Sunset Valley Elementary

History 1980s

In the new decade Sunset Valley Elementary went through major changes that would turn the crowded but otherwise quiet suburban school upside down.

In 1979 The U.S. Supreme Court for the final time refused to hear AISD appeals and affirmed the 5th Circuit Court’s ruling that AISD intentionally segregated its schools.  After more than 10 years of controversy, national media attention and legal battles that reached all the way to the Federal level, AISD would finally have to comply with the original court order to desegregate its schools.  Mandatory cross-town busing for all grades was ordered in an effort to make schools more racially balanced.

bussing1980.jpgEarly in 1980 discussions and planning took place to deal with busing that would begin with the 1980-81 school year. Sunset Valley, predominantly Anglo at the time, was paired with Blackshear Elementary, which was largely African-American.   Blackshear also had a significant Hispanic population, which led to the beginning of bilingual education at Sunset Valley.  Students in first through third grade would go to Sunset Valley and those in fourth through sixth would go to Blackshear.  Most Sunset Valley fourth and fifth grade teachers also transferred to Blackshear.  Kindergarten students would stay at their home schools.   Meetings were arranged so parents could visit the schools and discuss their concerns.  Despite the clash in cultures, Sunset Valley and Johnny Boone were praised by the school district and in the media for how well they handled the situation.  The schools would have joint field trips and visit each other for various programs and events.  Many other schools in the district did not fare so well with busing.

Austin American Statesman Article on Bussing

At the start of the 1980-81 school year enrollment dropped to just over 500 students, the lowest it had been since 1973. Sally Robberson became the new music teacher and remained at the school until she retired in 2009. In June 1981 Linda Wallace, a 25 year teacher and one of the few remaining original teachers, was presented with lifetime membership in PTA.

19813rdgrade.jpgFall 1981 marked the first year for three of Sunset Valley’s longest serving teachers, Jean Deegan, Marsha White and Beeda Saenz.  In 2003 Ms. Deegan transferred to Patton Elementary and later retired in 2010.  Mrs. White also retired in 2010 but continues to help out at the school.  Ms. Saenz comes from a family with a long and historic tradition in education.  Her great aunts Consuelo Herrera Mendez and Mary Grace were the first and second Hispanic teachers in the Austin Independent School District.  Mrs. Mendez taught for 45 years and is the namesake of Mendez Middle School in East Austin.  Ms. Saenz retired in 2011 after 37 years of teaching.  (Mrs. White second from left and Ms. Saenz far right)

Also in 1981, Linda Walker switched from classroom teacher to a reading resource specialist.  Johnny Boone was selected Administrator of the Year by the Austin Association of Teachers.

For the school’s tenth anniversary there was a celebration featuring music, a big cake and other activities.  Many former students attended.

After the slight respite in 1980, the school started growing rapidly again.  In 1981 there were about 75 more students and additional portables were brought in.

In 1982 a new school song was written by Sally Robberson.
 (to the tune of You are my Sunshine)

We are the students from Sunset Valley
We come to school here from far and near
In orange and yellow we show our spirit
Sunset Valley is the best school every year.

Oh, Sunset Valley, it is a great school,
And all its people we like to cheer
We all are so proud to go to school here
Sunset Valley is the best school every year.

ticomputers.jpgIn February 1983 Beverly DeBerry started working in the office. In April of that year the school got its first computers for student use, six Texas Instruments TI-99/4As.

In Spring of 1983 AISD held a bond election for the first time in 13 years.  Sunset Valley was allocated $1.5 million.  This allowed the 300 wing to be built which included 8 classrooms, an art room, a cooking bay (now the computer lab), two special purpose rooms (now the learning lab), and a teacher’s workroom (now used for reading resource instruction).  The bond also called for painting inside and out as well as other modifications to the building including additional folding partitions between some of the rooms.  There were also some minor additions to the playground.

The bond package called for nine new elementary schools, eight in South Austin attesting to the rapid growth of that part of town.  The new wing and new schools would help greatly with overcrowding that Sunset Valley had experienced since shortly after it opened.  The original building was only meant for 384 students, yet most years it had over 600 students.

The 1970s saw significant experimentation in school design.  Some ideas were successful, many not.  Open schools, anyone?  Sunset Valley was singled out in an article in NEA Today as one of the better designs. Vivien Richard of the Austin Association of Teachers was quoted in the article saying: “We found that Sunset Valley, a school built in 1971, had many elements that teachers liked, so it’s become a kind of prototype for our nine new elementary schools.”

