When Students Ran the School (1927-1928)

It might be hard to imagine a high school being run without a secretary, librarian, treasurer and cafeteria workers, but such was the case at McDonogh #35 in New Orleans in 1927. Due to a lack of funding and interest by school board members to educate students of color, the school’s faculty began to train students to fulfill these roles. Below are examples of how this worked and how, as a result, students were being prepared to become responsible adults.

[ The Office Force ]

Students in the 1920s took on the various jobs of what school secretaries are responsible for doing today. They answered the telephone, communicated important messages to the teachers, compiled statistics, and met visitors in the principal’s absence. These students were picked and trained by the principal himself and had to be friendly, industrious and responsible in order to become a member of the office force.

 Dorothy Gardner/ Dilcy Garrett/ Gladys Johnson/ Naomi Johnson/ Josephine Lavizzo/ Frances Lawless/ Louise Metoyer/ Annabel Nash/ Ernestine Richardson/ George Stevens/ Myrtle Watts

[ The Boys’ Decorum Club ]

The Boys’ Decorum Committee consisted of a group of young men whose job was to make sure that male students maintained good behavior, manners and cleanliness throughout the school day. The young men shown below assisted on one of the following committees. The “Clean-Up Committee” inspected the basement for cleanliness and behavior of male students each morning. The “Supervising Committee” inspected the cleanliness of the various classrooms every afternoon. The “Basement Committee” supervised the lines at the end of the noon recess. Once a week each group leader met with his committee members to discuss and seek solutions to ethical problems which may have arisen during that period.


   Louis Andre/ Felix Barre/ Bluitte Beaudoin/ Leo Dejan/ Oliver Gardner/ Emmanuel Gregoire/ Romeo Garrett/ Albert Jones/ Willie Landry/ Wilfred Leblanc/ George McKenna/ Robert Mc Kinney/ Earl Morgan/ Alfred Pinkney/ Maurice Prevost/ Oscar Robertson/ Joseph Smith/ George Stevens/ Lionel Trouillier/ Amos Woodard

The Librarians ]

 Can you imagine operating a high school without a librarian? In the 1927-28 school session there was no librarian, but this did not stop the library from being opened all day and every day of the school year. The library was run by selected students who would report on duty whenever they had study periods. Those chosen for this job had to be conscientious, courteous, and always willing to assist their fellow students with research assignments. Meetings of student librarians were held every Monday wherein instructions and training were given by faculty members, problems were discussed, and plans were formulated for the purchase of new books allocated that year from the $500.00 budget.


  Valeria Barnes/ Bernice Brown/ Mirian Carter/ Nellie Clause/ Marguerite Cottrell/ Modesta Curry/ Ethel Davis/ Marie Deslonde/ Lillian Douglas/ Louise Duminie/ Eugenia Duvernay/ Evelyn Ellis/ Marguerite Farrar/ Vanna Fisher/ Gladys Green/ Genevia Hill/ Lilian Hughes/ Charlotte Jackson/ Mathilde Jasmine/ Ruth Johnson/ Mary King/ Gertrude Lewis/ Anna Mazique/ Helen McConduit/ Hazel Mitchell/ Emily Moody/ Philionese Narbor/ Evelyn Nash/ Celia Nash/ Claudia Pairs/ Clara Poindexter/ Marjorie Reeves, Thelma Robinson/ Arthell Robertson/ Izetta Smith/ Katherine Statesman/ Auroria Synigal/ Weenonie Thompson/ Harriet Ursin/ Fledia Washington/ Laura Webster/ Vera White

The Treasury Force ]

 Since McDonogh #35 was on a strict budget with very few personnel in the 1927-28 school year, the principal had to turn to responsible, trustworthy and intelligent young men to handle all the school’s finances. The five young men shown below were given that task. They carried money to and from banks and kept accurate accounts of all the funds. In general, they had to make sure that the sum of money in the School Treasury agreed with the records. They were under the supervision of Mr. Charles Rousseve and were known to be well respected by all their peers.


