Lajes HS (now Lajes ES/HS) History

Opened: 1958
Closed: 2015

The school was located in the Azores archipelago which lies in the Atlantic Ocean. The U.S. Base was located on Terceira, the third largest island of the string of nine islands. The school was originally referred to as the Lajes Dependent School but had separate administrators for the high school and the elementary school. The building was designed as a school. The high school was equipped with three laboratory classrooms, a gymnasium with a stage, a well-equipped library, and an AV center. A wing behind the main building housed a band room, art facility including a dark room, and an industrial arts room. An adjacent building housed the home economics room.

The school opened in 1958 and the school mascot was the Falcon. The school colors were blue and gold, and the alma mater was published in the 1971-72 yearbook. The official school yearbook, Taurus, was first published for the 1960-61 school year. This was the first hard cover yearbook. There was a school-produced publication for the two previous years. The school newspaper had several different titles during the sixties, including Bull-E-Tin, The Taurus Bulletin, and The Falcon.

Mr. Fred Souk was the school principal and then became the superintendent for the schools. The high school principal for the 1960-61 school year was Mr. Anthony Wikowski. The other high school principals for the sixties were Harvey Bockford, Warren Fairman, Ernest England, and Richard Braley.

The school’s enrollment rose during the 60’s from 213 high schoolers in 1960-61 to over 860 high school students during the 1966-67 school year. The enrollment for grades seven through twelve had decreased to just over 660 students for the 1968-69 school year.

From the beginning the school had a very active music program. There was a Mixed Chorus, a Girls’ Chorus, a Classical Music Club, a concert band, and a Swing Band. The first Drama Club was in 1967-68, although there had been school plays previous years. Other school activities included student council, yearbook, newspaper, National Honor Society, Lettermen’s Club, Future Homemakers of America, and Future Teachers of America.

Sports activities for the school began with boys’ basketball, softball, golf, and cheerleading. Students from the elementary and high schools and boys and girls were involved in the school and base bowling programs. The G.A.A. was active in 1961-62 and the golf team had its first female player for the 1962-63 school year. For the 1964-65 school year there was a girls’ basketball team and for the 1967-68 school year the girls had a softball team. During the 1968-69 season, the boys’ soccer team was started. All the school’s teams competed against local base teams. The school also had a strong intramural sports program. Due to the school’s isolated location, the high school teams combined in the base sports programs and played against adults.

Mr. Jack Richardson was the principal-in-charge at the beginning of the seventies. The enrollment had grown to approximately 400 students after a decrease in enrollment in the late sixties. There were twenty-nine faculty members at the beginning of the decade. Girls’ sports were expanded to include two basketball teams and three volleyball teams. Females also participated in a Powder Puff football game for Homecoming festivities.

During the fall of the 1971-72 school year, the U.S. Vice President, Spiro Agnew, visited the school and two months later an historic round of talks was held on the island between Prime Minister Dr. Marcele Caetano of Portugal, President George Pompidou of France and U.S. President Richard Nixon. After the visit, President Nixon wrote a letter to the student body of the school. The letter was published in the yearbook.

A flag football team began competing against base teams in the seventies. The girls’ basketball team, which also played adult teams, was undefeated for the 1971-72 school year. The school newspaper’s name was changed twice during the seventies. For the 1972-73 school year it was Lajestics, and it became The Rock for the 1974-75 school year. New clubs at the school for the seventies included Chess Club, Gymnastics Club, Industrial Arts Club, and Hiking Club which became the Hiking and Camping Club. The high school received a charter for the International Thespian Society during the 1974-75 school year. The same school year students had a radio music program, Panic, which aired on the local AFN network.

By the end of the 1970’s the enrollment had dropped to about 250 students. By the 1981-82 school year there were only 175 students enrolled in the high school with twenty-nine educators.

