History of the Normal School at McDonogh # 35 and Valena C. Jones (1923-1939)

McDonogh # 35  High & Normal School

In order to teach in a New Orleans public school before 1940, one had to obtain a normal school certificate. This generally required two years of teacher training after receiving a high school degree.

Though the term sounds anything but ‘normal’ to modern ears, “normal schools” were once important institutions in communities throughout Europe and the U. S. Normal schools were so-called because they taught “norms” for teacher training and were often attached to primary schools which served as model laboratories for instructing children.

Professor John Wesley Hoffman

Professor John Wesley Hoffman

Lucien Victor Alexis, Sr.

Lucien Victor Alexis, Sr.

The first normal school established in the New Orleans Public School system for people of color opened in September 1923 and was housed at McDonogh # 35 High School on Girod and South Rampart streets. Ever since McDonogh opened in 1917 (six years earlier), Professor John Wesley Hoffman, the principal, had wished for such a school.

Maxwell and Neale (1939)

Ida E. Maxwell & Bruce C. Neale

Under Professor Hoffman’s leadership, the first faculty in 1923 consisted of: Mr. Samuel S. Taylor, Mr. Harbart T. Tatum and Miss Ida Maxwell. Later, Mr. George H. Carpenter, was added to the faculty.

Carpenter and Fobb.jpg #2

George H. Carpenter & Fredrica Fobb

In 1926, upon the death of Mr. Hoffman, Mr. Lucien V. Alexis became principal. At about this same time, Miss Oralee M. Baranco joined the staff followed by Charles B. Rousseve in 1927.

Blanchet and Baranco

Louis A. G. Blanchet & Oralee M. Baranco

Other teachers were Mrs. Cecelia Thomas, Mr. Bruce C. Neale, Mr. Louis A. G. Blanchet, and Mr. E. Belfield Spriggins.

Spriggins, Belfield E.

E. Belfield Spriggins

Teachers of domestic science, domestic art, and manual training were, respectively, Miss Emma Williams, Miss Frederica Fobb, and Mr. Varice Henry.

Rousseve, Charles B. (1939).jpg #2

Charles B. Rousseve

All of the students who graduated from the high school in June 1923 were invited to enter the newly established McDonogh # 35 Normal School. Fifty- seven students ultimately enrolled, of which there were three men and fifty-four women. After the duration of the normal course, which was usually two years, they graduated in 1925.

Williams and Thomas

Emma M. Williams & Cecilia W. Thomas

By 1926, the admission of students selectively based upon averages was begun. This drastically affected the number of students enrolled. Hence, we find a class of twenty-seven, including one young man. All received appointments to teach in New Orleans public elementary schools. The class of 1927 numbered twenty-five, again, with only one young male in attendance.

Henry, Varice

Varice S. Henry

Before 1930, all of the students were selected exclusively from among graduates of McDonogh # 35 High School. It was decided that the opportunity for teacher training should no longer be withheld from the graduates of other local high schools, thus in 1930, students from Gilbert Academy, St. Mary’s Academy, Xavier Prep, and the Preparatory Department of Straight University were permitted to enter.


Valena C. Jones Normal & Practical School

Williams, Fannie C. (1939)

Fannie C. Williams

By 1931 the normal school was attached to Valena C. Jones Elementary. Miss Fannie C. Williams, the principal of Jones School, became the head of the normal school as well. Relocating the normal school to the spacious and newly-built Jones School provided the students taking the normal course with an elementary school environment where they could undergo practical instruction. The instructors on the staff were: Miss Pearl C. Tasker, Mr. Charles B. Rousseve, and Miss Oralee M. Baranco. Mrs. Anna Mae Berhel Rhodes and Miss Estelle V. Baranco were added also.

Tasker, Pearl C.

Pearl C. Tasker

In 1932, college graduates were permitted to enter the normal school for the first time. Many had finished college in various fields but were unable to find jobs in Jim Crow New Orleans. As a result of Jim Crow and the Depression, many college graduates realized they would have to turn to the field of teaching. It was then that more young men became interested, and the ratio of men to women was greatly improved.

Hutton and Rhodes

Lucille Hutton & Anna Mae Berhel Rhodes

The final class from the Valena C. Jones Normal School was graduated in 1939. The school was closed due to an act passed by the state legislature which mandated that a bachelor’s degree was necessary to obtain a teaching certificate after September 1940.

[For further information on Valena C. Jones Normal School with a photo of the graduates of the class of 1937, please read “Preparing to Become Teachers”  here on CreoleGen.org dated July 19, 2013.]

Sources: The Moving Finger Vol.5, published by: The Senior Normal Class of Valena C. Jones Normal & Practice School of N.O. Public School (1939), Moret Press;  The Roneagle Yearbook 1931 &1932, published by students of McDonogh No. 35 High School; The Louisiana Weekly, 4 September 1926, page 1; The Times-Picayune, 13 November 1931, page 32.

Lolita V. Cherrie

4 thoughts on “History of the Normal School at McDonogh # 35 and Valena C. Jones (1923-1939)

    • Hi Rodney, We have quite a bit of information on McDonogh 35. Just go to the search engine on our main page and enter “McDonogh 35”. All articles with references to your school will pop up.

  1. Your articles are always trips down memory lane for me. It was great seeing a picture of a young Oralee Mitchell. I traced her career through Dillard University as the first female Dean of Students. She was one of my favorite people.

    Also great to see the names of my youth go by – Fannie Williams, who was responsible for my going to Central Congregational Church. With a grandmother who was AME at St. James and a grandfather who was Episcopalian at St. Luke’s she removed me from the tension. And so many more.

  2. Trying to get in touch with someone concerning the 1931 Roneagle year book. My sister and I have the year book and it’s in very good condition.

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