TRAILBLAZERS: A documentary of the 1965 desegregation of St. Charles Parish Public Schools premieres

Published 11:18 am Thursday, November 17, 2022

LULING, La. – (November 17, 2022) – St. Charles Parish Public Schools hosted the world premiere of  TRAILBLAZERS, a documentary of the 1965 desegregation of St. Charles Parish Public Schools, for a standing-room only audience on November 16 at the Dr. Rodney R. Lafon Performing Arts Center in Luling. Premiere attendees participated in a meet and greet reception and gallery walk of original documents from 1965 and the following years associated with desegregation prior to the documentary’s showing.

Ulysses Frontha, a former Destrehan High School student and teacher, approached School Board Member Ellis Alexander several years ago with the idea of recognizing the first African-American students who volunteered to attend previously all-white schools in St. Charles Parish, as many local individuals had no idea of the history of African-American students in regards to local education. Alexander requested a school system committee to be formed to develop plans for a celebration, but the celebration was delayed by several years due to Covid and Hurricane Ida. The committee determined a video was needed to be able to tell the stories of these students – a documentary which current and future students and the general public would be able to view and learn from regarding the school system’s past and how it has led the system to where it is today.

In 1965, St. Charles Parish Public Schools became one of the first five school systems in Louisiana to voluntarily begin desegregation through the Freedom of Choice Plan. This plan allowed African-American students to transfer to previously all-white schools within the parish. Approximately 43 students throughout the parish transferred schools in the middle of the 1965-1966 school year, and that number more than doubled to 112 students in the following school year.

Dr. Ken Oertling, superintendent of St. Charles Parish Public Schools, addressed the guests in attendance thanking them for their contributions. “These former students of St. Charles Parish Public Schools were certainly trailblazers who paved a path to our current school system’s success and mission,” said Oertling. “As a school system, we prioritize equity and inclusion of all students regardless of factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status, physical and cognitive abilities, cultural ideologies, or any other factors that marginalize individuals. As these trailblazers demonstrated many years ago, every student is entitled to equitable educational opportunities so each is prepared to be successful in whatever occupation or life they choose.”

The documentary is available for viewing at https://youtu.be/xKausU63AwU, and current and future students will have access to archived, full-length versions of each interview from the documentary.

About St. Charles Parish Public Schools:

The mission of St. Charles Parish Public Schools is to develop empathetic, involved, productive, and responsible citizens by providing every student high-quality educational opportunities that empower each to become enthusiastic life-long learners. For more information, visit www.stcharles.k12.la.us.