The rapid population growth of the Urban Expansion era resulted in a great increase in the number of schools in Palm Beach County. From 1964 to 1966, for example, 13 new elementary schools opened.
Desegregation of Palm Beach County public schools happened gradually, from 1961 to 1973. The
separate schools of the 1940s and ‘50s were maintained for the most part until 1970, when the School District converted its four all-black high schools to integrated junior highs.
The Osborne [Elementary] School on Douglas Street was the first black school in Lake Worth, constructed in 1948 by local self-taught builders, P.W. Odums, Able Wilson, and Frank Jones; Osborne operated until 1971 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1980 the building reopened as a community education facility.
From the 1940s, Belle Glade’s black children in grades 1-12 attended Everglades Vocational High School. In 1955 Everglades was renamed Lake Shore High School for grades 7-12 and offered a more college preparatory education. Grades 1-6 attended Everglades Camp at a migrant labor camp. Glades Central High School opened in 1966.
In 1950 Industrial High School in West Palm Beach, Palm Beach County’s first black high school, was renamed Roosevelt Junior-Senior High; in 1971 Roosevelt became Palmview Elementary, now named for former principal U.B. Kinsey.
The School Board ignored the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision against separate-but-equal schools and built two black high schools during the next three years, including West Riviera Junior High School, renamed Lincoln High (now Lincoln Elementary) in 1959. Until then, black students from Jupiter and Riviera Beach had attended Roosevelt High in West Palm Beach. During desegregation, Lincoln became a junior high school. John F. Kennedy High (now JFK Middle, a magnet school) opened in Riviera Beach after President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963.
S. Bruce MacDonald (1928-)
In 1968 S. Bruce McDonald became Palm Beach County’s first black principal of an all-white school, Boca Raton Junior High (now Boca Raton Middle School), which was completed in 1969. McDonald had been teacher and assistant principal at Roosevelt High School and administrator at Central Junior High between 1956 and 1970. From Boca Raton, he went on to become area superintendent of schools and filled other administrative positions until he retired in 1984.
The second black high school was East Lake High in Pahokee. Black students were previously transported to Belle Glade. In 1968 East Lake became an integrated middle school.
In 1956 the Boca Raton Negro School was renamed the Roadman School to honor Frank C. Roadman, a white merchant and benefactor of the school. The change was requested “because of the confusion created by two schools identified as Boca Raton School, one white and one colored.” As of 1965 there were no longer listings for a school in Pearl City. Black high school students traveled to Carver High in Delray Beach from 1960 until 1963, when Boca Raton High opened.
A new George Washington Carver High School opened in 1957 in Delray Beach for black students; the original Carver High was renamed S. D. Spady Elementary. Carver has been a middle school since desegregation.
More schools were opened during the 1960s:
1962: The new city of Palm Beach Gardens opened Palm Beach Gardens Elementary and Howell L.Watkins Junior High (now Watkins Middle School). Dr. Edward M. Eissey, the first principal of Watkins, was transferred to Palm Beach Gardens High School when it opened in 1966.
1963: Lantana Junior High opened (now Lantana Middle School).
1965: Jupiter Junior-Senior High School was built west of Military Trail. Jupiter Middle School was later added a few miles away.
1965: John I. Leonard High opened in Greenacres, named for the former school superintendent and first president of Palm Beach Junior College (now Palm Beach Community College and later re-name Palm Beach State College).
1966: North Shore Junior Senior High School (now Bak Middle School of the Arts) opened with a small black student body.
Leander A. Kirksey (1909-1995)
L.A. Kirksey Street, in West Palm Beach is named for the band director at Industrial High School, which became Roosevelt High, in West Palm Beach from 1946 to 1970. The son of a slave, Kirksey graduated from Florida A&M University, where he then taught music and was director of its famous “Marching 100” band from 1930 to 1945. Although primarily a violinist, Kirksey played all instruments well, according to one of his many successful students, Julian “Cannonball” Adderley.
In 1941 Kirksey co-founded the Florida Association of Band Directors, which merged with the Florida Bandmasters Association in 1966. He was the first black inducted into the Florida Music Education Association’s Hall of Fame.