St. Tammany Parish Training School for Negroes: St. Tammany High School
The City of Slidell was incorporated in 1882 and named after John Slidell, confederate emissary to England. There were no provisions made for educating the black children of Slidell until the early 1900’s. From 1900 to 1915 black children were educated in small one-room buildings with little or no governing school board. In Starling, LA, which we know as the Indian Village, children went to school three months a year. The other nine months were spent helping and working in the fields.
A generous white land owner whose Sir Name was Rosenwald, donated money to have a colored building built in the city of Slidell. Interest in educating the black children in Slidell, by the Parish School Board began in the early 1920’s. As stated in the minutes of the School Board meeting on May 9, 1920, “The colored people in the Slidell neighborhood are showing a great deal of interest in the matter of improving their school. It is their desire that a parish training school shall be established at or near Slidell to accommodate all of the children living in or near that town. Under the leadership of E. W. Sorrell, Jr. the principal of the Slidell Colored School, school rally was held recently at which time $700.00 was pledged for the purpose of assisting the Parish School Board in the remodeling of the Slidell colored school house, or, if thought wise, the building of a new house on any site that your board might decide upon. I feel that we cannot encourage this interest shown, by making private donations; however, they would be appreciated by us. I would urge that you consider the matter of colored schoolhouses when making out your budget for another year. Similar, but much less, interest is being shown by the colored people of Covington and any encouragement that you may be able to give them will also help in the feeling of this parish with comfortable school houses for colored children. I would not drop this subject until acknowledging the receipt of $20.00 raised for building purposes by patrons of the White Settlement School.”
In the month of August 1921, the St. Tammany Parish Training School for Negroes was in the process of being built. According to the minutes of the School Board’s meeting on July 8, 1921, there were many debates on the cost, and on the curriculum of the new school. “The Parish Training School for Negroes, to be built at Slidell, is now under process of construction. The contract price was $7,300.00 and you will remember that appropriated $2,500.00 toward this purpose. I have been informed by the State Agent of Negro Schools, that we will probably be able to give assistance to the amount of $375.00 toward equipment for industrial work. You may get perhaps a correct idea of the kind of work we expect to do at this school if I should liken it to a junior school with all of the Latin and Sciences thrown out and in the place of these put industrial work. The pupils in the high grades will be required to spend half of their time in manual training or work of an industrial nature.” In August of 1921 the St. Tammany Parish Training School was built. The wooden frame structured school, accommodated kindergarten, elementary, junior high and high school. Classes on the ground floor were for older students while the younger children had classes upstairs. The school was under the leadership of E. W. Sorrell. Some of the early teachers at the school were Mrs. T. B. Dixon, Mr. Jack Armstrong, Miss Augustine LaGarde, Miss Barnes, Miss Barnette, Mr. Richard Lawrence and Miss Juliette Benton. In the mid 1930’s, Mr. J. S. Hayes took over as principal of the school. The school was also destroyed by fire, caused by a wood-burning stove that was used to provide heat in the school. A new brick building was soon completed in the same location.
In the late 1930’s a new principal, Mr. Nicholas Harrison took over. He remained principal until the early 1940’s, when Mr. Walter J. King took over leadership. The use of free books was furnished to the students by the School Board. However, these books were used books that were passed down from the white schools in the area. In 1943, Mr. Robert C. Brooks became principal of St. Tammany Training School. Enrollment had always been considerably low, because of lack of transportation. Children walked back and forth to school for a while and some finally gave up and quit. Eventually, there was free school bus transportation from the Village. The bus was driven by Mr. J. D. Burkhalter and later by his wife, Mrs. Laura Burkhalter. Mr. Clarence Route began driving his bus, “The White Cloud”, bringing high school students from Madisonville, Covington, Abita Springs, Folsom, Mandeville and Lacombe. There were only grammar or elementary schools in those areas. School bus transportation caused the campus to be filled with students and the faculty greatly increased. Soon there was school bus transportation available all over the parish. By this time, St. Tammany Parish Training School was almost at an end. Also, requirements for graduation had changed from eleven years to twelve years. Mr. Brooks remained principal for the next thirty-three years. Under his guidance, school enrollment increased, and many other programs were added to the school. In the early 1950’s, the school’s athletic program began to flourish. The first yearbook was published in 1950. At that time, the school was still called St. Tammany Parish Training School. In 1952, the school changed its name to St. Tammany High School and additional buildings were added, including the school’s first gymnasium. In 1966 the federal government ordered the desegregation of all schools, thus caused the St. Tammany Parish School Board to integrate all public schools. This course of action took three years to occur. The last graduating class of St. Tammany High School was 1969. The school was then changed into what is now known as St. Tammany Jr., High School.