Westside High School, Lillie, LA

             Westside High School History

                                                               (Lillie, Louisiana)

Two things help determine our history at Westside. One is our heritage from the past. It consists of the vigor and ability which we got from our ancestors and the stock of knowledge which has been handed on to us. The other is made up of the opportunities which have come our way.

Our history does not begin in Westside High School. We owe a heavy debt to the people in the various communities who pioneered the way.

As early as 1872, a few citizens saw the necessity of educating their boys and girls. The first school for Negroes to be taught by a Negro teacher was then established. Prior to this time Negro boys and girls had been taught by white teachers. The school plant was the Hopewell Baptist Church located on the Dick Moore Plantation near Bernice.

The teacher’s salary for the three months was paid by the patrons. Following this session, a log cabin was built which served as the school plant for several years. The first teacher was Mr. Charles Cobbs followed by A.B. Allison, C. Hull, L.G. Davis, Mr. Ware, Mr. S.S. Gray, Mr. Cornelius Hull, Rev. A. Henry, and Miss Ida Smith.

In the year of 1897, a one teacher school was established in the county line community and named Countyline School. The first teacher was Miss Carrie Marie. The first trustees were Mr. Sam Furlough, Mr. General Washington, Mr. John Gatson, and Mr. Luke Gatson. There have been a host of teachers since that time; namely, Mrs. Lizzie Harper, Mr. Dave Julks, Mr. Henry Ellis, Miss Emma Wilson, Mr.  Chatman, Dr. Carter, Mr. Horace Ranels, Miss Cora Gray, Miss Lillian Jones and Mr. Eddie Lyles.

After the town of Bernice was founded, the Hopewell School moved to town near the present site of the New Hopewell Baptist Church in 1901. Mr. Ben Lewis was the first teacher of this school. Others were Mrs. Angeline Rodgers Reed, Rev. James Crawsley, Mr. Harris Hamilton, Mrs. Julie Porter, Mr. A. Leatherman, Mrs. Mary Jane Barnett, Mr. Willie Thompson, Mr. Ruffin Elder, Mr. R.H. Myles, Mr. J. M. Bonner, Mr. Caldfield, Mr. Phillips and Mr. Games.

In 1914, the school session was changed from three months in summer to five months in winter at Countyline. The teachers were as follows: Miss Lucy Payne, Miss Ora Z. Williams, Miss Emily Wimsley, Miss Pinkie James, Mr. John Ross, and Mr. Jessie Ross.

Prior to 1922, the school at Bernice operated ungraded. Rev A.L. Schley of Dallas, Texas should be given credit for the grading of the school.

In 1927 a Vocational Agricultural and a Junior High School Department were added at the Bernice School. Mr. R.J. Daniel who was then principal, became the first agriculture teacher. The school session was then extended to eight months.

The session at the Countyline School was extended to seven months in 1930. It also became a two-teacher school that year. The teachers were as follows: Miss Mora Armstrong, Miss Hattie Mayfield, Mrs. Vester L. Payne, Mrs. Addie Payne and Mr. Algie Payne.

In 1938 the Bernice School became a Senior High School with a faculty of nine. There were eleven members of the first graduating class. In the course of its history, the name of the school was changed five times. They were as follows: Hopewell school, Bernice Public School, Bernice Agricultural School, Bernice Colored High and Elliot High School.

In 1949, Newton Quarter’s Elementary School was consolidated with Countyline. Mr. Lorenza Burch became principal. Antioch and Center Branch Schools were consolidated in 1950. Mr. Edward Burch served as principal for two years.

That same year, 1950 Mr. R.W. Rhodes saw the need for a high school for Negroes in the Spearsville area. He made an urgent appeal for such to the school board which brought results. After the land had been purchased from Mr. and Mrs. Bell Douglas and the buildings moved, there was the question of getting a principal with enough foresight to operate the school to meet the needs of the various communities. With the help of the parents, Mr. Rhode was able to persuade Mr. H.D.C. Douglas to come from Tuskegee Institute to become principal.

On September 5, 1950, the Douglas High School opened with an enrollment of 450 students and 17 faculty members. The following elementary schools were consolidated: Clark, Mt. Moriah, Sweet Union, Spearsville, Farrar Grove and Pleasant Hill.

