Families Pass on Scots Traditions

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All five of Suzy and Tom Rhodes’ children attended Highland Park schools. As of this fall, the Rhodes family has two of its youngest members at Bradfield Elementary — Emory and Ellis. (Photo: Chris McGathey)

It’s no secret that Highland Park ISD is one of the best school districts around — the campuses are bursting at capacity with students ready to learn. For some, their parents have recently moved to the area to give their children a top-notch education.

“There are a lot of wonderful parents that are very supportive of their children and the school,” graduate Suzy Rhodes said. “Any school where the parents are involved, you have a good system.”

But for others, going to Highland Park is a time-honored, family tradition. As the district begins to celebrate its centennial — just one year after the town of Highland Park’s same celebration — many families have seen multiple generations don the blue and gold.

“I’ve lived in the Highland Park district my whole life,” 2004 graduate Janie Robertson said. “We’re very fortunate to be able to say that.”

Robertson’s mother graduated in 1976, and her grandfather did in 1953. His mother graduated in 1928. With that many generations, it’s natural that the family would fall right into Highland Park’s playful, elementary-school rivalries.

“I remember my mother telling me that ‘UP is up, but Hyer is higher,’ and we were ‘Bratfield,’” she said.

Of course, for Claire Roberts, there’s nothing bratty about Bradfield. After all, the school was named for her grandfather, John S. Bradfield.

“He was one of the few men that got together and decided to start a separate school district from Dallas,” she said.

Since then, Roberts, her mother, aunts, cousins, children, and grandchildren have all attended Highland Park schools. By the 75th anniversary of Bradfield’s opening, Roberts’ granddaughter was a kindergartener at the school.

“It means a whole lot — it really does,” she said. “You hate to brag about it, but it’s really unusual.”

With that kind of legacy, a number of Bradfield’s descendants have gone on to teach at University Park Elementary, Armstrong, and Bradfield.

“We know we have great teachers and administrators, who — like the school board — love the school district, or they wouldn’t be doing it,” Roberts said. “There’s something about the closeness of it all.”

Closeness is something the Rhodes family knows about — Tom and Suzy Rhodes first met in middle school, and later married after college.

“This was about two weeks into seventh grade. I walked into the gym … and Suzy was right there at the fence picking up a tennis ball, and I went, ‘oh my gosh, who is that?’” Tom said.

Eventually, the Rhodes had five children go through the school system, and now have two granddaughters at Bradfield.

Today, Dan, Burton, and Thomas comprise The Rhodes Group of Dave Perry-Miller, along with their father, Tom. But that came years after carpooling to and fro.

“My mom would drive us to school 50 percent of the time,” Burton said. “She thought it was the only way she could get us in the car and talk to us all at one time.”

With that many siblings, it was inevitable that they would have classes together.

“My sister, Courtney, and I took wood shop together and I made a birdhouse and a crossbow,” Dan said. “Dad threw it in the trash. It shot a pencil through the fence in the backyard.”

Suzy served as PTA president of Armstrong for a time, while Tom participated in the Dad’s Club of HPMS.

“Everyone knew our parents,” Thomas said. “We couldn’t get away with anything.”

Of course, the Rhodes and other families with such strong history know the value of that tradition.

“Because it’s such a rarity, not many people can say they are the fourth-generation graduate of a school,” Robertson said. “It gives a sense of pride.”

For those multi-generation families, the decades of memories add up to much more than just a place to get an education.

“Our blood runs red and blue, and blue and gold,” Roberts said. “I’m proud of my ancestry.”

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