History of Ross

In the early 1950's the area of Highland Park was a portion of a school district known as District #35. Due to a baby boom following World War II, availability of federal funding as a result of the 1951 flood and the crowded condition of the school district, two new elementary schools were built. Highland Park North and Highland Park South were constructed in 1955 at a cost of $316,500.00 per school. At that time reversal of the floor plan was the only difference between the two schools. The Highland Park District #35 was annexed into U.S. D. 501 in 1958.

The first addition to Highland Park South was completed in 1958 when classrooms were added to the northwest wing of the building. In 1968 a second wing was added including a physical education room and air conditioning. In 1970 one of the largest media centers in the district was added. In 2002 the district added a second grade classroom in compliance with the bond issue that was passed. At that time the district also updated the communication wiring in the building, which included telephone and computer drops. During this construction the entire building was air conditioned. During the 2011-2012 school year, other major classroom additions were made to the building one of which connected it to Eisenhower Middle School. Ross and Eisenhower became co-campus schools with a musical signature being adopted for both.

Highland Park South was renamed Ross Elementary in November of 1993. The school was dedicated to Merrill and Barbara Ross in recognition for their years of service to the district and the community. Merrill Ross was the district's first black principal of a previously all white school. Barbara Ross was an elementary teacher in U.S.D. 501 for 24 years. Her last 18 years were spent at Highland Park South as a kindergarten teacher.


The only son of Mr. & Mrs. Richard Ross from Flat Lick and Pineville, Kentucky, Mr. Ross moved to Topeka, Kansas to accept a teaching position in the public schools when he received his call to serve in the summer of 1944. Having already earned a pilot's license from a civilian pilot training program at Pittsburg State University, Mr. Ross successfully pursued entrance into the Tuskegee Pilot Training program. But just as he was being prepared to be sent overseas the war ended. Due to Mr. Ross's extended illness, this interview is primarily with Mr. Ross's wife, Barbara, and son, Brian, who share their knowledge of Mr. Ross's military experience as a member of the Tuskegee Airmen. They provide details about his pilot training and his encounters with members of local communities while on furlough. They also highlight his attendance of the inauguration of President Obama in 2008 as a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, who were honored guests of the President. After the war Mr. Ross returned to Topeka, Kansas where he experienced the desegregation of public schools as a faculty and administrator of the city's segregated schools. Later Mr. Ross became the first African American to serve as principal of a predominantly white school in Topeka, Kansas.

Listen to the Interview by Clicking the Link Below:
University of Kansas - Interview with Merrill Ross

Merrill Ross - Tuskegee Airman

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Ross, Merrill, interviewee and Dandridge, Deborah, interviewer, "Interview with Merrill Ross," World War II: The African American Experience, accessed November 7, 2017, https://wwii.lib.ku.edu/items/show/1434."

Engage students in the highest quality of learning • Prepare students for responsible, productive citizenship • Inspire excellence for a lifetime
Website by SchoolMessenger Presence. © 2024 SchoolMessenger Corporation. All rights reserved.