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STPPS Celebrates Black History Month

In celebration of Black History Month, STPPS will profile African-Americans who have made a profound impact on public education in St. Tammany Parish. The 2017 pilot campaign was well-received throughout the STPPS and greater St. Tammany Parish community. STPPS’ 2016 Black History Month social media campaign was awarded honorable mention by the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA).

This year's #STPPSBHM series spotlighted 17 influential African-Americans who changed public education in St. Tammany Parish for the better.

To see more of our #STPPSBHM series, visit us on Twitter and Facebook.

Former and Current STPSB Board Members
Wednesday, February 28
All throughout the month of February, we have profiled extraordinary African-Americans who have made a profound impact in public education here in St. Tammany Parish. On the final day of Black History Month, we recognize the nine leaders whose contributions have helped the St. Tammany Parish School Board flourish over the past 40-plus years.

The nine African-Americans who have served on the St. Tammany Parish School Board include former members Anthony Alfred, Morris Alfred, Ray Alfred, Otis L. Campbell, Judy Palmer, Sorola "Jody" Palmer, and Albert "Smitty" Smith. In addition, two African-American leaders currently serve on our School Board: Willie B. Jeter and Dennis S. Cousin.

Beverly Robertson (1954-2002)
Monday, February 26
While her time with the St. Tammany Parish Public School System was short, Beverly Robertson was a pillar of the Covington High community. She was a beloved teacher and cheerleading advisor at CHS. In addition to her dedication to STPPS and CHS, Robertson was also the site administrator for Southeastern Louisiana University's Covington Campus. She earned her bachelor's degree from Southern University in 1977 and later earned her master's degree from Southeastern Louisiana in 1985.

She relocated to Seattle in 1992 and served as Vice President at Nelson Middle School and Renton High School. She later became the Vice Principal at Gault Middle School in Tacoma, Wash. She was a member of the Association of Washington School Principals.

Rev. Dr. Thomas Smith Sr. (1926-2010)
Thursday, February 22
One of 12 children born in St. Joe, Rev. Dr. Thomas Smith Sr. was a 1945 graduate of the St. Tammany Training School. He often recalled walking 12 miles to school with other black children while watching half-filled school buses drive past them.

After graduating from St. Tammany, he was drafted into the United States Army, serving almost three years in the South Pacific on the island of Luzon between Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He returned to St. Joe in 1947 and began working as a farm hand in the swamps of St. Tammany Parish. He went on to graduate from Xavier University in 1952 with a degree in industrial arts.

He was elected President of the first NAACP St. Tammany Chapter in 1951 and began his teaching career at Chahta-Ima Junior High. His leadership ultimately led to the desegregation of St. Tammany Parish Public Schools in 1965.

Marcil Ducre Sr. (1923-2007)
Monday, February 19
Marcil Ducre's journey began and ended in Lacombe, Louisiana, but his path was a remarkable one. After graduating from St. Tammany High School (now St. Tammany Junior High), he was drafted into the United States Army, serving three years and ultimately achieving the rank of Corporal. He also attended flight school at the famed Tuskegee Institute and later graduated from Leland College with a degree in chemistry. He further his education at Southeastern Louisiana University with a master's plus 48 in chemistry education.

Ducre spent two years in St. James Parish Schools before enjoying a 24-year career with St. Tammany Parish Public Schools. He spent his educational career as a teacher, a coach, a Boy Scout troop leader, and Justice of the Peace for the Seventh Ward in St. Tammany Parish.

Zebedee Richard Conerly (1935-2008)
Thursday, February 15
A native of Bogalusa, Zebedee Richard Conerly began his teaching career at Mayfield High in Homer before embarking on a 30-plus-year career in the St. Tammany Parish Public School System. Conerly taught at the Covington Rosenwald School (1964-65), Pine View High School (1966-70), Covington Junior High (1970-78), and Covington High School.

In addition to his dedication as a teacher, Conerly worked with the JTPA (Job Training Partnership Act) and Salter's Driving Academy, while dedicating many years as a volunteer with the Special Olympics.

Conerly graduated with a bachelor's degree in physical education in 1962 from Grambling State University where he played football for legendary coach Eddie Robinson. He later received his master's degree in education from Southeastern Louisiana in 1986.

Helen Frick (1915-1996)
Monday, February 11
A New Orleans native, Helen Simon Frick spent more than 60 years of her life in Covington. She taught in STPPS elementary schools in both Covington and Abita Springs for 35 years. At the age of 19, she began her teaching career as a second- and third-grade teacher at the Covington Rosenwald School.

Frick played an instrumental role in the creation of a local Head Start program. She was the first president of the board of the Regina Coeli Child Development Center in Covington. She served as board president for 13 years. Prior to the launch of the Head Start Program in 1969, there were no nursery schools for black children in the community.

A true pioneer, Frick became the first black member of the St. Tammany League of Women Voters in 1971. She was a longtime advocate of public housing and was a member of the Covington Housing Authority.

Herbert Anderson Sr. (1928-2017)
Thursday, February 8
While his time in St. Tammany Parish was brief, Herbert Anderson's impact will be felt for generations to come. Born in St. Francisville, Anderson graduated with honors from Southern University with a degree in elementary education in 1955. He later earned a master's degree and a specialist degree in education in 1968. Anderson, who was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army, was instrumental in the desegregation of LSU in 1955 following the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision.

After being wounded by a sniper at LSU, he became a member of the Civil Rights Commission, NAACP, the Boy Scouts, and other civic organizations. He spent time in St. Tammany Parish as a teacher and later as principal of Alton Junior High in Slidell. He provided active leadership in the peaceful desegregation of St. Tammany Parish Public Schools in the 1960s.

Sara Augustus Gaines (1919-1994)
Monday, February 5
A native of the Baton Rouge area, Sara Augustus Gaines started her teaching career in Slidell. She spent her entire life as an educator – much of which in St. Tammany Parish. She received her bachelor’s degree in education from Southern University in Baton Rouge. During the early part of her career, she was among the first black teachers to pilot a program at the University of California at Berkeley.

Gaines was the second principal in the history of the Madisonville Rosenwald School (now the site of Madisonville Elementary) where she served until 1968 when the school closed. After her time at Madisonville Rosenwald, she became the Supervisor of Instruction for St. Tammany Parish Public Schools. She finished her education career as a teacher in Orleans Parish.

Rev. Dr. Joseph H. Cyprian Jr. (1932-2016)
Thursday, February 1
Born in Folsom, Rev. Dr. Joseph H. Cyprian Jr. spent most of his life here in St. Tammany Parish. He began his schooling at the Folsom Rosenwald School before attending high school in nearby Washington Parish. After serving two years in the United States Army, he was honorably discharged in 1955 and he enrolled at Southern University in Baton Rouge. He earned a bachelor’s degree in education and a master’s degree in administration and supervision. As education was always an important part of Dr. Cyprian’s life, he attended Southeastern Louisiana University where he earned his master’s plus-30.

Dr. Cyprian spent 38 years in the St. Tammany Parish Public School System where he taught at Folsom Rosenwald and Folsom Elementary. He later served as principal at Madisonville, Sun, and Folsom Junior High (formerly Folsom Rosenwald). Following his education career, he went into the ministry of the African Methodist Episcopal Church where he spent 37 years of active pastoral service.

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STPPS adheres to the equal opportunity provisions of federal and civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, or disability.

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