KARL C. PARRISH SCHOOL
Colegio Karl C. Parrish has a proud history and looks forward to an exciting future. The remarkable success of
our first 70 years would have not been possible without the support of the Board of Trustees, Board of directors,
and the KCP community at large.
HISTORY OF THE KARL C. PARRISH SCHOOL
WRITTEN FROM MEMORY BY KARL C. PARRISH
The idea for the creation of an American type school in Barranquilla, Colombia came originally from the Propeller Club, a civic-service type of organization that was active in the 1930’s and later became the American Men’s Society. Several of the members had children who couldn’t find a satisfactory education in English, which would prepare them to continue their studies in high school and college in the United States. Once the idea was launched, it was discovered that many Colombian families would also be interested, besides numerous other nationalities in the “foreign colony”. The new school was this born with a truly cosmopolitan, international character.
The person who sparked the flame was Nicholas R. Agarino, ”Aggie” to everybody, of the United Fruit Company, whose daughter Nancy was ready for school. Among others involved were Thomas P. Roche, of General Sales Corporation, whose daughters, Rosalvina and Ellen, were also needing schooling, and Orville (Johnny) Johnson of Tropical Oil Company (ESSO Affiliate), whose daughter Jacqueline was of school age. They were joined by Dr. Marco Tulio Mendoza Amaris (children Maria Emma and Ernesto), Julio Mario Santo Domingo (daughters Beatriz Alicia and Cecilia), Ignacio Blanco (daughters Margarita and Cecilia), Johannes Cornelissen (Dutch son Andres), and Ivan Hilstad (Norwegian daughter Margot and later Karen)
It was agreed that the school should be a non-profit and non-sectarian, and should bear the name of Karl C. Parrish, a highly respected American citizen who had done so much for the progress of Barranquilla. He died in 1933.
The school opened in September of 1938. Aggie was on a vacation that summer in the United States and brought back with him on the ship of The Great White Fleet, which still docked in Puerto Colombia, Miss Myriam Best, as principal of the new school, and Margaret, as a teacher. The following year Miss Best did not return, but Miss Clara Gavin took her place (Margaret later married Donald Radash, assistant manager of the United Fruit Company, and Clara married Thomas Gavin, long established plumbing contractor in Barranquilla).
The school started with the lower grades, but soon completed studies through the 8th grade, as more and more children were admitted. The course of studies was modeled on the New York State Regents and the Regents Exams were used for many years, which set a standard of excellence academically that made it possible for Parrish School Graduates to gain admittance into high schools and preparatory schools in the United States and Europe. Among the first to prove that their “founding fathers” vision of the excellence of the Parrish School was correct, were Andy Cornelissen, who went to Andover and Stanford, Ernesto Mendoza who went on to Yale, Nancy Hilstad who graduated from Sweetbriar.
In 1939, Parrish & Cia; built the first building to house the school with two classrooms, facing what was later to become the small Karl C. Parrish Park. As the school grew, Parrish & Cia. added a second building behind the first one, in 1943, and likewise rented it to the school for a nominal sum.
By 1946, it became obvious that the school need a larger campus of its own. Parrish & Cia. , The school Board launched a bond issue to finance the construction of the new school. All the bonds were sold in Barranquilla, and later redeemed, many being returned to the school as gifts by grateful parents.
Aggie was the president of the school’s Board of Directors, composed of the organizers of the school, which was later expanded, as other families became involved in the school. In 1950, a formal constitution was created, and a Board of Trustees, or Consejo Patronal, was formed, as owner of the school property, and in it was nested the supreme governing functions of the school. All the Trustees had been associated with the school for many years. A Board of Directors, made up of parents with children attending the school, continued to operate the school, appoint the staff, control the curriculum, and were responsible to the Board of Trustees. Early on, a parent teacher Association, P.T.A., was formed to foster direct contact between the parents and faculty, and it has been a very favorable factor in the success of the school. It is interesting to note that the school has run full cycle, and several of the original graduates of the school became members of the Consejo Patronal, including Rosalvina Roche de Olarte and Ernesto Mendoza Lince. Many Parrish graduates are now also members of our faculty.
Among the many dedicated parents where served as President of the Board of Directors of the school after Aggie retired, were Myron reed and the Compañia Colombiana de Electricidad, Robert Sigg, Ed Williams of ARMCO, John Crespo, Karl C. Parrish Jr., Roberto Muvdi, Consolato Malavenda, Luis Paredes, Reidar Ostbye, Eduardo Verano, and Roger Safdeye. Some loyal people who collaborated on the Board of Trustees were Samuel Hallopeter, Dr. Mendoza Amaris, Hans Cornelissen, Ignacio Blanco, Ivan Hilstad, Myron Reed, Polearco Rodriguez Arrieta, Lloyd Noth, and Phillip Campbell.
