Highland School District #42 became a reality in 1962 following a favorable voluntary consolidation vote in the Ash Flat School District #4 and the Hardy School District #38. Previously competitive rivals, the people of both communities overwhelmingly agreed to give their children (and generations to come) more opportunities in varied educational and extracurricular experiences. Each town retained its elementary school for a few years after the new high school opened in August 1964 and the first senior class graduated in May 1965. Highland has over 4,600 alumni with the Class of 2017.
The original site of the school property was donated by John A. Cooper, President of Cherokee Village Development Company, Inc. The original high school building was designed by architect Richard W. Groh of Little Rock, Arkansas, and was built by W.B. Gay Builders, Inc. of Memphis, Tennessee. The total value of building, equipment, and grounds in 1964 was $341,919; in 2017 the district property is valued at more than 53 million dollars. The school budget in 1964 was approximately $400,000, while now it is over $14 million.
Student growth caused the building of Cherokee Elementary School (grades K-4) and later Highland Middle School (grades 5-8). All buildings have experienced expansion. Highland High School (grades 9-12) has a vocational agriculture area with greenhouse, a multi-purpose music complex, and a fieldhouse. The A. L. Hutson Memorial Center, located between CES and HMS campuses, houses a basketball gymnasium as well as weight room, dressing rooms, walking track, hospitality room, storage areas, and concession stands.
Selected by the students, faculty, and administration in 1964, the school district mascot is the Rebel, and school colors are red and gray. Community support has continued to be one of the strong assets of the school district. Local, regional, state, and national recognitions have come for students in academics through scholarships, quiz bowl, geography bee, spelling bee and extracurricular activities such as band, FBLA, athletics, choir, FFA. Students now have opportunities for college credits through several courses offered on the high school campus.
The Highland School District has been a groundbreaker for education in Arkansas since its inception and exemplifies the best of our young people who represent the next generation of citizens. Community leaders serve on the seven-member Board of Education to direct the programs of college and career readiness. Superintendents working for the district and becoming known throughout Arkansas include Mr. A. L. Hutson (1964-1986), Mr. Jack Kimbrell (1986-2000), Mr. Ronnie Brogdon (2000-2010), Mr. James Floyd (2010-2012), Mrs. Tracy Webb (2012-2016), and Mr. Don Sharp (2016-present). The district has more than 230 employees contributing to the economy of north central Arkansas.