100-year-old Rosemont School is a Cornerstone of Kessler community
Rosemont Upper, the building hosting Rosemont’s older student body, has become a cornerstone of the Kessler neighborhood throughout its 100-year history.
This kindergarten through eighth-grade neighborhood school has housed one of the most active parent committees across Dallas ISD and is known to attract area professionals into serving their community as teachers.
Rosemont, now a dual language campus, was established in 1922. The school now consists of two buildings: the Chris V. Semos Primary Campus, which opened in 2005 and houses students in prekindergarten through third grade, and the original building, which hosts students in fourth through eighth grades.
Rosemont’s dual language program helps children learn and be able to communicate in a second language within an enrichment model. In 2018, Rosemont was the first school to offer a foreign language in elementary school. The program offers Spanish to all general education students through 135 minutes per week of conversational Spanish connected to the curriculum.
“There’s a sense of pride and family orientation, and what makes Rosemont special,” Principal Marco Barker said. “People flock to this area because of the diversity, the community, the warmth and the unity that is exemplified in its residents. So, when you come to Rosemount, you find that sense of community that transcends color and socio-economic status. When you walk into the doors of Rosemont, you get to see the diversity of the city.”
Before her three children reached grade-school age, Kessler resident Amy Tawil knew they were going to be Rosemont Bisons. She’s been part of the school’s site-based decision-making committee for the last 23 years, served as Rosemont’s PTA President for six years, and joined the campus faculty as a kindergarten teacher 13 years ago.
“Any time the school needs the parents and the community, they’re right there to pitch in,” she said. “We have generations of families here. A lot of our parents went to school here and have their kids here, so there is just a lot of investment. We just have a lot of people, still in this neighborhood and this boundary that care about the school.”
An effort to preserve
As part of the 2015 Bond, Rosemont Upper is undergoing a renovation project that consists of updating the existing 53,400 square-foot upper building and 44,200 square feet of additions.
Preserving the original building was a priority for the Rosemont community, which fought to stop initial recommendations to tear down the building.
The first renovation plan included tearing the building down. But before the decision was finalized, teachers and parents met with Preservation Dallas, a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation and revitalization of local historic buildings, neighborhoods and places.
“They convinced a group of community members, parents and teachers that our building was in better shape than some of the newer buildings and that it didn’t need to be torn down,” Tawil said. “It took people from our community attending board meetings and emailing trustees, and a lot of conversations with the district and the project manager. In the end, Dallas ISD agreed to save the building.”
The project scope includes a building addition for art, choir, orchestra and dance, a 400-seat auditorium, a Black Box Theater, a gymnasium and tornado shelter, and a new main entrance. As for the existing space, there will be classroom renovations, mechanical system upgrades, an expansion of the cafeteria and dining area, and ceilings, lighting and window replacements among others. For a full list of Rosemont’s 2015 bond updates and renovations, visit https://www.dallasisd.org/Page/72291.
A pillar of the community
Tawil is not the only parent-turned-teacher in Rosemont’s recent history. Kellie Lawson, who teaches art to every fourth- and fifth-grade student at Rosemont Lower, and every middle school student at Rosemont Upper who chooses to learn visual arts, has served Rosemont for over 25 years.
“I have students whose parents were in my art club, way back when I first started,” Lawson said in an interview last year. “But, by far, the most impactful moment was when a third-grade teacher who started with us last year came to visit me in my classroom when he was interviewing. I have some pictures of him when he was acting goofy, wearing a box on his head, and having fun in my art club. His students think it’s so funny that, like them, he was a kid at Rosemont!”
In 1997, she was working part-time out of her home and was also volunteering as PTA president at Rosemont, where her two children went to school.
The Rosemont art instructor who was teaching at the time had to move to another state, and the principal asked Lawson if she could sub. She decided to volunteer, and after falling in love with the job, she earned her teaching certificate and has been teaching at Rosemont ever since.
“I live in the neighborhood,” Lawson said. “I live five minutes away from Rosemont. It’s my community. I’ve been in North Oak Cliff since 1985, and now I’m seeing this new wave of kids of my former students. It’s great!”