Lasting Legacy

Longtime Teacher and Principal Dolores Whitley Inspires New Elementary School Name

Dolores Whitley, known as Dee, has touched the lives of so many children in Bakersfield. Her caring and gentle manner has nurtured children for 46 years. She says she knew she wanted to be a teacher since she was a little girl. She admired her own teachers as she was growing up in Berkley, and she loved school.

After graduating from Berkley, she and her husband, Jim, spent a year and a half in France during Jim’s Army deployment. They moved to Bakersfield in 1969. Jim had completed his Ph.D. and was offered a position at CSUB. Dee enrolled in a Master’s program in reading and language arts. She taught graduate studies at CSUB for a while. Then Dee started teaching fourth grade and was called upon to serve as principal at Wayne Van Horn Elementary School. In 1991, she was asked to open Christa McAuliffe Elementary. Dee later became the first sitting board member at Panama-Buena Vista Schools. 

After a long and distinguished career, the district unanimously voted to name the new elementary school after the beloved educator. The Dolores S. Whitley Elementary School will open for the new school year this month with approximately 850 students. The new school was designed by Ordiz-Melby Architects. Some of the modules that comprise the buildings were constructed off-site and transported to the McKee Road location. The campus features a central courtyard, playgrounds and athletic fields on almost 15 acres. The school mascot will be a bear, a tribute to Dee alma mater, UC Berkley. A mural by Nancy Putney in the multi-purpose building also features a bear. Lisa Beasley is principal. A grand opening and dedication ceremony is scheduled for Sept. 28.

Thank you, Dee, for your commitment, talent and a lifetime of caring.