Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Former New Orleans Schools Superintendent Visits UNO, Reviews School Board Collection


Carl Dolce, who served as superintendent of the New Orleans Public Schools from 1965-69, visited the University of New Orleans Earl K. Long Library this week, to get his first look at Orleans Parish School Board Collection, which documents more than 170 years of public education in New Orleans. Dolce, now living in Raleigh, NC, also sat down for an oral history interview with historian and adjunct faculty member Al Kennedy who plans to add the interview to the library's collection.

Dolce, who oversaw the school system during a difficult period of integration, called his job as superintendent both "exciting and demanding." He also provided leadership during Hurricane Betsy, a teacher strike and a hotly debated sales tax increase to support public schools. Dolce is a New Orleans native who earned a doctorate from Harvard University and served on the faculty at Harvard before he was hired as superintendent. He had previously worked as a junior high principal for a New Orleans public school and was granted a 2-year leave of absence to enroll at Harvard. "I felt I owed the school system a debt of gratitude," Dolce said.

During his interview with Kennedy, Dolce recalled his upbringing as well as the complicated and polarized racial climate that existed in New Orleans during his tenure as superintendent. Dolce proudly recounted that the school system's first black assistant superintendent, Henry Williams, was appointed on his watch. Dolce also remembered how he and his wife, Nancy, were harassed because of his support for student and faculty integration in public schools.

"I'm glad I did it, and I'm glad I left," Dolce said of holding the top leadership position in New Orleans public schools.

Dolce was enthralled by the documents that he reviewed as part of the Orleans Parish School Board Collection at the University of New Orleans. The collection exceeds 1,600 linear feet—more than the length of five football fields. It includes minutes of the meetings of the earliest forerunners of the Orleans Parish School Board, beginning in 1841. The collection also features rare photographs of students, teachers and school buildings from the late 19th century, curriculum guides that span more than a century and an oral history collection with interviews of former teachers, superintendents and school board members. Dolce has also donated several boxes of his own documents to the collection.

The collection was initiated in 1982 by former New Orleans Public School staff member Al Kennedy, in cooperation with the UNO History Department and the Earl K. Long Library's Special Collections staff.

 

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