J. A. Hernandez Elementary School
1923 - Present
In 1923 our school began as Willow Street Elementary, under Principal Alvin King. Our school started off as a dinky five-roomed building constructed to house students in grades one through seven. These students, mind you, numbered fewer than 100. Willow Street's first faculty roster numbered six----five teachers headed by a principal..
The next year, two rooms were added and Willow Street Elementary became the St. Mary Parish Training School. Latin, English, geography, history, biology, zoology, botany, domestic science, and manual art were offered to students in grades nine through eleven. In the years that followed, the Training School produced nearly 1,000 graduates.
In 1942, James A. Hernandez became principal and began to shape and mold and fashion the Negro school until he and his co-workers made it an entity with which to be reckoned. The Willow Street Rattlers became a formidable opponent throughout the state of Louisiana! Educators were second to none: Palfrey N. Willis, assistant principal, was a formidable match for any boy or girl who dared to challenge; Velma Smith shaped the members of the Glee Club; Cummings and Darnell demanded attention to skills in English; Arizona Wells, assistant principal, also taught boys and girls the history of their country; Edward Minor, assistant principal, and Herman Laws taught them mathematical skills that would serve them for decades; Velma S. Smith and Alma Braud challenged them in the sciences; Savannah F. Gibbs developed skills in the home economics; T. D. Cooper developed home economics skills and also worked in elementary education; Pat Patterson Cambor, business and school secretary; M. M. Chube was librarian; L. D. Hodge taught the girls health and physical education, while Coaches O'Neal Chube and Joe Ireland, boys' health and physical education kept the rattlers in motion. The boys and girls sent to these educators were prepared first by the tender hands of caring, qualified professionals: E. L. Lewis, Nebraska Smith, Lillian Howard, Almatine Mitchell, M. L. Dixon, D. E. Verdine, Pearl Thompson, Mildred Kelly, L. Edwards, Sarah Foster, E. J. Thomas, and S. C. Burmah!
During this time, Hernandez organized small civic clubs which worked relentlessly to improve the School. Perhaps the most important (and certainly the most visible) improvement brought about during Hernandez's tenure was the construction of a sorely-needed gymnasium in 1950. The structure stands today as a monument to Hernandez's tireless efforts.
The School was renamed twice during this time--to the Franklin Negro School in 1953 and to Willow Street High School in 1956.
When a new black high school was erected in 1963, Willow Street High was transformed into Willow Street Elementary. Hernandez left to head the new school. Hernandez gave 43 years to education in Acadiana.
On Friday, August 9, 1996, Willow Street Elementary school was renamed to James A. Hernandez.