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Putnam City's James L. Dennis Elementary School to mark 40 years

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James L. Dennis Elementary School officials are hosting a 40th birthday celebration for the school. [PHOTO PROVIDED]
James L. Dennis Elementary School officials are hosting a 40th birthday celebration for the school. [PHOTO PROVIDED]

When Putnam City’s James L. Dennis Elementary School first opened its doors to students in 1979, Jimmy Carter was president of the United States, a gallon of gas cost just 86 cents and Sony was revolutionizing music technology with the release of a portable cassette player known as the Walkman.

Now 40 years later, James L. Dennis Elementary officials are inviting current and former students, parents, teachers, staff and administrators to celebrate the school’s birthday by attending a reception from 2 to 5 p.m. on Sunday in the school’s gymnasium, 11800 James L. Dennis Drive.

At the reception, visitors will find 40 years’ worth of scrapbooks and yearbooks to look through and reminisce. Also on display will be faculty photos from almost every year of the school’s 40-year history.

When the school opened in 1979 under the guidance of Principal Sandy Wisley, it served 565 students in kindergarten (half day) through sixth grade. The school now has an enrollment of about 470 students in prekindergarten through fifth grade. The principal is Renita White.

The school boasts two former students who are now members of the Putnam City Schools Foundation Wall of Fame: Actor James Marsden, who has appeared in more than 50 movies and will next be on the big screen in “Sonic the Hedgehog,” and director Mike Mitchell, whose latest release was “The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part.”

The school was named for James L. Dennis, a Putnam City School Board member from 1965 through 1977. Dennis was once quoted as saying the school board position was “a most gratifying one, a chance to serve the community.”

Few people have served the community as much as Dennis did. He was vice-chairman for the Oklahoma Commission on Education Administration, chairman of the Oklahoma City Mayor’s Committee for the Employment of the Handicapped, chairman of the board for the Jane Brooks School for the Deaf and a member of the board for the Oklahoma Commission for the Hearing Impaired. He served on the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce Educational Committee and the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce Public Health Committee, and was a member of at least seven other organizations dedicated to the health and welfare of Oklahomans.

A short biography of him ends by saying that “his dedication as a community leader has touched the lives of so many and it is hoped that he will be remembered for his warmth and constant service.”

Even with its birthday, James L. Dennis Elementary is one of the newest of Putnam City elementary schools. Only Northridge Elementary, which opened in 1980, and Ralph Downs Elementary, which opened in 1990, have yet to hit the 40-year mark.

Steve Lindley is chief communications officer for Putnam City Schools.

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