Our History

OPSB: A School District with Rich History

In 1836, in order to solve an ethnic dilemma, legislature divided New Orleans into three separate municipalities: the First Municipality covered the area between Esplanade and Canal; the Second Municipality included everything above Canal Street; and the Third Municipality extended below (or downriver) from Esplanade. Each municipality had its own council as well as a powerful executive and judicial officer called a recorder. Joshua Baldwin was the recorder for the Second Municipality.

  • On February 16, 1841, Joshua Baldwin convinced legislature to pass a law which allowed each of the three municipalities to set up a school system managed by its own board of directors.
  • The New Orleans Public School System was established in 1841, almost 164 years ago.
  •  On November 8, 1841, George W. Harby became the first principal of the New Orleans Public Schools.
  • Municipality Number Three opened the first public school on November 15, 1841, on Victory (Decatur) Street near Marigny Street.
  • John Angier Shaw, an educator in Massachusetts, was appointed by Joshua Baldwin to set up a school system for the Second Municipality. On January 3, 1842, the Second Municipality’s first schools opened in two adjoining buildings on Julia Street, between Magazine and Tchoupitoulas. Enrollment leaped from only twenty-six students to more than a thousand students within one year.
  • John Angier Shaw shaped the development of public education in Louisiana and other areas of the South.
  • In 1843, John Angier Shaw recommended to the board to begin a high school. On December 4, 1843 he opened the city’s first modern high school for boys. In 1845-46, he opened a similar school for girls.
  • John Angier Shaw made many improvements to the school system. He had many great ideas. One of which he created a free public library for his teachers and students. This library was the basis of the whole public library system of New Orleans.
  • Alexander Dimitry, Superintendent of the Third Municipality of New Orleans, was the first state superintendent from 1847 to 1852. He closely watched and copied Shaw’s public school model
  • In the 1973-74 school year, there were 136 schools in the New Orleans Public School System. Today there are 127.
  • On December 29, 1838, John McDonogh a millionaire slaveholder signed a will that promised half of his huge estate for the education of white and free black youth in New Orleans. In 1973-74 school year, twenty schools were named after John McDonogh, including Laurel-McDonogh No. Today there are seven.
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