Staley Middle School

Staley Middle School Celebrates 20 Years This Fall

Dec 12, 2016

Staley Middle School supporters and educators representing the last 20 years joined current students and teachers at an after-school celebration on November 16 to celebrate the school’s 20th anniversary.

The campus is located on the site of the 1973 Frisco High School. The high school was gutted and remodeled, reopening as a middle school in 1996.

Deputy Superintendent Doug Zambiasi was principal of Frisco Middle School and helped oversee the transition of the middle school from what is now the Student Opportunity Center to the Staley site as the school’s first principal. The high school students had moved into their new site on Parkwood the same year. The District had also just opened Curtsinger Elementary in 1995. It was the start of great change for Frisco.

Zambiasi remembers construction crews working long into the night and on weekends. He also said that in those first months as soon as the students left the building, workmen would come in to do last-minute corrections or installations.

“We had bare concrete floors when we opened,” he told Staley Principal Anita Lightfoot at the celebration. Teachers who were present that first year laughed over the struggles they had teaching those first few months in a building that was still being completed.

According to handwritten notes left by former Superintendent Justin Wakeland, the remodel was a “difficult project” done in a short time to meet the move-in date of August 19, 1996.

At the 1996 dedication ceremony, Wakeland thanked the Frisco Middle School – now Staley Middle School – staff for their many years of working in a “1939 model facility.” He praised them for their help in planning “a middle school that will meet the needs of teachers and students for many years in the future.” 

Twenty years later, Staley is still welcoming students and meeting their needs, Lightfoot assured guests at the 20th anniversary.

The new look of the “old high school” called for a new name. Frisco ISD was already experiencing growth and the School Board was planning a second middle school east of Preston Road. Frisco Middle School was rebranded and dedicated in honor of Benton A. Staley.

Staley was a 1928 graduate of Frisco High School and member of the football team. He served as mayor, chairman of the board for the Frisco Youth Center and president of the Frisco Historical Society in 1976, and was named a lifetime PTA member and the 1986 Silver Citizen of the Year. 

Dan Lucado joined FISD to teach and coach at Frisco Middle School in 1986 and was part of the staff that moved from the 1939 building into the Staley site. His memories of Staley are all about the wonderful faculty and students with whom he worked. When Zambiasi was promoted to central administration and new Principal Pat Bradley joined the faculty, a new mascot for Staley – the Mustang – was chosen.

“It was a great choice,” Lucado said. “It fit us and our population. Frisco was about horses and the country then.”

Staley sits on the site of land once farmed by Frank Parks, a relative of the pioneer Wagoner family, whose home is marked with a local historical marker on Maple Street.

At the time Frisco High was being built on Parkwood and the Staley building was being remodeled, Frisco did not have as much experience with building schools as it does today. Seventh grade Texas history teacher David Watson remembers the little things that had to be addressed in the first few weeks – such as the heat being turned on during the first week of school instead of the air conditioning!

“Moving into a newly-remodeled building was great. We found all the errors and incomplete items. In my room, the trim had never been installed on the windows. You could literally reach out and touch the outside bricks. That wasn’t bad until the weather turned cold and wind blew through the classroom,” he said, noting that the District quickly got the issues corrected.

“The District made corrections, hired the best staff as we expanded, and we never looked back. We are the original middle school. We have the most diverse student population. We are the best place to be a teacher or administrator,” he boasted.

Sandy Hansel is a retired Frisco Middle School and Staley teacher and active member of the Frisco Area Retired School Personnel. Some of her fondest memories of Staley are the Chili Challenge, which originated at Staley, grew beyond the school’s cafeteria capacity and went on to be a Frisco Education Foundation fundraiser held at Toyota Stadium.

“It all began at Staley,” Hansel said. “Then we began inviting all the schools and businesses. Everybody enjoyed it and it brought the community together. We would have it in the fall before a football game. We’d have the chili cook-off and then walk across to the football game.”

The chili challenge ended as the city grew and the health and safety requirements for hosting such a huge event became more than FISD or the Foundation could manage.

“I always hope someone else will take it up,” Hansel said.

Hansel also praised her coworkers from Staley’s early years and how well they all worked together for the students and the close friendships that were made at the school.

“We had a genuine interest in helping kids,” Hansel said. Many of them are active in the FARSP and some get together regularly for a book club.

Staley has experienced several changes over the years, but its dedication to students has not changed. Principal Dennis McDonald followed Bradley when she retired. McDonald moved on to Evangel University after 16 years at Staley and Anita Lightfoot is the current principal. Several people have come through Staley as teachers or administrators and are now working at other campuses throughout Frisco ISD and beyond, sharing the knowledge they gained at Staley.

In the notes for Dr. Wakeland’s comments at the 1996 dedication, his closing remarks discussed Staley’s position on one of the highest points in Frisco and dared to look into the future – into the city we live in today. His notes read as follows:

“Even though there may be homes, high rise office buildings, hotels, shopping centers, jet airplanes occasionally in between, you will always be able to see 30-40 miles to the towers of TWU and the beautiful sunset over Frisco.”