After Mrs. Clara Gavin retired as principal, or Director of the school in 1953,several other competent people served the school, but it wasn’t until we obtained the services of Burton Fox, who came to us form the Columbus School of Medellin, that we found a satisfactory education. This was in 1964. Burton Fox, who obtained his Doctorate from the University of Alabama, gave the school a new dimension, and established contacts with educational sources in the United States which assured us if competent teachers, and access to learning skills and modern techniques on a permanent basis. Dr. Fox arranged for getting us qualified by the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary School of the United States, which regularly sends commissions to visit the school and confirm that we are meeting their standards. This also means that Karl C. Parrish School graduates obtain a High School Diploma which is accepted anywhere in the United States.
Through constant collaboration with the Colombian Ministry of Education, our students can also obtain a Bachillerato Degree, good in any university in Colombia. Those students who chose the Bachillerato Degree take a number of special courses to comply with these requirements.
As Dr. Fox expanded his activities in organizing all the bi-national schools in Central America and the Caribbean, whose administration was run from special quarters provided by Karl C.Parrish School, it became difficult for him to continue as our Principal, but he served the school as permanent advisor and member of the Consejo Patronal in a very satisfactory manner.
The Parrish School originally ran only through the Eighth Grade (equivalent of the Colombian second year of Bachillerato), and most of our students went to High School in the United States. However, as U.S. secondary schooling became more and more expensive, and the Colombian peso continued to devalue, it became obvious that we would be obliged to add the four years of High School and Bachillerato, adding one year at a time through four years.
This involved adding a new wing to the school, which in the meantime had been expanded to include Nursery and Kindergarten, and two classes for each grade of grammar school. We had limited the class size to 27 students to a room. All of these additions were financed from contributions of parents and interested companies working in Barranquilla. The new buildings unfortunately reduced our playground area.
At the same time, the school and the Country Club were affected by a new phenomenon, violent erosion of the “Arroyo del Country”. The school lost a large portion of the remaining playground.
In spite of our affection for the “new school”, and all the efforts and money invested in it for over 30 years, we read the handwriting on the wall, which said “move’”. It was a difficult decision to make in 1973, and caused a great deal of emotional trauma. The first step taken was to negotiate for the purchase of a large tract of land on the old Puerto Colombia highway, with Cementos del Caribe, located before the Jardines del Recuerdo Cemetery and the Universidad del Norte. Cementos del Caribe gave the school very favorable conditions for the purchase, not only in price, but also in time to pay on terms. This original purchase was added on to for additional playground space so that the school now has Eight hectares, or 20 acres of its “newest” campus, (compared to the 1.2 hectares or 3 acres of our ‘new’ school on Calle 77B).
A great deal of pains was taken to design the best possible school for and open tropical site. Two firms of architects were selected to work as a team, Noguera & Dugand, and Baron & Macchi, and they were sent with several board members to visit schools around Colombia particularly the Nueva Granada in Bogotá, and Bolivar in Cali and also in Central America and the Caribbean (schools Dr. Fox was familiar with through his association of binational schools). We also obtained advice and professional suggestions from various architects working in the southern United States.
The final design selected was excellent in every respect, and has given the Parrish School a campus which can compare favorably with any other secondary day school in the Western hemisphere. The buildings were well spaced and located to assure excellent ventilation and noise control, ample playgrounds and sports facilities.
The building was done in stages, with the high school completed in 1978 and the grammar school in 1982, when the 77B school could be sold advantageously, once canalizing all the way to the Via 40 solved the erosion of the Arroyo del Country. In 1983 the Burton Fox Library was added and now in 1987, we are finishing the new gymnasium named after Luis Paredes, plus possibly a swimming pool.
It is interesting to note that when the Karl C. Parrish was founded in 1938, it was the first bi-national, bilingual school in Colombia, to be followed soon after by the Nueva Granada in Bogotá (1940), the George Washington in Cartagena, the Bolivar in Cali, The Columbus in Medellin, and the Panamericano in Bucaramanga. It was also one of the first schools of its type (non-profit, non-sectarian) in Latin America. It is also worth noting that Karl C. Parrish Jr., long active in school affairs, was inspired by the success of the school and emboldened to create in the company of other civic- minded Barranquilleros, the Universidad del Norte in 1966, now providing degrees in Engineering, Medicine, Business, Law, etc. for any Parrish graduates who desire to complete their college education in Barranquilla.
We hope that the Karl C. Parrish School, which has served Barranquilla so well for 50 years, and contributed so much to its cultural life and prosperity, may continue to help Barranquilla, and Colombia overcome its present difficulties and grinding poverty, and realize a better life for all its people, when we complete another 50 years of service, in the year 2037.
Karl C. Parrish would have been proud of the school that bears his name and pleased that even in death, he was contributing to the progress of Colombia, his second home, for which he always bore a great affection.
1978 – 2008
Over the past twenty-five years many new constructions have been inaugurated at Colegio Karl C. Parrish. The school facilities, which are completely air-conditioned, include 42 classrooms, 4 science labs, library building, P.E. facilities, a farm, a Theatre Complex that includes Art, Music and the Central Administration, and an Eco Park.