Public Education

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20th Century Public School Superintendents of St. Charles Parish

T. B. Sellers, 1896 – 1912
J. B. Martin, 1913 – 1944
A. A. Songy, 1944 – 1945 (Acting)
R. J. Vial, Jr., 1945 – 1973
Bruce Meeks, 1973
Robert C. Rice, 1973 – 1983
Stanley P. Berard, 1984 – 1989
Thomas S. Tocco, 1989 – July 1994
Irvon J. Gomez, July 1994 – April 1995 (Interim)
Rodney R. Lafon, April 1995 – 2013
Felecia Gomez-Walker 2013 – 2019
Ken Oertling 2019 –
Mexican Petroleum Company School
Mexican Petroleum Company School students pictured in 1917.
Destrehan High School
Destrehan High School opened in 1924.

With the arrival of the petroleum industry in the early 1900s, a major shift took place in the public school district. These major industries would not only begin to provide tax revenues which would help to bolster public education, but would also promote better schooling for their employees’ children. Because of their keen awareness of the importance of education, schools were established on some of the industry sites. Mexican Petroleum in Destrehan demonstrated its commitment to the school system, specifically higher education, by donating three and one half acres of its property to the school board for the construction of a high school. On August 7, 1923, the school board president accepted the donation and also authorized the purchase of Keller property for the construction of a west bank high school in Hahnville. Mexican Petroleum was recognized by the school board for their support of the bond issues, which financed the construction. This was an early example of industry/school cooperative efforts, which would exist throughout the years that followed. In 1923, the superintendent was authorized to open a Negro school at Shell Mound as a direct result of a petition by the African American residents of the area. Destrehan High School was dedicated on September 15, 1924, and Hahnville High School on the west bank was dedicated the same year.

Destrehan High School Teacherage
The Teacherage at Destrehan High School in 1924 provided a place for unmarried educators to live. Similar housing was available at Hahnville High School. Housing was also available on the campus for the principals and their families.
Hahnville High School
The Hahnville High School in 1924. The parish courthouse is in the background.

Soon after their openings, the two schools were lauded for their accomplishments in a front-page photographic layout in the Times Picayune rotogravure supplement. Opening of the two high schools in 1924 dramatically changed the way white students would be schooled in the parish. Before this time, students had to seek higher education at other venues such as Leon Godchaux High School in Reserve. This was supplemented by funds provided by St. Charles Parish. Some went to live with relatives or attended schools in the city or surrounding parishes. Secondary public educational opportunities for African American students continued to be meager.

Hahnville High School 11th Grade
The Hahnville High School 11th grade graduating class in 1929.
DHS Faculty
DHS Faculty. (Source: The Refinery, the Destrehan High School yearbook, 1927)
1927 School Transfers
The 1927 school “transfers” are lined up and ready to roll. (Photos courtesy of Patrick Yoes)
Bayou Gauche School Boat
The Bayou Gauche school boat owned by Willie E. Dufrene. (Photo courtesy of Opal Dufrene)
Montz\'s Grammar School
Montz’s Grammar School in 1927. (Source: The Refinery, the Destrehan High School yearbook, 1927)
St. Rose School
St. Rose School. (Source: The Refinery, the Destrehan High School Yearbook, 1927)

This text is copyright © material by Marilyn Richoux, Joan Becnel and Suzanne Friloux, from St. Charles Parish, Louisiana: A Pictorial History, 2010.

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