Taylor School, located upon the hill in Millbrae, California, 75 years old years in the making, is a true historical landmark with its Spanish Mission architecture, prominent dome and red clay tile roof. Today the school serves over 900 students in much the same way it has for 75 years. The school has a reputation as a strong academic and wonderfully spirited school that has grown with the times and with the needs of an ever expanding and diverse population of families who live in the City of Millbrae.
Near a newly constructed road known as the Highlands Track, work began on Taylor School on November 25, 1938 and work was completed in 1939 by the depression era Federal Emergency Administration and Public Works, at a cost of $250,000, with the building originally consisting of fourteen classrooms and an auditorium.
The school, designed by architects Madison and Heard, originally opened as Millbrae Elementary School and was also called the Taylor Boulevard School. The Taylor name belonged to Edward Taylor, the son-in-law of Daruis Ogden Mills, who owned a great deal of land in the Millbrae area. Before Taylor was built, Millbrae was just a village, with only a few homes, boys used to hunt rabbits in the hills west of the school and the Millbrae downtown was flower fields. Millbrae did not officially become a city until 1948. In 1938 a house in the Millbrae Highlands sold for $6350, in 2015 most homes in the area sell for between $800,000 and $1.4 million dollars.
When the first day of school rolled around in 1939, students carried their books and schools supplies over from their previous school, Chadbourne as part of the transition. During Taylor’s earliest years, students would gather in the auditorium first thing in the morning to say the pledge, as they did on the first day of school in 1939.
By 1945, Taylor School’s enrollment had risen to 250 students, and the need arose to better organize the students as they moved about the campus. On September 7, 1945 the Taylor traffic squad was organized, where students passed from class to class in single file lines with absolutely no talking allowed and students standing in circles at the intersections of every hall issued citations if the rules were not followed. By 1951, these student officers were marching in community parades.
On November 14, 1945, the first issue of Taylor’s first newspaper was published, The Mission Bell, with its yearbook published under the same name. That newspaper name would change at least once, and by the 1970s it was known as The Duck.
In 1946, Taylor graduated 48 students to the high school, which was Capachino High School at the time; and in 1949, there were 72 graduates. Mikell Peel, an eighth grade student, was elected as the first female study body president in 1949, in a long history of student government elections that were held almost every year since Taylor opened in 1939.
On December 14, 1950, Taylor Middle School’s Orchestra performed for the very first time, for the school play called “A Magic Christmas Bell”. Taylor’s band, orchestra and music programs have grown to statewide recognition status over the years and continue to prepare students for a life long appreciation of music. Cafeteria prices in 1951, included weekly lunches for $1.25, individual lunch days were .30 cents, milk was .05 cents, and milk and graham crackers were .06 cents. Today, Taylor Middle School has traded sloppy joes for chili verde bowls at a cost of $3.25.
In 1950, a mid-century celebration was had and a time capsule was buried somewhere on the Taylor campus, quite possibly under the current volleyball courts. The time capsule has never been found. The Bulldog emerged in the 1950s as the school’s mascot, and the first name of the Bulldog may have been Mack, as noted on period jewelry. More recently, the bulldog is known affectionately as Bubba.
Enrollment at Taylor Middle School rose to 500 students by the middle of the 1950s. Students were not required to dress out for physical education, they participated in their regular clothes with homeroom class and students did not have to run the mile, as students today must every Wednesday. It was in the 1950s that Taylor School was presented an award for having a school accessible to those students in wheel chairs before it was required to do so.
In 1953, the population and the number of grades Taylor School served reduced dramatically with the addition of the nearby Highlands School, and with it, many new traditions appeared. The Taylor auditorium and library were now available as well as facilities that allowed Manual Arts and Homemaking courses to take place. The library was reorganized and a library card system was established for the first time, handled mostly by student volunteers. This year also saw the beginnings of a system of freedom with responsibility, and of incentives and recognition for good behavior.