Robert Marble became the Education Program Manager for the school in 1980 and was promoted to principal for the 1986-87 school year. Other administrators for the eighties included vice principal, Mark Benham and assistant principal, Ms. Carter Condon. The school enrollment went from a low of 150 students, 1981-82, to a high of 240 students, 1989-90. New computer rooms, locker rooms and business labs were completed during this decade.

The Golden Falconettes, the school drill team, received new uniforms for the 1982-83 school year. That same year the school had a Running Club which became the Cross Country Team for the 1988-89 school year. Originally, the Cross Country Team competed against local Portuguese teams. The sports highlight of the 1988-89 school year was the first ever winning flag football team. Quite a feat since the school played adult teams from the base. This was also the first year there were two cheerleading squads in order to have more girls involved.

Several new clubs and activities were available to the junior high and high school students during the 1980’s. These included Host Nation Club, Computer Club, Dungeons and Dragons Club, National Junior Honor Society, Foreign Language Club, and Teens That Care (TTC). The TTC club was organized to enable students to provide school and community service. The school newspaper changed names several times during this decade. The newspaper was The Lajes High Times, the Falcon Quest, and the Isolated Post. The students began a Student Store for the 1983-84 school year. The Stage Band had new outfits that school year.

The 1990’s had several changes in the sports schedule. The golf and tennis teams were coed and during the 1991-92 football season there were two female players. Beginning the 1993-94 year, the sports teams were able to travel to other European countries for sports events. The first teams to travel were the boys’ and girls’ basketball teams who competed in the DoDDS Italy Tournament. The next year the girls’ basketball placed in the United Kingdom Tournament and other teams competed in the Atlantic District. For the 1995-96 school year, the school competed in the Turkey District and played schools in Turkey and Spain.

The school’s newspaper was renamed The Castaway Chronicle. Students now participated in several district events including Math Counts, Model U. S. Senate, and Model United Nations. The school had its first Multi-Ethnic Club and girls’ soccer team.

The administrators for the nineties included principals Ira Scheir and Gilbert Fernandes and assistant principals Dan Turner and Connie Ennix. The enrollment during the 90’s reached a high of 200 students for the 1991-92 school year and a low of 150 students for the 1995-96 school year.

Mr. Jerry Ashby became the principal for the 2000-01 school year and remained the principal for six years. The next principals were John Allen, Virginia Briggs, and Mary Waller. Assistant principals during the first decade of the 2000’s included Susan Simmons, Virginia Briggs, Mary Waller, and Daisy Weddle. For the 2004-05 school year, the sixth grade was added to the school, and the school was now called Lajes Middle/High School. Three years later, 2007-08, the elementary and high schools were combined and became Lajes Elementary/High School. The school’s enrollment was approximately 200 for the 2001-02 school year and then continued to decline even with the addition of grades and the combination of the two schools. By 2009-10 there were only 130 students in the high school.

The first Future Business Leaders of America chapter was formed for the 2000-01 school year, and in the 2004-05 school year the Future Educators of America had a chapter. The school continued to participate in more DoDDS sponsored activities including Creative Connections, Hinterbrand Lodge, Destination Imagination, Science Symposium, AVID, Odyssey of the Mind, and Student-2-Student. The school’s first Red Ribbon Week was held during the 2008-09 school year.

Even though Lajes was a small school, student interest in sports continued to grow. For the 2001-02 school year, the school had three girls’ volleyball teams, and girls’ softball was added as a competitive sport for the 2003-04 school year. Wrestling was added as a sport for the 2006-07 school year.

Dr. Barbara Hickman became the school principal for the 2010-11 school year and Renee LaFata was the assistant principal for the 2011-12 school year. Although the school was smaller, several new schoolwide events were added to the activities. These included the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, the Lingua Fest, and the “Big Give”. The “Big Give” was an event were the students and their families collected items to donate to local children and families. For the 2010-11 school year, to highlight the project, the elementary chorus performed at the Angra Orphanage, and the next year the school provided Christmas gifts to the orphanage. The school also had its first World’s Fair on February 3, 2011.

Lajes Elementary/High School was closed in 2015.

Share This: