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St. Mary's Academy in New Orleans hires first lay president

One of the nation's oldest Black Catholic schools, founded in New Orleans by Venerable Henriette DeLille, is transitioning to lay leadership.

Pamela M. Rogers, the new president of St. Mary's Academy in New Orleans. (St. Mary's Academy)

St Mary’s Academy, the 155-year-old Black Catholic school in New Orleans founded by Venerable Henriette DeLille, has announced the appointment of Pamela M. Rogers as its new president—the first layperson ever to hold the position.

The Sisters of the Holy Family, DeLille’s order of Black religious sisters who own and operate St Mary’s, announced the news on September 19.

“Rogers has been a consistent advocate for St. Mary’s Academy and served in the roles of FEMA Liaison, Senior Academic Counselor and Assistant Principal,” they said.

“She views St. Mary’s Academy as a school where every student is important and makes their mark, a place where dreams are developed and achieved. Pamela has consistently provided resources and support to students and families to assist them in receiving a quality education.”

The Sisters of the Holy Family who own and operate St. Mary’s Academy named longtime Administrator, Pamela M. Rogers as...

Posted by St. Mary's Academy, New Orleans on Monday, September 19, 2022

Rogers first arrived at St Mary’s in 2007, shortly after the school began its years-long recovery from Hurricane Katrina. She served as a go-between with the federal government’s recovery program, and helped the school organize the construction of its current facility in New Orleans East, completed in 2011.

Founded in 1867 to serve Black children during Reconstruction following the Civil War, St Mary’s was originally located in the French Quarter near the sisters’ first motherhouse and relocated out of the neighborhood in 1965.

The school, today serving roughly 570 students, operates grades 8-12 on an all-girls model, while the lower school (serving grades PreK-7) is co-educational. However, it is reportedly transitioning back to its previous all-girls model across all grades.

“St. Mary’s Academy remains a powerful force in the community for the many students who attend and receive the benefit of a Maryite education,” Rogers said.

“It is my belief that the foundation for a successful future lies in the perimeter of 6905 Chef Menteur.”

Rogers (right) with other school leaders and several graduating high school students. (St. Mary's Academy)

Rogers brings to the school her long history of service in the New Orleans educational sphere, including at the nation’s Catholic HBCU, Xavier University of Louisiana—her alma mater—and the Tulane University Medical School. She has also worked in the nearby Jefferson Parish School District, and received her master's degree in social work from Louisiana State University.

St Mary’s announcement also notes that Rogers is a past regional director for Delta Theta Sorority, Inc. and has served on boards with a number of organizations, including the Medical Center of Louisiana and the University of Alabama.

As the new president, she is succeeding the retiring Sr Jennie Jones, SSF, who served as principal of St Mary’s for 20 years.

“Now Sr. Jones will work other ministries within the Sisters of the Holy Family to fulfill the vision of the Venerable Henriette Delille,” the school said, noting the details of Rogers’ new role.

“Rogers is responsible for the fulfillment of the mission and vision of St. Mary’s Academy,” they said, as well as “the management of the school’s budget, supervision of the faculty and staff and development of the strategic plan.”

As one of the oldest all-girls high schools in the country and one of the oldest overall in the South, St Mary’s has educated tens of thousands of Black children in Southeast Louisiana, including such notable figures as the late Creole Catholic chef Leah Chase.

Last spring, St Mary’s reported that for the 20th year in a row, all of its high school would graduate and attend college. The class of 2022 received more than $5M in total scholarships from more than 100 institutions.

The school was also named a recipient of the National School Choice Leadership Award in February.

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).

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