Students for the first time were allowed to sit where they wanted to at lunch in the cafeteria in 1953, as long as their behavior and manners were good. The Honor Pass was established that gave students with good scholarship and behavior extra privileges. 1953 was as well the first year that saw clubs established on campus and organized sports at noon began for the first time. It was in the 1950s that folk dancing and square dancing begun at Taylor, and that tradition remains today with the Physical Education department’s sponsorship of a dance off competition held annually. On December 16, 1953, the PTA presented gold footballs to the championship winning eighth grade football team. Field days began in the 1950s, where mixed grade levels would compete in daylong athletic competitions.
On March 26, 1953, students organized a campaign for donations to be sent to Holland to assist with flood relief that had devastated that country. Taylor students continue to think and act locally and globally today with their participation in service organizations and other clubs on campus that promote social justice.
In 1958, the gym was located in the auditorium and it was the first year Taylor had full time Physical Education staff. The present music room used to be the cafeteria when the school first opened, and many years later it also functioned as the library. In 1957, Taylor School’s first librarian was hired, she stayed for 18 years, and in the last few years of her work at Taylor, and she was able to secure a federal grant to transform the library into a media center by the year 1976. Also in 1957, Taylor’s first female physical education teacher was hired and she established girl’s sports at Taylor. By 1959, Taylor’s enrollment had risen to 559 students.
Well into the 1960s boys were not allowed to come to school without a belt or with their shirts worn on the outside of their pants. Girls had to wear skirts or dresses with the hem at least two inches below the knees. By 1963, Taylor music program had grown to include a cadet orchestra, a second orchestra, band, a boy’s chorus, and a girl’s chorus. Athletics had expanded to include six teams of boys basketball, eight teams of boys football, three teams of girls volleyball, 6 teams of girls basketball, 3 of girls softball, 2 of girls tennis, and 1 of baseball, track, tumbling and cheerleading.
There used to be a massive hill where the present day athletic fields are located. When the airport began to expand the runways, it needed dirt to fill in the shallows of the bay. The school district sold dirt from the hill to the airport. It took a year and a half to remove the hill. Schools all over California are currently looking for more dirt to sell to fund our schools
In the 1960’s there were about 850 7th and 8th grade students enrolled at Taylor. Taylor School won another award for being one of the cleanest schools in California at that time, an honor that continued into the 1980s with continued recognition of the school’s upkeep.
By 1969, Taylor clubs and organizations included Model Railroad Club, Safety Patrol and the Officials Club, and elective courses included Journalism and Drama.
In the year 1970, progress reports used to be taken from room to room for each teacher to fill in. There existed a wood shop where present day science rooms are situated. A jump rope contest was held in February of 1970 and a yo-yo contest in March; in 1971, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union Contest and the National Book Week Contest also took place for the first time, testament to the increase in student activities that would participate in throughout the 1970s.
In the centennial year of 1976, students wrote a Constitution where “a perfect educational union” was formed and included articles for each of the following: Math, English, Social Science, Science, Foreign Language, Sports, Electives, and Student Government.
From 1980 to 1998, Sharon Fritz was the Principal of Taylor School. During those eighteen years, the school matured to the place of great reputation that we find ourselves this very day. As Representative Tom Lantos remarked in 1986, when Taylor Middle School was awarded the National Blue Ribbon Award, “Through the dynamic and productive leadership of Principal Sharon Fritz, Taylor Middle School has developed a nurturing teaching environment, a rigorous and engaging curriculum, a safe environment for students and teachers, and a healthy involvement of parents and the community in strengthening educational resources. Students at Taylor Middle School convincingly demonstrate the many benefits of a great schooling environment through impressive student performances on measures of achievement, attendance rates, and the varied and ambitious pursuits of graduates of the school.” In 1987, after much debate, Taylor absorbs 6th grades from the other elementary schools and becomes a full middle school, grades six, seven, and eight.
In 1986 Taylor Middle School received the prodigious California Distinguished School award, one of only 40 schools in California and 2 in San Mateo to be awarded the newly created Distinguished School Award. In 1994 Taylor Middle School received the same award again and in 1996 Taylor was awarded the National Blue Ribbon honor, each of which signified Taylor School’s status as one of the best middle schools in the San Francisco Bay Area. In the year 1993, Taylor’s first Ultimate Frisbee team, The DiscDawgs, was created. The team had to play high school teams, as no other middle school ultimate teams existed. A current sixth grade teacher at Taylor played on that ultimate Frisbee team and is currently a professional ultimate Frisbee player in his free time. In 1999, Taylor’s A Basketball team went undefeated with a record of 30 and 0, as that team’s three-year record grew to 81 and 1. The school was renovated to the tune of 2.9 million dollars during the 1990’s to meet the needs of its growing population and reputation as a strong all-around school.
