Friday Firsts: Lula Parker Was First Woman to Lead a FWISD School at Mistletoe Heights Elementary School

In 1922, Lily B. Clayton was known as Mistletoe Heights Elementary School, and when students walked up and down the halls, they could see a woman working at a desk.

She had no office; she just had a small desk where she signed papers, developed curriculum, communicated with families, and ran the school.

That woman was Principal Lula Parker. When her campus opened, she had 79 students and three teachers. She was the first woman to run a Fort Worth ISD school — and she did it from that small desk in the hall.

Principal Parker was 42 years old and a veteran teacher of 15 years when the campus opened. She made history as the first woman to lead a school in the district, and she did it with an innovative mindset. 

Parker told a local reporter “school days should be the very happiest period in a child’s life, and we want to make it that way.” She introduced music, sports, public speaking, and theater to the campus, concepts that were novel in elementary schools at the time.

Not only did Parker want to raise good scholars, but she aimed to cultivate good citizenship among her students. The campus hosted regular volunteer drives that the students participated in, teaching the importance of community service.

An opportunity for expansion presented itself during her tenure, allowing the campus to double in size within a year and undergo renovations from four to eight classrooms. 

Parker’s creativity flourished. She developed a campus where kindergarten students enjoyed a fishpond in the classroom, and all students benefited from a real library, art room, and cafeteria. There would be rooms dedicated to science and plant life. Tile art would depict storybook characters and nursery rhymes. She even got an office.

When construction was complete, students got to be part of the landscaping. Each classroom received a plot of land so students could plant flowers along the school’s facade. Classes grew vegetables as part of their farming lessons. The school was a labor of love between the community and Parker.

Parker retired in 1944 after a distinguished career in education. In recognition of her contributions, the city of Fort Worth named the now Lily B. Clayton campus a Historic Landmark in 2017.

Parker set a high standard for principals in FWISD. Her innovative thinking, hard work, and care for the children of the campus are clear even decades after her retirement. She remains a true exemplar of what women in leadership can achieve.