Roark family says goodbye
Once a Raider, always a Raider.
Roark Elementary School’s 60-year run comes to an end on Tuesday when school lets out. But once a Raider, always a Raider. That doesn’t come to an end – ever.
While Roark’s spirit is as strong as ever, the building that opened in 1961 near what was a new GM plant at the time is now old and will be torn down soon as part of an east Arlington master plan to modernize schools and give students an optimal 21st-century education. The plan will rezone the entire area, replace Berry and Thornton Elementary schools with new, bigger buildings funded by the 2019 Bond and close Roark and Knox Elementary. (Learn more.) The Roark site will eventually become an Arlington city park with a splash pad.
“As we get ready to say goodbye to Roark the name, remember, the impact is always going to last,” said Roark’s current and last principal, Ebony Key.
Key was joined by several former principals and Roark teachers and staff recently to celebrate Roark’s 60 years and say goodbye to the school beloved by so many.
They gathered in Roark’s little cafeteria, decked out with blue and white streamers and balloons. Limited in attendance by COVID, the celebration was broadcast on Zoom for others to see.
Arlington ISD superintendent Dr. Marcelo Cavazos recalled his first visit to Roark about 20 years ago when he was new to the district.
“Roark was one of the first schools I visited, and I remember the love I felt from teachers and students,” he said. “Respect, honor, love – this school has taught us those things. I thank you. You’ve been an example to our district.”
A dance performance from the “Little Raiders,” a photo slideshow and the opening of a time capsule from the school’s 50th anniversary in 2011 kept the memories and nostalgia flowing.
And when former, but longtime Roark teacher Rafael Campos got up to sing the school song that he wrote, every teacher and staff member in attendance jumped up and joined him at the front to loudly sing:
“We are Roark Raiders,
We are the best …”
The memories and legacy will live on. A few forever Raiders share some of their thoughts and memories below:
〉Ayesha Ramos, former Roark teacher
Roark was my home for 13 years, from my first year as a teacher, right out of college, until 2016 when I was given the opportunity to help open Peach and serve as an academic dean. During those 13 years, I became a part of the Raider family. The staff there took me in under their wings and grew me as a teacher, friend, wife and mother. It was more than just a school, it was family. They propelled me into leadership by mentoring, modeling and supporting my growth. The Roark students strive for excellence in everything they do and love setting goals and then working to achieve and even surpass them. They are the heart of the Roark family. The Roark parents are some of the most dedicated parents I have ever met. They can be found behind the scenes or front and center at any school events working together with Baylin Garza, FEL. They, too, are the heart of Roark!
I’ll never forget my days as a Raider and I hope to continue to keep in touch with as many former Raider staff members and former students as I can! “Once a Raider, always a Raider!”
〉Lori Race, 25 years at Roark as a 1st and 2nd grade teacher, Restart manager and instructional coach
“Bring ‘em to us and we’ll teach them.” We were never afraid to take on any child. All we cared about was accepting any child that came through our doors.
〉Frances Keehn, former Roark head custodian
I was the head custodian at Roark for 29 years. Three of my children went through Roark K-6. Mr. Rose was the principal when I first started working there. Every morning during announcements he would end with, “Your attitude determines your altitude.”
My heart belongs to Roark.
〉Michelle Quiqley, former Roark Elementary librarian
For me, I loved the way that Roark felt like family. Teachers stayed their whole careers at the school because they loved the students, the families and the sense of purpose we had working there. I believe that is mostly due to Mrs. Tucker, who hired a staff that had a heart for her vision of believing that all of our students could be successful. I will always remember our Cinco de Mayo celebrations that would fill the school with our students and their families and the amazing food our parents would bring to celebrate Cinco de Mayo and Teacher Appreciation. I’ll also always remember my amazing volunteer Anna Beckett who worked and volunteered at Roark for over 40 years. She lived across the street and loved working with the children in her neighborhood. She typified the Roark spirit, working with four principals until she became ill and wasn’t able to volunteer any longer.
〉Claudia Soto Flores, Roark 1st Grade-BIL/Team Lead
I have only been teaching at Roark for two years and truly this school carries a family atmosphere. The staff completely took me in, and my students and their families are now my family as well. Roark will hold a special little corner in my heart.
〉Kay Williams, Roark teacher
As a current teacher at Roark, I love this school and the students I know so well! But what is significant, is witnessing teachers and paraprofessionals who have been a part of our Title I Elementary. Professionals who started here as paras then became Roark teachers or student teachers who stayed as Roark teachers AND made contributions to our special “Future Adults,” like Marco Gallegos, Erica Jackson, Jacqueline Sonntag, Valerie Flores, Kaitlyn O’Connor. Those teachers who served many years like Candais Hale, Chenell Lee, Magda Hilarion, Amy Myers, Pauline Hunt, Zina Matthews, and those present for more than a DECADE, like Geraldina Cobos, Andy Flores, Robin Hicks, Sam Johnson, Kay Kearby, Maria Rangel, Martina Salazar, Vicki Scully, Maria Samudio, Principal Marsha Tucker and so many other Café, Campus & Custodial Helpers, like Baylin Galindo, Maria Leiva, Frances Keehn, Rosario Martin, Veronica Martinez, Tonya Norwood, Faye Prosser, Melinda Rodela, Victoria Vargas, David Welch. We know there are others not enumerated here as well, like our precious namesake, Maude Roark.
And as inevitable changes happen, to Arlington and our district, many “Roark family members” have been dispersed, and as new schools open and new attendance boundaries come, again it will be the case as the FINE Roark Elementary name is RETIRED. A glorious and magnificent HISTORY it has been!
〉Ebony Key, Roark principal
“The Roark Family stands true to Once a Raider, Always a Raider.” They embrace everyone that they come in contact with and are intentional about building relationships. I have been honored to work alongside this staff and I am extremely proud to say that I too am a Raider!
〉Baylin Galindo, Roark family engagement liaison
When the time capsule was opened on Friday evening and items were retrieved, a flood of memories and tears as nostalgia filled the air. I remembered the day these items were placed in the time capsule ten years ago by our principal, Mrs. Tucker. I appreciate her and the harmony she brought to the Roark community. Roark has been my second family and I will hold on to the memories. Truly…”ONCE A RAIDER, ALWAYS A RAIDER!”
〉Dr. Stephanie Lee, former Roark Elementary principal
What I remember most about Roark is the school community. Roark was the first school I worked at when I came to Arlington ISD. What could have been a stressful transition to a new district and new campus turned out to be one of the most pleasant and rewarding experiences of my principal career. The staff and students demonstrated deep pride and commitment to their school and the staff, students, and parents were supportive and upheld high expectations for their school. Roark was a true example of a school family, and I will always have fond memories of Roark.
〉Michele Canton, Roark lead GT teacher
This is only my fifth year at Roark. What I noticed right away is that Roark really does feel like a family. There is an openness and willingness to help that really empowers me to do my job.
〉Kelly Kanoa, former Roark 6th grade teacher
Roark was the best years teaching for me! I miss you all!
〉Susan Sheldon, former Roark art teacher
One year, Mr. Chamberlain gave the 6th grade art club the hood of his car to design, paint and decorate. The kids worked on it all year. The last day of school, he installed the painted hood on the car and drove it to our outdoor assembly for the kids to see. It had all kinds of cool art on it, even glitter!
〉Rafael Campos, former Roark Elementary 1st grade teacher
There was a Siamese cat that was living in the library garden and I adopted it. It was gorgeous light brown cat with dark brown face and blue eyes!