A Short History of North Miami Sr. High School

A BRIEF HISTORY OF
NORTH MIAMI SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL

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.


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 first
principal of Edward L. Constance Junior- Senior High School, or ELC, as it was
popularly known at the time. In those days, the location of the new school was then in
what was a mostly rural part of northern Dade County; when people were informed
of 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.

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.

Figure 3. The official seal of North Miami Senior High School. The 1951 founding year honors the original ELC Junior/Senior High School.
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.
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.)                                                                   Click picture to Enlarge. Chorus teacher R. Watson Dutton composed the distinctive Alma Mater and fight song for North Miami Senior High in 1956.

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.

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

14 Responses to “A Short History of North Miami Sr. High School”

  1. Jeff Williams says:

    Wow, when you think about the history of the school, it really makes you feel that you were a part of something special.
    Great job on this article Chuck, I thoroughly enjoyed it!
    Thank you.

  2. Viviana Smith says:

    Hey Chuck! I am the current Yearbook and Newspaper sponsor. I am also in charge of the school’s website. Is it possible for us to use this history on the school’s website and attribute it to you?

  3. Jeff Williams says:

    Hi Viviana,
    This is Jeff Williams the webmaster for the site. Sorry it took so long to reply, but sure, go ahead and use this information on the North Miami High website. Thank you for giving Chuck the credit, I KNOW he would not mind.

  4. I ATTENDED HIALEAH JR HIGH 1965-1966 AND NORTH MIAMI JR 1966-68 AND NORTH MIAMI SR HIGH 1968-1970, I AM LOOKING FOR CLASS YEAR BOOKS FOR THOSE SCHOOLS AND THOSE YEARS AND ALSO FRIENDS AND PEOPLE THAT ATTENDED THOSE SCHOOLS DURING THOSE YEARS,GREAT SCHOOL, AND DURING HIPPIE YEARS WITH LOVE IN’S AT GREYNOLDS PARK BEST YEARS OF MY LIFE..MY NAME WAS BETTY SULLIVAN, FRIENDS DAVID JENKINS, TERRY MCCOLGIN, JOHN FARMER, DIANE STEWART, SHARON CAMBLE, RICKY HINES, JUNE RAINWATER, DEBBIE NEUBOWER, DONALD WATSON,TERRY WATSON, MANY OTHERS I CAN’T REMEMBER, IF ANY OF U SEE THIS, COME TO MY FB JUST TYPE IN BETTY ROUNDHEAD….HIPPIES GET OLD BUT INSIDE THEY ARE FOREVER YOUNG……STUCK N THE 60’S BETTY

  5. carol stockton says:

    graduated in 1960, am looking for classmates….do you know charles mc near grad.1959???

  6. Enjoyed reading about the history of NMHS. As a member of that first graduating class in 1955 the journey of the school was traced beautifully… and brought back some great memories of each year adding another class until we were the first.
    Thanks again….

  7. Loved your article, some great memories.

  8. Philip Ciabattoni says:

    Great Article. I attended North Miami Senior High School and graduated in 1967. I have so many fond memories of that school. I have been trying for the last four years to secure a Yearbook from 1967. It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. Hope to find it at any price!!!

  9. Martin Guerra says:

    Excellent write up. Thank you for doing this. I did not graduate from North Miami because I moved in middle of 11th grade I still consider myself a Pioneer. I went to North Miami Junior High since 7th grade. I still remember the rockin times we would have going to the football games.

  10. Jeff Van Lear says:

    Some interesting info. Thanks. Might want to update the fifth and subsequent principals, though. Dale Boggy was the fourth, and D. William Snyder was the fifth (not the second fourth).

  11. A Carrato says:

    I was in class of 51 – 8th grade and 52 9th grade. I left after 9th grade and went to Miami Edison.

    I am not sure it is still there, but a few of us were art students and we painted a scene in the entryway wall of the main building. It was pioneers walking along with an oxen drawn Conestoga wagon. I wonder if it is still there?

  12. Jeff Williams says:

    Hi,
    I am the webmaster of the North Miami Alumni Events page. I apologize for getting back to you so late, but I wanted to answer you about the mural of the Conestoga wagon that was in the old school.
    I graduated in 1984 and I remember seeing the mural still on the wall. Back in 2010, the old school building was torn down and several alumni were allowed to take a tour of the school before the demolition. I can’t say that I remember seeing the mural in 2010, however there WAS a mural of a conestoga wagon in the Arboretum on one side of the walls. Maybe they painted a new mural at some point or maybe the original was somehow moved to the wall in the Arboretum. At least it was still in the main entrance hallway as of 1984. I work with someone that graduated in 1992, I’ll ask her when i see her.

  13. Kettelene McMorris says:

    Hello Jeff,

    May I share your story with the Alumni of North Miamia Senior High FB page?

  14. Jeff Williams says:

    Hello,
    Sorry for replying so late. Yes you may share this story. I created this website for the 25th reunion of the c/o 1984. It turned into a reunion for the class of thee 1980’s. I spent a lot of time on the site and think it would be a good website for a NMSH Alumni Association. In fact I chose the url with that in mind. If you know of anyone who would like to take over this site, or if there is a North Miami Alumni Association and they need a website, I can give this to them.
    Anyway, feel free to use anything on the site that you would like and please ask around if anyone would like to take this over.
    Thanks!
    Jeff Williams

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