St. Charles Herald-Guide

Learning in the shadow of a great man

By Michael Luke - April 5, 2006

At the grand opening of the parish's new middle school facility, R.K. Smith, the man for whom the building is named for was the centerpiece, celebrating the legacy of a tireless educator, Roland K. Smith.

Family members and relatives of R.K Smith from all around the country gathered to celebrate the unveiling of the new school. Smith's daughter Carolyn Boyd spoke to a crowd of parish dignitaries: "I can see my father smiling down on us. He isn't smiling because the school is being dedicated in his name. Rather, he is smiling because he sees the state-of-the-art facility and the educational opportunities for those attending this school."

Director of Public Information Rochelle Cancienne said that when school officials were deciding whom to name the building after, R.K. Smith was the logical choice.

Born in 1915 and growing up in of time of racial discrimination and segregation, Smith was unable to get an education beyond the seventh grade in St. Charles Parish. He moved to New Orleans temporarily to get his high school education from McDonough 35, later graduating from Xavier University. Smith, however, did not turn his back on the parish. Instead, he returned to teach and educate the masses, supervising the first African-American high school graduating class in 1951. “He loved St. Charles Parish," said Boyd, adding that he loved educating as well.

Speaking of his qualifications and commitment to St. Charles Parish, "He served diligently as a teacher, principal, supervisor and assistant superintendent for 44 years, touching the lives of every educator in the parish," said Boyd. Superintendent Dr. Rodney Lafon echoed this statement, recalling his first meeting with Smith and the profound impact he had on his career.

As for the building, Sesser said the school cost around $10 million, and the school board had to overcome several hurdles for its completion, namely Hurricane Katrina. There were also construction delays as a result of an elevation problem. The board changed roofing contractors, and they were faced with skyrocketing material costs post-Katrina. Even with the challenges, Sesser said, "(R.K. Smith) was right on budget."

The school is endowed with some of the latest technologies, such as being completely wireless. While the R.K. Smith was planned to be at capacity when it open, Sesser said that several plans are in the works for expansion, including additions on the grounds and two school sites in the Ashton Subdivision. This will help meet the exploding population in the parish.

The brand new, $10 million facility that sits at the base of the Hale Boggs Bridge and a picture of a young R.K Smith upon graduation.
The brand new, $10 million facility that sits at the base of the Hale Boggs Bridge and a picture of a young R.K Smith upon graduation.