80 Years Later, a Unique Gift for Smouse Opportunity School

Before Dr. David Smouse, founder and namesake of the David W. Smouse Opportunity School, died in 1932 he was looking to the future and how he could continue to support the school. Eighty years later, thanks to a gift in his will of gas and oil rights on a piece of land he owned in Texas, Smouse school is receiving a payment of nearly $1.2 million followed by monthly royalty payments.

“Dr. Smouse was a visionary in so many different ways, including helping to create a school to meet the educational needs of students with physical disabilities,” said Leslie Timmerman, principal of Smouse Opportunity School. “This gift will enable us to do so many things for our students and their school, from improving accessibility throughout the building to making assistive technology more readily available. It is simply amazing that, more than 80 years after we opened our doors, Dr. Smouse continues to contribute to our school and this community.”

In Dr. Smouse’s will, he left to the school district a 1/16th interest in the net proceeds of gas and oil produced on land he owned in Texas. His will indicates the money is to be used for the “maintenance, upkeep and/or expansion” of Smouse school. The Smouse School Based Council – comprised of staff, parents and community partners of the school – will work with school and district administrators to provide advice, ideas and feedback on needs at the school which could be addressed with these funds.

“Smouse Opportunity School plays such an important role in the lives and education of students from throughout the Des Moines metro, it is exciting to see them benefit from such a unique gift,” added interim superintendent Tom Ahart. “On behalf of Des Moines Public Schools, I want to give our deepest thanks to Mark Robeck of the Baker Botts law firm, whose pro bono work on behalf of the district helped us realize this gift. Our thanks also goes out to Choice Exploration, Inc. for their work and professionalism in ensuring that the benefits from this bequest were directed to Smouse school.”

Smouse Opportunity School will receive an initial payment in the amount of $1,176,052 as the result of production established by Choice Exploration, Inc. at two drilling units located in Liberty County, TX. For the past few years, wells drilled by Choice in the Kent/Spradley Unit have been producing oil and gas for which the school district will receive $771,536. The second tract, known as the Choice Exploration, Inc. Willis Ranch Unit, began producing gas and oil late last year, resulting in $404,516 for the school district.

In addition to this initial payment, Smouse school will benefit from monthly royalty checks for production on each of the units.

The David W. Smouse Opportunity School opened its doors on March 5, 1931, and was a school unique for its time. Students with physical disabilities found a school with a range of facilities and equipment adaptable to their individual needs, including a resting room, hydrotherapy tank, sun and infrared lamps, tilted blackboards to prevent glare for the visually impaired, and rooms designed to carry vibrations for hearing impaired students.

The school also was built with many interesting architectural features, including three courtyards, a fountain, a rooftop playground, working fireplaces, as well as many artistic works, including paintings and prints, ceramic tiles, and wrought iron fixtures.

Smouse Opportunity School is located at 2820 Center Street in Des Moines.