Holding helium-filled balloons, Merriman Park Elementary students recently poured onto the playground to celebrate MPE’s 20th birthday. Parents, staff, school board members and local dignitaries joined in the celebration.

Many changes have taken place since MPE first opened its doors in 1979 to 275 students. Attendance is now closer to 500, but one thing has remained constant: MPE’s strong history of responsiveness and commitment to the academic and social needs of all students.

Bill Passmore, MPE’s founding principal, served as principal for 10 years until his retirement.

“It was a great opportunity for me to start a school in a community like Merriman Park. We were able to select the very best teachers and staff,” Passmore says. “It was really a community school from the very beginning.”

Three staff members chosen at the beginning still serve as MPE teachers: Joyce Cotton and Nita Tabb, and B.W. Terrell, head custodian.

“Bill started us off,” Dr. Tabb says. “We were like a family. The caring that he has for young children is remarkable.”

Two additions have been built to accommodate the school’s growth, along with the addition of The Learning Link, a library/computer lab (with expansion plans), a website and plans for an Outdoor Learning Center.

This dedication to excellence led to winning the Blue Ribbon Award (Excellence Award) from the U.S. Department of Education in 1990.

As principal for the last three years, Linda Foos also has a connection to Merriman Park: she was a student at Richardson High School when Passmore was principal there.

“She (Linda) is a smart lady, and gives her heart and soul to the school – and that is what it takes,” Passmore says.

For the second year in a row, the Just For Kids Foundation names MPE to its Texas Best Schools list in its peer group (based on TAAS scores over the past three years), ranking fourth in math, second in reading and eighth in writing. Schools statewide are contacting MPE to learn how to achieve the same level of academic success.

“Our school is building on its strong tradition of excellence to meet the needs of every child,” Foos says. The combination of talent, care and commitment among the staff, parents and community members is, I truly believe, unique – and Panther Pride runs high.”