Our namesake Grace W. Perkins (1925-1984 ) educator and leader in bilingual education.
|The old Lowell School in 1956. School was rebuilt and renamed after Perkins|
We've Got History
How many Americans get to be crowned a queen?
Our school's namesake Mrs. Grace W. Perkins was that kind of leader. For her groundbreaking work with underserved communities in the 1960s and '70s, she was named Queen of Barrio Logan in 1970. From her our school takes its educational foundation.
Mrs. Perkins established the first bilingual Spanish educational program in San Diego that became the model for the entire state of California. She was the first to bring concentrated medical services to the Barrio Logan school community on a regular basis. She pioneered the idea to treat the whole child, advocating that healthy students meant greater academic achievement and therefore greater success for youths.
The district's first Early Childhood Education program was established under her leadership. Together with husband, Dr. Woodbury Perkins, she partnered with Mercy Hospital to explore and document the relation between health and academic achievement, research that also became a model statewide.
Mrs. Perkins was born in Chicago in 1925. At a time when most women did not go to college, she graduated from one of the most challenging colleges in the country, Smith College in Massachusetts in 1947. While at Smith, she spent a year abroad studying in Mexico City, and fell in love with the language and culture.
Moving to San Diego with her husband, she started as a teacher at La Jolla Elementary, followed by more schools and a return to college to earn her master's degree. She earned herself a Fullbright Scholarship, a very prestigious honor. She took on educational leadership roles at the school district. When she assumed the position of principal at the only school in Barrio Logan, then called Lowell School, the school was 97 percent Spanish-speaking. The community requested a Hispanic male as a principal. The blond, blue-eyed Perkins met with many challenges to overcome wrong assumptions, about herself and the schools she served.
Barrio Logan's residents have long fought against civic neglect to their neighborhood. where for many years heavy industry clashed with neighborhood safety and school success. Barrio Logan's original school was built before turn of century at 17th and Market streets. In 1940 the local school was named for James Russell Lowell, the late American author and diplomat. It was torn down in the 1958 and a new school opened in 1959. In the 1940s a freight train had been running through the center of the playground. When the school opened, there was no cafeteria or auditorium. For 35 years a junkyard operated next door.
One of the strongest leaders for a quality school and education for the community came from Perkins. Finally in 1978, under city pressure, the district bought the land and turned it into a park with the help of residents who cleaned up the spikes, nails and iron rails.
She died in 1984 of lung cancer, and civic and community leaders requested that a school be named in honor of her legacy. When the district unveiled Grace W. Perkins School in 1992, this commemoration was read at the ceremony: "In her 59 years, she continually demonstrated her caring, her intelligence, her enthusiasm and her commitment of serving others."