  Bluitte Beaudoin/ Leo Dejan/ Albert Jones/ Robert McKinney/ George Stevens

The Sales Force ]

 The Sales Force consisted of both girls and boys who were divided into three groups. Each member took on the job of being either a “lunch seller”, “soft drink salesman”, or “cake salesman”.

At noon there was a general rush for lunch, so only committee members who were competent to manage such a mob would sign up for this position. In the meantime, the “soft drink sellers” were supplying an overwhelming crowd with soft drinks. An average of 60 to 70 bottles were sold daily along with 50 to 60 bottles of milk. If you worked on this committee you had to make sure that drinks were always ice cold so that students would not complain. At the same time, in another section of the basement, the “cake salesmen” sold delicious cakes which brought in about $5.00 daily. In appreciation for all their hard work, these young salesmen were provided with delicious lunches and a bottle of soft drink.


   Mercedes Greene/ Emmanuel Gregoire/ Aurora Jefferson/ Mamie Lesseps/ Maurice Prevost/ Marjorie Reeves/ Olisca Roux/ Elizabeth Schofield/ George Stevens/ Alma Williams

The Hi Smile Staff ]

 1927 was a very important year because it was a first attempt by the student body to publish a school yearbook. All printing was done in the school’s building by pupils themselves since carpentry was replaced by a printing lab that year.

The student body chose the General Staff as well as the class editors and news reporters. All editors were required to have excellent English grade averages, as well as excellent writing skills. An individual student was chosen to fill each of the following posts: Editor-in-chief, assistant editor, business and assistant business manager. There also was an advertising and circulation manager and someone to report on school dramatics, arts, sports and social activities.


  Marie Deslonde/ Myrtle Watts/ George Stevens/ Emmanuel Gregoire/ Felix Barre/ Albert Jones/ Miriam Carter/ Mercedes Barre/ Louis Metoyer/ Lillie Mae Dyer/ Veronica Toca/ Malcolm Barrios/Mathilde Jasmine/ Ivory Miller/ Robert McKinney/ Roger Sears/ Beulah Brown

[ The Cooking Room ]

Many dishes here are brewed, within this room so spick and span. Everything’s in place when viewed; each knife, each fork, each pot, each pan. “


Source : The Roneagle 1928 Yearbook in Charles B. Rousseve’s Papers, Xavier University of Louisiana Archives. For more information on this yearbook read the article dated 25 May 2017.


Lolita Villavasso Cherrie

11 thoughts on “When Students Ran the School (1927-1928)

  1. Thanks for sharing. I have a original copy of the 1928 Yearbook. It belonged to my husband’s aunt Lillian Blouin. She appears in this book on page 62.

  2. Ms Cherrie, et.al., Please continue your wonderful research. This brings back memories of my parents and other relatives reminiscing about their days at Mc #35. It also answered some questions I had.

  3. Thanks for this interesting article….I thoroughly enjoy reading about the history of New Orleans, my hometown, and am grateful to all of the people that took the time to record it throughout the years. I absolutely appreciate Lolita Cherrie and the staff that work so hard at researching and making it all available to everyone. I get really excited when I come across a familiar family name. I look at it as a part of “continuing my education through the CreoleGen articles”…. Patricia Braud Bishop

  4. Thanks for the article. Both my grandmother Evelyn Nash and great aunt Annabel Nash are identified in the article. I would like to see a copy of the yearbook. Is it available?

    • Greta, The only facility (that I am aware of) where the 1927-28 yearbook can be found is Xavier University’s Archives (as listed at the end of my article) and the library at McDonogh #35 High School….Lolita

  5. Thanks for the memories of Mc#35. My father Leo Dejan was in the Decorum Club (misspelled Leo Bejan) He was also a Treasurer. Name correct.

  6. Thank you again for a great story. Seeing those students with their assignments made me very proud! These folks were wonderful role models. A good discussion in today’s classroom might be how current students could help run a school.

  7. What an uplifting memory! Thank you for reminding us of the days when we readily rose above adversity. This article should be distributed to every principal so s/he can inspire faculty and students to work towards excellence.

    May you and your loved ones enjoy a peace-filled and joy-filled Holy Season and New Year.

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