North Miami Senior High a Brief History

-Compiled by Charles E. (Chuck) Corway (Class of 1983)

North Miami Senior High School first opened its doors under the name Edward L. Constance Junior-Senior High School on September 4, 1951. It was originally named after the Miami real estate developer who was responsible for acquiring the land for public school use.
In the property records of Miami-Dade County, the property that composes the school land is known as “Blocks 49, 50, 53, 54 and all intervening sites of the Irons Manor High Pines Addition Section A” within the City of North Miami, which is defined as a lot whose boundaries are NE 135th Street to its south, NE 137th Street to its north, NE 7th Avenue to its west and NE 9th Avenue to its east. The United States Post Office Department (now the U.S. Postal Service) assigned the lot the physical street address of 800 NE 137th Street. The lot size was sufficiently large enough to allow construction of a junior-senior high school and athletic fields, with room to expand.

aerial map
Figure 1. An aerial photograph of North Miami Senior High School and its surrounding neighborhoods dated 2004. (Source: Miami-Dade County property records website – www.miamidade.gov)

Previous to the construction of the new high school, students in much of northern Dade County attended Thomas Edison High School (now Miami Edison Senior High School), The explosive population growth of the post-World War II period in South Florida required newer schools to be built to accommodate them. Students from the northern portion of Edison’s feeder pattern, mainly A Brief History of North Miami Senior High School 2 students from William Jennings Bryan Junior High School (now William Jennings Bryan Elementary) would compose the initial nucleus of students that would form the population of the new school.

John C. McGuire, a former star athlete at the University of Miami, was named the firstprincipal of Edward L. Constance Junior- Senior High School, or ELC, as it waspopularly known at the time. In those days, the location of the new school was then inwhat was a mostly rural part of northern Dade County; when people were informedof the street address of ELC, many thought at first that the school was located in Broward County!

Construction began on the school in 1950, and portions of the school building were still under construction when it opened that September morning in 1951. By ten o’ clock that morning, heavy rains and strong, gusty winds poured into unfinished classrooms, forcing the administration to cancel classes for that day.

The following morning, puddles of standing water in the halls made navigating the hallways tricky. Wooden planks were laid down to allow students to walk a relatively dry path to their classes while construction finished around them. Because no public- address system had yet been installed in the building, the Dean of Boys, Mr. Richard Henley improvised a unique manual bell system using a large bell and wooden block; Mr. Henley would race down the main corridor to the entrances of the three classroom hallways (the 100, 200 and 300 classroom wings today) to signify to the students the beginning and end of each classroom period.

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The hardships the students, faculty, administration and staff endured in those early months when ELC first opened were not forgotten; when it came time to select the official school mascot the students and faculty overwhelmingly selected the Pioneer, represented in the official school seal with traditional and futuristic (for the 1950s) elements. Green and Gray were also selected as the official school colors. Principal McGuire, along with community officials, was instrumental in leading a grass-roots campaign to rename the school after the city where it was located: North Miami Senior High School. The campaign was successful and the new name took effect for the 1955 graduating class, who dubbed themselves the “original Pioneers”.
It was envisioned that a smooth transition would be needed to eventually create the first graduating class, so only 7th, 8th and 9th grades populated ELC in 1951-52, its first year of operation.

10th grade was added in the 1952-53 school year, 11th grade in 1953-54 and 12th grade in 1954-55. Even so, the school quickly became overcrowded. The feed area for the school at the time covered most of northern Dade County; future high schools such as Miami Norland and Hialeah were still on the drawing boards; and for many students it was a long school bus ride or a parent drop-off and pick-up from their homes to attend school.

School enrollment during the early years of North Miami Senior High was extremely high; overcrowding became the norm for a time.

logo 1951
Figure 3. The official seal of North Miami Senior High School. The 1951 founding year honors the original ELC Junior/Senior High School.

Peak enrollments of nearly four thousand students were not unusual, and novel ideas were tried to relieve overcrowding until expansion projects (the 400 and 500 halls) were completed. Staggered start times were introduced for the upper three grades – the 12th grade starting at 7:20 am, the 11th at 8:20 am and the 10th grade at 9:20 am. When the auditorium was built, it was not unusual for 500-student classes to meet in the auditorium; instruction was sometimes provided via closed-circuit television to remote classrooms.

Construction and opening of the new junior high school at the former location of “Tiger” Proske’s North Miami Zoo on NE 7th Avenue in 1955-56 sent the 7th and 8th graders, and later the 9th graders out of North Miami Senior High into their own school. (The 9th graders would return to North Miami Senior High in the 1990s.)

As originally built, North Miami Senior High only encompassed the main building and the 100, 200 and 300 halls. The 400 hall, dedicated to science classrooms was not built until 1954. The auditorium, gymnasium and the 500 hall (dedicated to vocational education) were not built until later. The library was originally located on the second floor of the main building until a new, dedicated facility was built straddling the southern end of the 100 and 200 halls. The northern end of the courtyard became the Senior Patio; a tradition jealously guarded by Pioneer seniors. Access to the patio was off limits to the underclass.

Principal McGuire retired in 1957 and was replaced by Paul Davison. Principal Davison’s tenure, sadly, was cut short by a brief but fatal illness. The courtyard between the new 400 and 500 halls was named the Davison Patio in his memory. This patio remained until the 1990s, when new classrooms to accommodate the International Baccalaureate Magnet School program were constructed.

Wilfred E. Rice, a respected educator within Florida, took over as the third principal after Mr. Davison’s death and served until 1964.

The fourth principal of North Miami Senior High School served the longest and was beloved by many of the graduating classes under his tenure. Dale H. Boggy began as principal of North Miami around the time that desegregation became mandatory in the Dade County public school system. The overcrowding problem at North Miami was alleviated, but not quite eliminated by the construction of Miami Central Senior High School in 1964. Many students in the western areas of the attendance boundaries began attending Miami Central instead of North Miami. Neither was it unusual for students attending classes in the auditorium to be turned away when the auditorium filled. A temporary measure used the North Miami Army National Guard armory on NE 8th Avenue and nearby churches as overflow classrooms.

In 1972, the first class graduated from the new North Miami Beach Senior High, which relieved the overcrowding problem at North Miami. Graduating classes of over 1000 seniors, the norm during the first twenty years of the school, were cut to nearly half; school population for all three grades averaged around 2300 students.

Principal Boggy was considered an innovator in school administration; where many high schools followed strict guidelines of a six-period school day, North Miami adopted a modular and flexible scheduling system for their classes during the 1960s and 70s. Other teaching experiments were tried, but none were as successful as modular scheduling.
At the end of the 1975 school year, Principal Boggy retired and D. William Snyder took the reins as the fourth principal of North Miami. He served until 1978.

Nicholas H. Borota became the fifth principal of North Miami, beginning in the 1978-79 school year. He retired in 1984.

Assistant Principal for Administration Leonard Glazer was promoted to principal at the beginning of the 1984-85 school year.

Following Mr. Glazer’s retirement in 1992, Craig DePriest became the seventh principal of North Miami. He served until 1998.

Charles E. Hankerson was the eighth principal and served from 1998 until 2002.

Carnell A. White was the ninth principal, replacing Hankerson in 2002. He was replaced by Michael A. Lewis, who became principal in 2008.