Union Public Schools . . . Then and Now
The Union School District is known for its excellence, pride, and tradition. Its reputation is based on visionary curriculum, academic excellence, superb faculty and staff, award-winning fine arts programs, championship athletic and academic teams, outstanding facilities and a community that supports the school system.
Union is located approximately eight miles from downtown Tulsa and is unique in that it does not encompass a township but rather incorporates within its 28-square-mile boundary much of southeast Tulsa and a portion of northwest Broken Arrow. The school system acts as a unifying organization within the community, providing activities for its families and a sense of pride, support, and identity for its patrons. Its strong sense of community is underscored in its theme, “Working To Form a More Perfect Union.”
The People Behind the School Names
Elementary schools in the Union District are named either for the area in which they are built or in honor of a person who has rendered outstanding service to the school system, community, state, or country. All secondary schools are named according to their function.
In 1919, when four small rural districts consolidated to form Union Public Schools, classes were held in a wood-frame building. The first facility Union built was a brick two-story building completed in 1921. It housed all students K-12 until 1970, when Briarglen, the district’s first elementary school, was built.
In the fall of 1970, classes started at Briarglen Elementary, named after the housing addition in which it was built. In June 2017, Briarglen was closed as an elementary school, but reopened in fall 2017 as an early childhood center. CAP Tulsa serves approximately 156 children – infants, toddlers, and 2- and 3-year-olds – from the facility.
Union High School was built in 1972. It was 26,400 square feet with 30 classrooms, restroom facilities, and offices. By 1985, eight additions had been made, enlarging the building to more than twelve times its original size. Among the many exciting changes that have taken place over the years is the addition of the Union Collegiate Academy (UCA). This 125,000 square-foot structure, which opened in August 2012, features 37 classrooms, tiered lecture halls, Wi-Fi enabled student lounges, cafés, and a rooftop “green” classroom to create a collegiate setting. Here students can meet high school graduation requirements while earning college credits from Tulsa Community College, maybe even an associate degree through Union’s Early College High School program.
In 1975 came Robert B. Grove Elementary. Mr. Grove began his long career at Union in 1945, as a science teacher and basketball coach. He became Union High School’s principal in 1946 and served as Superintendent from 1960-1975.
Also in the 1975-76 school year, George F. Boevers Elementary opened. Mr. Boevers was a 35-year veteran of the district who taught agriculture and was the advisor to several school organization.
Built in 1977 and dedicated in 1978 was Roy Clark Elementary, named for the native Oklahoma musician and entertainer who was best known for hosting "Hee Haw," a nationally televised country variety show, from 1969 to 1992. On Nov. 7, 2018, the school celebrated its 40th anniversary and honored the entertainer for his strong support of children and education. Roy Clark had visited his namesake school many times over the years and was very generous, having donated instruments, memorabilia and considerable time in support of children and education. Mr. Clark passed away just one week after the school’s anniversary celebration.
In May 1978, Tom W. Peters Elementary was named. Mr. Peters was the founder of Oklahoma Greenhouses and served on the Union Board of Education for 16 years. He was known for ensuring that cafeterias were built in our schools.
James R. Darnaby Elementary officially opened in August 1980, after its 376 students were temporarily housed in a wing of Tulsa Public Schools’ Byrd Junior High. Mr. Darnaby was a businessman who had served on the Union Board of Education for 10 years, starting in 1969.
Union Junior High opened in 1982 at what is now the Union 8th Grade Center, 6501 S. Garnett. At that time, it housed seventh, eighth, and ninth grades. In 1983, seventh grade was separated and moved back into the original Union building, 10100 East 61st.
In 1982, the district purchased the original Education Service Center complex at 5656 S. 129th East Avenue. In 2006, it became the home of the Union Alternative School and the Transportation Department when the administrative offices moved to its current facility at 8506 E. 61st St.
Hans Madsen Andersen Elementary was built in 1984 and named after an early landowner and dairy farmer. He provided the district free water from his well before water was available from the city.
McAuliffe Elementary was built in 1988 and named in honor of Christa McAuliffe, the teacher who was killed on board the Challenger Space Shuttle in January 1986.
Union Ninth Grade Center, formerly the Intermediate High School, was built in 1989 and designated as Union Junior High at the time it opened, housing the eighth and ninth grades. It was located at 7616 S. Garnett. Also in 1989, Union’s Seventh Grade Center was moved from the original Union School building to 6501 S. Garnett. In May 2019, Union Ninth Grade Center was renamed the Union High School Freshman Academy to emphasize its connection to Union High School.
In 1991, Wesley Jarman Elementary was built. Dr. Jarman served as superintendent from 1975 to 1990, at a time of skyrocketing student enrollment. He is also credited with the building of Union Tuttle Stadium, the district’s first football stadium in 1976. Under his watch, Union was the first public school district in Oklahoma to install artificial turf in its stadium, a move that was highly controversial at the time, but set the trend for the future.
The Union 7th Grade Center was completed in 1993 on 61st Street at the original Union School site. The second phase of the building, the Union 6th Grade Center, was completed in the fall of 1994.
Cedar Ridge Elementary was completed in 1995. It was named after the area in which it was built.
The Extended Education Building was opened in the fall of 1997, allowing for expansion of the Alternative School to accommodate 105 students. The 13,000-square-foot building also housed the Enrollment Center and Adult/Community Education offices and boasted a large meeting area.
In 2000, Moore Elementary was built and named for Marshall T. Moore, one of Union's first School Board members from 1918 to 1933. The land on which the school was built was once part of the Moore farm. Mr. Moore was instrumental in the consolidation of four small, rural communities into the Union district and his seven children attended Union schools from first through twelfth grades.
Ground was broken in August 2001 for construction of the Union Multipurpose Activity Center, with construction completed in 2003. The building includes a 5,800-seat arena, locker and dressing rooms, the U-Wear Spirit store, Athletics and Fine Arts offices, and the Union Wellness Center. The arena is named in honor of Union Schools Education Foundation contributor John Q. Hammons.
Rosa Parks Elementary opened in the fall of 2006. It was named for Rosa Parks, an African-American civil rights activist who refused to surrender her seat to a white passenger on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Her defiance sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott; its success launched nationwide efforts to end racial segregation of public facilities.
Also in 2006, the Union Education Service Center moved to 8506 East 61st Street. The move allowed for consolidation of administrative offices and the Enrollment Center.
The Rosa Parks Early Childhood Education Center was opened in 2008, housing 203 three-year-olds. The school was funded through a partnership with the CAP Tulsa.
Jefferson Elementary opened in the fall of 2008. It was named for Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence.
Ellen Ochoa Elementary: In July 2016, the district broke ground on its 14th elementary school in order to serve a growing community in the Northeast quadrant of the district. Passage of a second bond issue in February 2017 enabled the district to complete Phase II of the building. The first half of the building opened in August 2017, serving 500 students formerly of Briarglen. With the passage of a third bond issue in spring 2018, Ellen Ochoa Elementary was completed one year later. The school opened to a full complement of 1,100 students in August 2019. Ellen Ochoa Elementary is named in honor of the first Hispanic female astronaut and a former director of the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston. Dr. Ochoa attended the dedication ceremony of the school in October 2017 to great fanfare.