Anna Baker was born September 9, 1916 in Caldwell, Texas, to William Charles Haisler and Frantiska Marek Haisler. She moved to Alief, Texas, in 1924 and grew up on a cotton farm for most of her life. At age 17, she married James Mayes (J.M.) Baker, Jr. and for a brief time in the 1930’s worked in Las Vegas, Nevada, where they built a house and James worked on the railroad. Texas called them back home and they settled in Barker, Texas, in 1949.
Baker became the first woman school bus driver for the Katy Independent School District in 1955. Handling a large motor vehicle was not new to her – she drove a dump truck for her husband’s iron ore business. But driving a bus was a joy for her. She loved driving teams and other school groups to out-of-town games and activities. She would arrive early, dressed in a “Sunday suit,” to make sure the bus was clean before anyone boarded. And she always greeted her riders with a smile and encouraging words. In 1959, she would be the one who drove the school bus that transported local fans to see the Katy Tigers win their first state championship.
Baker also worked in the Addicks Elementary School (now Wolfe Elementary) cafeteria where she later became manager. She would make her own menus. Parents and administrators would come to the school and enjoy her home-cooked meals. In fact, former Superintendent James E. Taylor would come by almost weekly because he liked her cooking so much. Baker was known for the admirable rapport she established with students and faculty.
After more than a decade as a bus driver and years of managing the cafeteria, she became head custodian at Katy High School, a responsibility she took very seriously. Despite freezing temperatures she was seen one extremely cold morning picking up trash around the school because she did not want anyone driving by and finding garbage on the property. During her tenure, she was available for most extracurricular activities and she especially enjoyed working the banquets and the football games.
She was not one to stay idle and was the epitome of service. In the summers, Baker would paint for the District and hang wallpaper and sheetrock. She approached every job with a positive “can do” attitude and, as a result, earned the respect of students, parents, teachers and administration. She retired from Katy ISD in August 1985 after 30 years of dedicated service to the school district. Outside of Katy ISD, Baker provided her own transportation for those in her church that didn’t drive. She was an active member of the New Hope Presbyterian Church and once poured them a new cement walkway.
Baker was the Honorary Grand Marshal of the Katy FFA Livestock Show and Rodeo Parade in 1999 and an Honorary Chapter Farmer of both the Katy and Taylor High Schools’ Future Farmers of America chapters. She was also a member of the Czech Heritage Society, Katy AARP Chapter, Half Century Club, Life Member of the Barker Heritage Society, and an Associate Member of the Second Marine Division Association National and State chapters.
Lester Reinecker II
Lester Reinecker attended Texas A&M University and graduated in 1970 as a proud Aggie and member of the Corps of Cadets. He began his teaching and coaching career that same year at Katy Junior High under principal Garland McMeans and head football coach Kenneth D. Welch. Over a period of four years, he coached both 7th and 8th grade football, basketball and track in addition to his teaching assignments of Geography and Texas and American History. In the classroom he was an incredible storyteller and made history come to life for his students.
In 1973, he moved to Katy High School where he taught American History and coached football, basketball and track under head football coach Jack Rhoads. That same year, Reinecker became the first head coach for the Katy Tiger baseball team. In the next six years, the Tigers competed successfully, bringing home the first district championship in 1976 and zone championships in 1977 and 1978. When Taylor High School opened in 1979, Garland McMeans appointed Reinecker as head football coach and campus athletic coordinator. Coaching and teaching was his passion. He could tell you how to do it; he could show you how to do it; and, he could motivate his players to believe they could do it!
In his iconic game-day coaching attire of a white Stetson hat, coat, tie and black cowboy dress boots, he embraced the persona of leadership that could both influence and motivate both his players and coaches. His tenure at James E. Taylor High School helped to establish Taylor as a premiere school in the state, a reputation it still enjoys. And, he was proud of the fact that his football teams never lost to the Katy Tigers, the OTHER Katy ISD high school.
Reinecker left coaching in 1983 to accept the position of assistant supervisor under Don Paull, the director of transportation. He assumed the role of assistant director of transportation for Katy ISD under Transportation Director Bill Kyser. Working with these two mentors, Reinecker continued to be a strong leader and confident decision-maker as his knowledge of all aspects of school bus transportation increased. He taught bus driver certification classes, gave regular workshops and took pride in helping others be better and safer drivers. He loved his role as a supervisor because he was able to interact with kids and adults. Reinecker remained in this position until he retired in 2002 with 32 years as a teacher, coach and administrator.
After retirement, his passion for young people and history continued through his involvement with the Cane Island Volunteers, a local Texas history reenactment group where he would visit schools to educate students about history while portraying the historical character, Davy Crockett. Reinecker was also a member of the Katy Elks Lodge and served as an officer for several years. He especially enjoyed helping with the Elks annual hoop shoot competition and awarded Elk scholarships to deserving Katy ISD students. His love of history and the outdoors prompted him to help in the initial organization of the Katy Folk Life Festival, now held each spring at the Kenneth D. Welch Outdoor Learning Center. Reinecker was often invited to speak to various local civic groups to discuss athletic or transportation issues as well as topics in Texas history.
Cynthia “Cyndy” Self was employed by the Katy Independent School District for 27 years. She began her career at the West Transportation Center as a substitute driver. She eventually became a driver and then moved to the East Transportation Center. For a time, she was a driver and then was promoted to the special needs coordinator where she held that roll from 1999 to 2007.
She loved her special needs students and went above and beyond to work with the District and make sure she could exercise the opportunity to make them feel special and loved. One of her greatest accomplishments was when she organized a trip for special needs students to attend the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo World Championship Barbeque Cook-Off where she and her family were part of one of the teams.
What started as a small group of kids and teachers in the eighties, has grown to a yearly tradition with groups from all over the area participating in “Kid’s Friday.” Every activity is accessible to all of the children. The day typically contains a variety of community socialization and instruction and has included music, clowns, lunch, visits from the Houston Texans cheerleaders, and local news stations and entertainers. It now takes multiple cook-off teams to accommodate the number of students who attend this event each year. Self had a vision, started it, coordinated it, and lived and loved it up until the year before her passing. She and her husband, Robert, regularly coordinated a team at the Cook-Off to make the students day as memorable as possible.
Although the special needs students were her pride and joy, she appreciated other groups of students as well. She often volunteered to drive the cosmetology students to Austin for the state board exams and would even participate as a test model for them when needed.
She left a mark not only on the special needs community who entrusted their children to her, but to the countless students and friends in the District who knew and loved her. Self had a talent for organization and was affectionately known as “The General” by those that knew her well. However, she was known even more for her generous spirit and sense of humor. She always had a kind smile and encouraging word for everyone she met. Her dedication to the students that rode her bus routes were the love of her life.