Willard Intermediate School
School Mascot: JaguarsPrincipal: Ms. Bertha I. Benavides LópezAssistant Principal: Ms. Errin Robinson Landry
Current Building and Site
Date Built and/or Occupied 1974Remodeled in 2011-12
Famous People Who Have Attended
Rob Richardson, Former SAUSD Board Member
History of Name
Frances E. Willard
Willard Intermediate School is named after Frances E. Willard, an American educator, temperance reformer, and women's suffragist. Her influence was instrumental in the passage of the Eighteenth (Prohibition) and Nineteenth (Women Suffrage) Amendments to the United States Constitution. Her vision progressed to include federal aid to education and free school lunches, unions for workers, the eight-hour work day, work relief for the poor, municipal sanitation and boards of health, national transportation, and protections against child abuse.
A Short History of Willard Intermediate School
In 1912, Santa Ana’s first junior high school opened at Ninth and Main Streets. It was housed in the old high school building which had been built in 1900. This first junior high was known simply as Santa Ana Junior High School. In 1922, a new junior high school, Julia C. Lathrop, opened on south Main Street.
The old junior high school was renamed Francis E. Willard Junior High School after the popular abolitionist who spoke out against the evils of alcohol and also championed the rights of women, helping win them the right to vote. The first meeting of the faculty was held on September 8, 1923. Willard’s first principal was William S. Kellogg. Willard remained at Ninth and Main Streets until June of 1931, when the old building was condemned.
The new Willard Junior High School was designed by the architecture firm of Allison and Allison. It was demolished in June/July 1971.T
A new building of Spanish design opened on the present site in September, 1931. It contained a beautiful auditorium and cafeteria. The first principal of the new school was Lyle B. Mitchell. Mr. Mitchell was principal of Willard for 26 years (1929-1955), and the school had only seven principals in its first 62 years.During the 1970-71 school year, the second Willard building was also condemned for not meeting earthquake safety codes. The school was closed suddenly on a Friday and re-opened on a Monday on a half-day session at Santa Ana High School. The following two years were spent in bungalows on the athletic field until the current building was opened in September, 1973 when the school re-opened on Ross Street it became an intermediate school with grades 6-7-8 (rather than 7-8-9).
The new Willard Intermediate School opened in September 1973. It was designed by the Blu Rock Partnership; its sister school Lathrop Intermediate was built at the same time and is virtually identical.
In the spirit of continuing improvement of facilities and education at Willard, the current building and facilities are being renovated, with plans for a new two story structure to replace the bungalows, all new technology and science labs, and an all weather track and artificial turf field.
The Landmark Fig Tree
About 20 years after the city fathers decided to found Santa Ana, George W. Ford brought an Australian rubber tree, known as the Moreton Bay Fig of Australia to the city and planted it on the grounds of his residence, where Willard Intermediate now stands.
William C. Watkins, in the employ of Mr. Ford, who was renowned as a nurseryman, planted the tree in 1889, and believed it was about two years at the time.
Although the school buildings have long since replaced Mr. Ford’s Nursery, the tree has remained a landmark of “time was” in Santa Ana, along with a collection of Washington Palms, Camphor trees, and Star Pines.The botanical name of the Moreton Bay Fig is Ficus Macrophylla. Evidence that it belongs to the same family as the edible fig is said to be proven by its fruit and milky sap.The George Ford Home was moved from the Willard school site to the northwest corner of 15th and Ross Streets in 1931.
- History written by Ken Leavens 9/16/1985