1963-1980
Norris Tanton was elevated to superintendent in July 1963, after 13 years with the Commerce school system. His 27-year stint as head of the CISD was to cover a number of historic events, and he gained many physical improvements for the school.

Tanton, with the assistance of Norris Principal, A. C. Williams, displayed outstanding leadership during the turbulent sixties when drastic social changes were being made.

The Supreme Court had become involved in efforts to end segregation in all schools, and in 1964 Dr. James G. Gee, president of East Texas State Teachers College, said the college would admit blacks who would be required to enter with the same academic requirements as those for any college student.

Integration in the Commerce schools went into effect with only minor problems, while many others were experiencing great difficulties. In the fall of 1965, the top three grades at Norris were removed to Commerce High School, and the students in grades one through nine were given freedom of choice. The following year, full integration was achieved at the same time the Commerce schools absorbed the St. Paul School at Neylandville. Black students from Wolfe City who had been attending St. Paul were not eligible to transfer to Commerce.

The Norris building was then used to house the fifth grade for a year or two and for the sixth grade for several years. Wheeler was converted to a junior high school, with A. C. Williams as principal. (With completion of A. C. Williams Elementary campus in 1981, the Norris building was abandoned as a school and was sold to Mt. Moriah Baptist Church for $20,000.)

Soon after Tanton became superintendent, he initiated plans for a new high school building. After considering two tracts of land, including a site on Monroe Street just south of the ETSU South Dorms, the school board authorized purchase of a 48-acre tract on Culver Street, which was purchased from W.M. Bickley at a cost of $27,000.

The first effort at a bond election failed, but voters approved $1,358,000 for school improvements on March 15, 1966. In addition to a high school building, this money provided repairs at A.L. Day, Norris and Wheeler schools; and also for construction of bus barns on Culver Street, and a building for the superintendent's office and the school tax assessor-collector. The new high school was occupied in 1967, with formal dedication on June 30, 1968.

Although the condition of the old high school building on Sycamore Street had been described as deteriorating, a later face-lift included making all windows smaller and covering the exterior with plaster. This building was converted to use as a Middle School housing grades seven, eight and nine. However, crowded conditions led to moving the ninth grade to the high school, which at first had only the later three grades. Later, the sixth grade was moved to the Middle School.

Another achievement during Tanton's tenure was creation of the Tri -County Cooperative which directs activities for special needs students in Hunt, Delta and Hopkins counties, and a building to house this division was built on the high school campus.

An athletic field and field house were installed just south of the high school building.
The new high school was occupied in 1967, with formal dedication on June 30, 1968.

A number of administrative positions were added to the school staff during this period, including a curriculum director whose title was later changed to assistant superintendent, a guidance counselor, an athletic director, and assistant principals at both the high school and middle school levels.

In 1964, the tax rate was $1.45 per hundred dollar valuation, the school budget totaled $452,578. Transportation costs were slightly more than 5 cents per mile. It was during Tanton's tenure that tax equalization was attempted, and later equalization was mandated by the state. The school tax office was combined with the city tax office, and then all county taxing entities were combined into a central office at Greenville .

In 1969, dial telephones replaced the old system which involved the services of an operator in reaching a number. As a service to students who were returning to the campus by bus after schools hours, an outdoor pay telephone booth was constructed near the bus barn by the Agriculture III shop class "under the mercury vapor lights." Calling parents had been a problem for some students for years.

The Headstart program, initiated in the early 1960s to give the educationally deprived child a better chance to succeed in school, was the forerunner of the kindergarten program in Commerce schools. Later, kindergarten was offered at A. L. Day on a half-day basis, with classes in both morning and afternoon due to space limitations. Building additions allowed full-day classes in 1980. While kindergarten was not compulsory, most five-year- olds attended before entering first grade.

In addition to dealing with integration and vast building program. Tanton was faced with the "Hippie" and "Me" generations. The school board dealt with such problems as dress codes and length of hair, and resultant discussions of school jurisdiction over such matters. At one time, the length of the girl's dresses created a question of what was considered to be acceptable in terms of modest.

The Computer Age first reached Commerce schools when computers were utilized by the business in 1972. In 1978, computer math was added to the high school curriculum.




Our Mission

In partnership with families and community, CISD will provide all students an exemplary education, preparing them to be successful, productive citizens. 

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