Horace Mann School

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In October 1913, three months before Beverly Hills was incorporated as a city, the Beverly Hills Elementary School District was organized with one elementary school, the Canyon School, later to be moved and re-named Hawthorne School. To meet the educational needs presented by continuous growth in the ensuing 14 years, two additional elementary schools were built: Beverly Vista in 1924-25, and El Rodeo in 1927.

In 1927, faced with even more prodigious growth, the Beverly Hills Board of Education, composed of three members, purchased several lots of land for the purpose of building a fourth elementary school. With the passage of a bond measure in 1928, this purchase was completed.

On March 18, 1929, ground was broken for a two-story, 30-room Spanish style building, complete with classrooms, an auditorium, cafeteria, library, offices, and manual training and art facilities. In July, the school was officially named Horace Mann School, and on December 9, 1929, the school opened its doors to 307 students in Kindergarten through sixth grade. The initial school staff members included the school's first principal, Mr. Thomas Mock, and 11 teachers. The first seventh grade students began attending Horace Mann in February 1930, and shortly after this, on March 21st, 1930, the school held its official dedication ceremony.

The first eighth grade students arrived in the fall of 1930, and in June of that year, Horace Mann graduated its first class, numbering 30 students. Combined graduation exercises for all four elementary schools were held that year at the Beverly Theatre, and for several years thereafter at El Rodeo School.

In 1932, as the student population continued to boom, seven additional lots were purchased, and in January 1933 the Board agreed to build an additional building and to increase the size of the library. In the years following, the Board also worked with the Beverly Hills City Council to close off most of Arnaz Drive to provide needed playground space and to ensure safe passage for the students between the buildings.

But, to coin a phrase, bricks and mortar do not necessarily a school make. Any school is far more than buildings - it is its people and its programs conceived and carried out by people to educate children. A school reflects the quality of its staff and the support of its parents.

Horace Mann School has had a long line of distinguished principals, teachers, and staff members, cooperative parents, and capable students. During its history, the school has had eight principals. Thomas Mock, the genial and beloved first principal, worked hard with his dedicated faculty to create an outstanding program and a strong school environment. He retired in 1958 after serving the district for 34 years, 29 as principal.

He was succeeded by David Haserot, a tireless community worker and enlightened educator, who helped to plan the 1962-63 remodeling of the music, art and industrial arts wing and the construction of the health and assistant principal's offices. By 1964, Horace Mann was annually registering the greatest number of new pupils in the district, enrolling 597 students that fall. Through a massive community-wide effort, a large bond issue was passed expand the facilities at all five of our schools. In 1966, the auditorium was reconstructed, and in 1968, Horace Mann's tower building was opened. The building was considered the most avant garde of all of the elementary buildings, housing the instructional materials center, science labs, locker rooms, and home economics room. Mr. Haserot and his staff played a critical role in ensuring that the structure of the new building supported the educational program envisioned for the school. Also under Mr. Haserot, a program of volunteer teacher aides was introduced, traditional study periods were supplanted by special activities in the seventh and eighth grades, and film study in the elementary grades was pioneered.

In 1972, with the untimely passing of Mr. Haserot after a 14 year administration, Dr. Helene West Feldman was selected as principal. Stepping up from her position as assistant principal, she carried out policies designed to encourage staff to create exciting new approaches to education and dynamic new programs. Many strong, innovative programs were created by the members of Horace Mann School during this time, including the development of a reading tutorial program provided by middle school students to assist their younger peers, multi-age grouping and team teaching, and cooperative teaching in the lower grades. To meet a pressing need for additional space, the faculty parking structure, with middle school classrooms above, was built in 1975.

In 1976, Helen Feldman went to the district office as a special assistant to Superintendent Ken Peters, and Arthur Fields, the assistant principal, succeeded her as principal. During Dr. Fields' principalship, the district acquired additional property on Robertson Boulevard and demolished the existing building there in order to install a field on the playground. Dr. Fields also supported the tradition of nurturing exciting and innovative programs, and a number of exciting opportunities for students developed, including our Spartans student leadership group and our outdoor education program for middle school students. Dr. Fields also led the school to its first California Distinguished School Award in 1987, an accomplishment which was renewed in 1997 and 2004.

After Dr. Field's retirement in 2001, he was succeeded by three principals, Dr. Mark Jones, who was principal from 2001 until 2003; Dr. Dawnalyn Murakawa-Leopard, from 2003 until 2010; and Mr. Steve Kessler, from 2010 until 2015.

During Mr. Kessler's principalship, the school continued its focus on academic excellence. In addition, the school again began improvement of its facilities. The Ron Brown Auditorium renovation was completed in the summer of 2013. In the summer of 2014, construction began on a new classroom wing which will be a new two story classroom wing to house both elementary and middle school. This new structure will also include a multi-purpose/community room, underground parking structure under the building, and a new synthetic turf playfield. This phase of the project is set to be completed by summer 2016. At that time, complete interior and exterior renovation of the original HMS building will take place from summer 2016 to summer 2017. The final phase of this renovation will include demolition of the existing Rotunda and Middle School buildings with final site work to include the addition of new playground surfaces and structures. The entire project is set to be completed by the summer of 2018.

In the summer of 2015, Mr. Kessler was promoted to the Superintendent of the BHUSD and F.J. "Harvey" Oaxaca was named as the school's eighth principal. With the naming of a new leader and in the midst of construction, Horace Mann is set to continue honoring its past while focusing on constructing a future of success.

The entire school community, including the school's wonderful teachers, parents and students, continue to work to ensure that Horace Mann School is the best it can be, supporting the excellent traditions already in place at our school, and welcoming exciting new ideas as they are brought forth each year.