In the year 2004, Taylor Middle School lost a great teacher and coach to cancer, Kelly Shea Gallo. Tragically, just eight years later, Millbrae lost another of its greatest supporters of kids and education to cancer, Kelly’s mother, Caroline Shea. Caroline had established the Kelly Shea Gallo Foundation, which works to support student scholarships, particularly those sixth grade students who attend the formative Outdoor Education program. In honor of Caroline’s legacy, and of her entire family’s contribution to the Millbrae School District, the Caroline Shea Center was named in her honor in 2013. Taylor staff continues to honor and remember Kelly with the Kelly Shea Gallo Award that is given annually to a Taylor staff member who upholds Kelly’s great work on behalf of our students.
Today, in the year 2015, Taylor School is a sixth through eighth grade middle school with a diverse population of 900 students. Taylor adheres to our school mission: “to promote a safe, supportive and rigorous program of engaging academic and social experiences while encouraging responsible citizenship.”
Taylor has instituted a full multidisciplinary curriculum school-wide to meet the needs of all students. All sixth graders take mathematics, science, PE, and explorative “wheel” classes including digital technology, drama, kon-tiki, architecture, Greek myths, art, electronics, Spanish, and photography, or sixth grade students may take year round Bulldog Band. Seventh and eighth graders take English, social studies, science, PE, mathematics, and an elective wheel class such as film, digital media, or music, and students may also take year round electives in drama, band, orchestra, leadership, KTLR, and Spanish. Taylor students in the 8th grade also benefit from a standing tradition at Taylor Middle School of sending student on the lifetime experience of Sojourn to the Past on the east coast. KTLR students produce an eight-minute morning show featuring school news, athletic activities, community news and current events. KTLR has won several awards over the years for exceptional media presentation, including the prestigious J. Russell award in 2009.
Taylor’s Academic Performance Index has increased past 900 over recent years as one of the areas top performing middle schools. In 2013, Taylor Middle School once again received the California Distinguished School Award.
Taylor Middle School is proud to provide a nurturing bridge from elementary to high school by gradually immersing students in middle school life and academics. Taylor has developed a counseling program, peer mediators program, and student leadership opportunities that promote positive school culture. An anti-bullying theme is a strong message at Taylor and each year begins with the entire school viewing the award-winning film “Bully”. Respect Week, a past activity strove to promote respect and tolerance for age, race, ability, gender, sexual orientation, and religion and encourage positive self-esteem, effective communication between all people, and preservation of cultural identity. Taylor students attended a number of educational class field trips each year, Outdoor Education Camps in the sixth grade, a performance of A Christmas Carol in San Francisco in the seventh grade, and an eighth grade promotion excursion.
Taylor Middle School looks great after 75 years. The ribbon cutting ceremony for the Caroline Shea Center took place on December 9, 2013, in 2014, the Taylor Amphitheater was built, and recent years have seen the renovation of many spaces across the Taylor campus.
The inside cover of Taylor’s 1970 yearbook featured the lyrics from that year’s Carpenter’s release of a song called We’ve only just begun.
We've only just begun to live, while lace and promises,
A kiss for good luck and we’re on our way.
We’ve only just begun before the rising sun, we fly.
So many roads to choose, we start out walking and learn to run.
And yet we’ve only just begun.
Sharing the horizons that are new to us. Watching the signs along the way.
Talking it over just the two of us. Working together day to day, together.
And when the evening comes we smile.
So much of life ahead. We’ll find a place where there’s room to grow, and yet we’ve just begun.
Truly Taylor Middle School has only just begun a very long history of educating, preparing, and nurturing middle school students to be the best they can be in their lives and in the service of their communities and workplaces. Unique to these middle school years, for students past, present and future, their young academic and social lives, only just begin at Taylor School.