Communications Department
14705 Woodforest Blvd., Houston, TX 77015

June 23, 2008
CONTACT: Craig Eichhorn
(832) 386-1231


           Galena Park ISD trustees recently voted to honor former Superintendent of Schools and Commissioner of Education Dr. Shirley J. Williamson (Neeley) by renaming Freedom Elementary in her honor. The name change will be in effect for the 2008-2009 school year.
           Even though the name of the school will change, the colors and mascot will remain. The mascot will be the Freedom Lions and the colors are still purple and gold. Freedom Elementary, which opened in 2005, earned the title of Exemplary status from the Texas Education Agency for the 2007-2008 school year.
           “The Board felt that it was time to honor a person who has spent the majority of her life in Galena Park ISD,” said Wayne Oquin, president of the Board of Trustees.  “Shirley Williamson grew up in this community. She attended school in this community and spent 30 years working in this community. She more than deserves this honor.”
           Williamson spent nearly her entire prestigious career in education in Galena Park ISD, whether it was as a student, teacher, administrator or superintendent. All in all, Shirley J. Williamson (Neeley) has spent the better part of the last five decades in Galena Park ISD.
           The 1966 graduate of Galena Park High School began her educational career at Pyburn Elementary in 1954 before moving on to Woodland Acres Middle School. Williamson was heavily involved in all aspects of her high school career and was even part of the prestigious Jacketeer dance team.
           Williamson couldn’t stay away from education for long as she began her career as a first grade teacher at Richey Elementary in Pasadena ISD in 1971. The University of Houston graduate soon began feeling the tug of the emotional ties to GPISD and returned to the district as a teacher at MacArthur Elementary in 1975. Dr. Gerald Cobb was Superintendent of Schools at the time and the two formed a strong friendship that has lasted until today.
           Williamson’s leadership skills were quickly evident and she became assistant principal in 1977 and was named principal of MacArthur in 1979. Williamson was named principal at Green Valley Elementary in 1984 and moved to the Administration Building as director of elementary education in 1986. She became assistant superintendent for pupil services in 1992 and soon made history as the first female superintendent in GPISD history in 1995.
           Known then as Dr. Shirley J. Neeley, her contagious energy and enthusiasm combined with an unrelenting desire to ensure that every student in Galena Park ISD achieved their highest potential led the district to unprecedented academic achievement. The district earned an Exemplary rating from the Texas Education Agency – the largest district in the state to earn that honor – from 2002-2004.
           Williamson Elementary is located at 6720 New Forest Parkway right next to Dr. Gerald D. Cobb Sixth Grade Campus. Dr. Cobb was a mentor to Dr. Williamson throughout her career and it seems fitting that their schools named in their honor are almost side-by-side. Another piece of GPISD history that ties the two together is that Bobbie Cobb, wife of Dr. Cobb, taught shorthand to Williamson at Galena Park High School.
           A formal dedication of Williamson Elementary will be held in the fall.

Dr. Shirley J. Williamson