Hillcrest Elementary - Today…
“On the crest of a hill on the southern tip of Monterey Park, a culturally diverse city in the picturesque San Gabriel Valley, where the air is clear and students have a view of the majestic San Bernardino Mountains, stands a school named Hillcrest, a gem of an educational kingdom where teachers smile as they teach, students are actively engaged in learning, and parents and members of the community eagerly volunteer.”
Before the school, there was just the hill covered in grass and dirt. There were no houses, streets, or lights, and it stayed that way until 1960. That was the year James N. Starbird and his development company began carving up the peaceful knolls that today surround Hillcrest. The area, then known as Monterey Park Estates, was advertised as a “suburban getaway near downtown Los Angeles.” The mainly contemporary and California ranch style houses cost about $20,000 and were primarily bought by young, middle-class families with young children. They came to the area seeking nice homes and a quiet, safe spot to raise kids.
What the new neighborhood lacked though was a school of its own, so in December of 1960, the Garvey School District started construction on a brand new elementary school. The school would be built on a 12 acre site at the crest of the hill. Aptly named Hillcrest, the school opened its doors to four hundred K-6th grade students for the first time on September 8, 1961. Georgia Daniel, who had been in the Garvey School District for 14 years, was Hillcrest’s first principal. Hillcrest was considered a great school from the time it opened and was considered as “the place” to teach. The school was also fortunate to have a PTA that was active from the very beginning and would hold annual carnivals to raise money for the school. To this day the PTA remains a very important asset to the Hillcrest community.
As with many things that happened in the past, there is some mystery connected with the early days of Hillcrest. Just as today, the first students, then known as the Hillcrest Cowgirls and Cowboys, were highly motivated and creative. At some point during the early years, students decided to bury a time capsule so the kids in the future would know what Hillcrest was like in the 1960s. While many have searched over the years, to this day the location and contents of the “Hillcrest Time Capsule” remain a mystery.
It’s been almost 46 years since the doors of Hillcrest first opened, and many things have changed. But, even though kids, parents, teachers and administrators come and go, the school’s vision has remained a constant. Hillcrest continues to be committed to building a community of learners where students, parents, and staff are actively engaged in optimal learning experiences. And that is what makes Hillcrest the outstanding school it is today.
By Max Katz & Patricia Callaghan