In December 1983 Peggy Seidel came on as a new kindergarten teacher and would soon marry Rick Lancaster.  Rick’s mother, Bonny Lancaster worked in the school office at the time.  10 years earlier Rick was a 5th grader at Sunset Valley.  Also in Fall 1983 Tony Gomez started working at the school as custodian.

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the University of Texas, students launched over 700 helium filled orange and white balloons while singing “The Eyes of Texas.”  Many balloons were found as far north as Round Rock.  One even made it all the way to Killeen found by a farmer hanging on a corn stalk.  One balloon landed in a Leander pasture where UT’s Bevo was grazing!  Other activities included a faculty production entitled “This is Your Life, UT!”


In April 1984 six year old student Jacob Hoffer was killed by dogs.  A painting purchased in his memory still hangs in the hall.

Johnny Boone announced she would retire at the end of the school year after six years at Sunset Valley and 33 years as an educator. In May a kindergarten student remarked that the Shriner Circus set up across the street at Burger Center was there for Mrs. Boone’s retirement.  To make that kindergartener’s dream come true, Johnny Boone took everyone at the school to the circus.


In Fall 1984 Betty Sanders became the new Sunset Valley principal.  Previously she had been principal at Wooten for 9 years.  Ester Mendoza and Sandi Williams also began their long careers at Sunset Valley.  Mrs. Williams retired in 2002 and Mrs. Mendoza retired in 2009.  Both are still often at the school helping out in a variety of ways.  

After gathering input from teachers, plans were approved and construction began on the new 300 wing.  It was desperately needed as enrollment was getting close to 700 students.


At a district-wide staff meeting in 1984 Jean Deegan and Sally Robberson composed a new school song, which is still in use today. 

We’re Sunset Valley, striving for the best.
Bright as the sunshine, we shine above the rest.
Looking to the future, things will be great.
We’ll try and work our hardest and we’ll find that we’re first rate.
We said that
We’re Sunset Valley, striving for the best.
Bright as the sunshine, we shine above the rest.
We’ve got kids that are super, and teachers who care and parents that really rate.
Sunset Valley always great!

The 300 wing opened for the 1985-86 school year.  First State Bank provided equipment for the cooking bay and Powers Landscapes helped with the landscaping.

On October 24th, 1985 a ceremony was held dedicating the new wing to Johnnie Boone.  Current and former students were invited to attend.  A portrait of Boone and a plaque were presented that still hang in the hallway.  She was also given letters of appreciation from students.

The new wing was a big help, but the school reached its highest enrollment ever that year, around 825 students, so it was still well over capacity.  There were 12 first grade classes, two teachers for each special area and 20 teachers were new to the school.  All of third grade and most of second were in portables.  Resource teachers used the pod areas for their instruction.  Busing was still going on and the school was still K-3.

tx150.jpgIn the Spring of 1986 Sunset Valley celebrated the 150th birthday of Texas.  Hundreds of kids and teachers made for a big party.  A major part of the festivities was the Sing and Swing, which featured a band including teacher Marsha White and her husband while the students danced.  Third grade students contributed 10 inch squares to a quilt. 

Boone Elementary, named for former Sunset Valley principal Johnny Boone and her husband, opened in Fall 1986.  This provided much needed relief to Sunset Valley bringing the enrollment down to around 500 students.  Beeda Saenz also went over to Boone, but would be back in a few years. 

Patton, Kocurek and a new building for Pleasant Hill also opened around this time to further support growing South Austin.  Sunset Valley would never again be so overcrowded and in some years would deal with issues of under enrollment. 

1986 was also the start of Early Childhood classes at Sunset Valley.  This would grow into a major program, serving over 50 kids during peak years.

ssvsun.jpgThe start of the 1987-88 school year marked the end of busing for most AISD schools, including Sunset Valley and Blackshear, although it did continue for a few more years at some campuses. The school had classes for Early Childhood through fifth grade as it does now. The scorpion was dropped as mascot although remnants of it were still found around the building.  New T-shirts featured an image of the sun and the text “Sunset Valley Makes My Day.” Patsy Anzaldua joined the growing Early Childhood program and fourth grade teacher Eric Roth came over from Blackshear as part of the end of busing.

In Spring of 1989 Janie Flack, a special education teacher, was named the AISD Elementary Teacher of the Year.

evertsontoy.jpgIn the Spring of 1990 fifth grade teacher Gail Evertson was chosen as the AISD teacher of the year.  She went on to be one of six finalists for Texas teacher of the year.   Mrs. Evertson came to teaching as a career change at the age of 36.  She was featured in newspaper articles and on the cover of the Austin phone book.  In 1991 she traveled to Hollywood to advise writers for ABC and Lorimar TV about how to portray educational issues on television.