Evidence of advancement and growth are to be found in the histories of all of the schools. The teaching staff improved rapidly, public opinion was generous in its support, and there were many outstanding developments and accomplishments in all fields of participation.

As the role of education expanded to meet the demands of living in a world of constant change, the Union Parish School Board had a vision.

And so that which began as many small one and two teacher schools scattered here and there in the western area of Union Parish became a consolidated high school in the fall of 1957 and known as Westside High School. It comprises 70 wooded acres with 6 buildings.

With a worldly and national perspective, Westside hopes to give to its students the opportunities for education and growth unsurpassed in Union Parish.

The parents and patrons are a group of hard working, church going, and progressive people. Most of the fathers are common workers deriving their living from the pine trees, farming, and other similar occupations of this northernmost parish which adjoins Union County, Arkansas.

We realized early in 1957, the first year of Westside, that we had a great need for helping our students adjust to a consolidated school which offered a curriculum with many different subjects which they had not been accustomed to.

Our faculty group early in the second year moved out in the direction of doing something about guidance in the Westside High School as follows: (1) A committee was selected, (2) Time for homeroom meetings increased, (3) Books and materials on guidance were purchased, (4) It was indicated on the annual report “that our study was the improvement of Guidance Practices in our school”, and (5) Information on this project, related materials about it and progress being made were given out in workshops, through the mail, in meetings and in many other ways.

During the session 1958-59, the faculty of Westside High School, under the leadership of Mr. Clyde L. Oliver (principal), carried on the program found in the Evaluative Criteria of the Cooperative Study of Secondary School Standards.

In April of 1959, a visiting committee visited our school. The committee felt that our committee on Guidance services should take another step in improving these services by creating an awareness on the part of the faculty to set up all possible means of guidance services within the present school set up.

During the school sessions 1959-1961, the school progressed rapidly as a result of recommendations made by the visiting committee through findings of faculty study groups and extended efforts on the part of the administration and faculty.

Our school gained state-wide recognition through L.I.A.L.O. participation. At the end of the 1960-61 session, we were awarded the I.W. Fisher Trophy for having accumulated the highest number of points in state-wide competition.

Two members of our school faculty were invited to attend a workshop at Southern University during the summer of 1961. The workshop was concerned with improving motivation and achievement of pupils in the schools of Louisiana. Each school had to select and plan a project or faculty study designed to raise the motivation and achievement of pupils in their particular school. The project we selected dealt with guidance Services and plans were made to put the project into effect during the 1961-62 session.

Having selected “Improving and Achieving Motivation Through a Program of Guidance Services”, our school proceeded to develop this project. The study was carried on for a period of two years. The goals set forth were to enable the school to identify needs, to assist pupils to make choices, interpretations and adjustments in line with their needs, interests, abilities, and possibilities.

The following techniques were used to acquire needed information about pupils in our school: (1) Program check list in the form of questionnaires, (2) Home visitations, (3) Assembly programs and (4) Exhibits, demonstrations and audio-visual aids.

In this study, we received services from Mrs. Alice Brown Smith, our consultant from Grambling College, and other school agencies.

A report on our project was presented at the Principal’s Workshop at Dillard University in New Orleans in April of 1962

The school sponsored its first Career Day during the 1961-62 session as a special feature by our Guidance Committee.

The effectiveness of their program is shown through the high academic achievements of our students, better school and community coordination and our graduating students making better individual decisions when choosing a vocation.

During the school year 1963-64, our faculty made a study on school dropouts. As a result of this study, we attempted to remedy some of the causes of dropouts among our students.

Our principal, Mr. C.L. Oliver, made a report at the Principal’s Workshop at Southern University on this study and received numerous congratulatory comments on our having such a study.

One of the most outstanding highlights of this year was the “Willis Reed Day” sponsored by our school and community. Willis was a 1960 graduate of our school and had attained international recognition while a student through Bernice’s business district and a banquet held at the school’s cafeteria where Willis was awarded numerous gifts.

During the 1964-65 school session, our school was represented at the National Meeting of Colleges and Secondary Schools.

In an attempt to further improve the cultural status of our students, we became affiliated with the School’s Assembly Programs. This group brings into our school a variety of educational and inspirational programs periodically.