffith of Uvalde in March.
As a school trustee, Simon navigated the rocky terrain between rivals Buda and Kyle as they merged into one district. Simon and his school boards were guided by the common interest of local students and, more than 40 years later, their successes are evident.
“If my father could be here to see this today, he would not believe it,” Simon said recently as he scanned the just-completed D. J. “Red” Simon Middle School campus.
Simon was born into a farming family in Hemphill, TX, in 1925. When he was 11, his mother died and his family, which included five older siblings, moved to Kyle. His father remained a farmer, growing cotton and corn and managing sheep, goats, cattle and pigs. Little “Red” expected that farming would be his life, but, as he put it, “There would have to be something else.”
His student days were spent in Kyle, and he graduated from Kyle High School in 1941. He even got his nickname in school from his vocational Ag teacher, A.R. “Archie” Hacker. The name stuck with the auburn-haired student for the rest of his life.
He saw some military service stateside after high school, and, in 1946 he started working in the auto business. Although his first job was sweeping out Tom Summers’ San Marcos Ford dealership, he was soon a salesman. And 15 years later, he found himself in the position to buy into the dealership.
Appointed to fill a Kyle ISD board vacancy in 1955, Simon became a force for educational growth and change in the area. The eventual consolidation of school districts from Kyle, Buda and Wimberley arrived with Simon serving as Kyle’s board president.
By state law, the board of the largest school district in the consolidation became the school board for the new consolidated district. However, at the historic first Hays school board meeting, four Kyle trustees resigned, so they could be replaced by two trustees each from Buda and Wimberley. Then, Simon was unanimously elected to lead the new district’s board. He served as the Hays CISD board president until 1972, when he chose not to run for re-election.
“I have a huge amount of respect for Red,” said Ralph Pfluger, an original Hays CISD trustee who was voted back onto the board in 2004. “He’s not a chest pounder or an egotist, but he does have a lot of pride.”
Looking back on his 1967 vote for Simon as the new board’s president, Pfluger said, “We knew he was just a fine, fine person. He’d done so much, had such a sense of duty to the schools — and such a sense of humor … We all respected him as a successful businessman. He was well-suited for the job.”
Forty-two years later, Hays CISD has grown into an ever-expanding district of 14,000 students. No longer a tiny rural school district, Hays CISD opens a school in Simon’s name at a time when it struggles with its cotton country past and a suburbanizing present for its identity.
Michelle Chae, the principal of Simon Middle School, has a deep awareness of the school namesake’s role in local public education.
“It is truly an honor to carry on the legacy of dedication to all students that Mr. Simon started and fought for during his leadership,” Chae said. “The Simon name is synonymous with success, which is a tradition we are proud to continue.”
Simon Middle School has been set up to meet the challenges of its uniquely impoverished students, as the attendance zones take in southeastern portions from the former attendance zones for Wallace and Chapa Middle Schools. Additionally, it takes in the Green Pastures subdivision east of Buda, where students used to attend Dahlstrom Middle School.
The students being moved from Dahlstrom will continue being fed to Hays High School, while the Chapa and Wallace students being moved will go to Lehman High School.
Though the middle school opened last month with a capacity of 850 students, the school district planned to populate it with about 500 students in the first year. School officials aimed for programs to help socio-economically disadvantaged kids succeed in school, such as after-school programs and parental-involvement programs.
The dedication will be Sept. 11 at 8:30 a.m. at the school. The public is invited to attend.