Sunset Valley Elementary

History 1990s to Now

In the 1990s South Austin continued to grow and expand even more rapidly. Ben White/290 was built into a major freeway, which included flyovers with Lamar and 360.  Brodie Lane, once a quiet little road, expanded into four busy lanes.   The area around the school started to become more commercial in nature as large shopping centers popped up on both sides of Brodie Lane. In its first two decades Sunset Valley Elementary served much of what was then considered Southwest Austin. Several more schools were built in the area and suburban families started moving further south and west.  This and AISD’s open transfer policy led to a decline in enrollment. The demographic of the school began to shift toward predominantly Hispanic and in turn a major Bilingual Education program was developed.  At the start of the decade under 40% of Sunset Valley students were on free and reduced lunch.  That would more than double after 2000.

Starting in Fall 1989 Sunset Valley had a student council, which lasted until 1994. Their activities included the Coats for Kids drive, visiting nursing homes and hosting the grandparents’ lunch.  Extend-A-Care at Sunset Valley started in 1989.

In October 1990 Texas students started taking the TAAS test. 

On May 3rd, 1991 the school held a vote to determine a new mascot.  The cheetah won out over the seagull, stallion and the sun.  Purple was also added to the orange and yellow school colors.  At the start of the 1991-92 school year purple became the dominant color. 

sandersretire.jpgIn May 1991 principal Betty Sanders retired after a distinguished career in education that included 7 years with Sunset Valley and 25 years with AISD. 


Wayne King served as principal for the 1991-92 school year.  He was previously a district supervisor of principals.  Gail Smith took over as principal at the start of the 1992 school year.

Around this time the cooking bay was converted into the computer lab.  Prior to this, student use computers were typically in the open area of the 200 wing.

In Fall 1993 the school started a theater arts program for first and second graders led by Teresa Zapp.

In 1994 librarian Jeanie Tuttle teamed up with art teacher Diana Chafin to create the tile mural in the library featuring characters from classic children’s stories.  Between 1996 and 1998, with funding from the Junior League of Austin, they did another mural in the hallway to the 300 wing.  That one outlines Texas history.  When superintendent Meria Carstarphen visited the school in 2010 she was most impressed with the murals.


In 1996 the first day care program in AISD started at Sunset Valley.  Teachers at the school led the effort on the paperwork. Lower than expected enrollment at the school allowed for available space in one of the portables.  It remained in operation until June 2010. 

In October 1996 second grader Jacorey Williams died after he exited a Capital Metro bus and was struck by a car on Stassney Lane.

In April 1996 Austin voters approved a bond designated to provide additional classrooms and other upgrades to several schools in the district.  Construction on the 400 wing at Sunset Valley began in early 1997.  Rain and other problems hampered construction for most of the bond construction projects, but fortunately work at Sunset Valley was not significantly delayed. The wing was completed just in time for the 1997 school year. Ironically, at this point enrollment at the school was on the decline. The new 400 wing did allow all K-5 classes to be in regular classrooms for the first time since 1973.  Only a few Early Childhood classes and resource teachers needed to be in portables along with the new Day Care.

In 1997 the school started using the Accelerated Reader program as an incentive to get kids reading more.  Fifth grade teacher Gayle Evertson wrote a grant, which covered the initial purchase. In just a short time AR would become a central part of reading instruction at the school and continued for many years after.  Kids earned points and won prizes based on how much they read.  Some years included themes, which in turn became a theme for the school year.

1999-2000  Jurassic Park
2000-2001 The Olympics
2001-2002 Ancient Egypt
2002-2003 Middle Ages (featuring Sir Rothchild)
2003-2004 Pecos Roth and Morning Lisa culminating in a year end rodeo
2004-2005 Ancient Greece with a year end Odyssey Day
2005-2006 Star Trek with a Space Jam at the end of the year

Kim7-2.jpgIn Fall 1999 Kim Placker became principal.  She retired in Spring 2016 and is the longest serving principal at Sunset Valley. Assistant Principal Emily Bush took over as principal that Fall.

In the late 1990s parents pleaded with AISD to fund and maintain school playgrounds.  Then, as now, the district will only do some repairs for playgrounds and will not purchase or install any equipment.  Father’s Day weekend in 2000 a new Sunset Valley playground was built with the help of many volunteers and generous donors. 

In 2003 TAKS replaced the TAAS tests across Texas significantly raising the bar and stakes for accountability.

In February 2004 Norma Munoz was presented with the Texas Exes Teaching Award for Outstanding Teachers by UT's alumni association.  Later that Spring for a Dripping Springs High School project Marsha White’s daughter, Molly White created, designed and painted the jungle mural on the Day Care portable. 

During the 2007-08 school year the library went through a major renovation.  The office area was extended and enclosed, new story steps were built in the corner and new carpet, paint and furniture freshened up the whole room. 

After years of concerns with declining test scores and pressure from the school district, Sunset Valley achieved TEA Recognized status in 2009.  In 2010 the school received Exemplary status, a remarkable achievement considering the large number of economically disadvantaged students who made up the school at the time. 

Early in 2010 a school boundary task force looked at overcrowding at schools in Southwest Austin.  A proposal to shift students to under capacity schools Boone and Sunset Valley was shot down after major protests from parents at the Southwest schools. 

In early 2011 the Texas Legislature drastically reduced funding for education.  AISD was forced to eliminate over 1000 jobs and Sunset Valley lost several valuable teachers. 

In Fall 2012 Sunset Valley began a Dual Language program, which helped grow the school population to a healthy level. 

1970s - 1980s