This Saturday, November 8, the Kennard Alumni Association will host their Seventh Annual Dinner Dance Fundraising Gala, an “Evening of Magic and Memories,” at the Moose Lodge in Queenstown, Maryland. All proceeds benefit THE KENNARD HIGH SCHOOL RESTORATION PROJECT. For ticket purchase or information contact: Deborah Brown at 410-827-8684. There will be a limited number of tickets available at the door.
Kennard High School
“Kennard High School was the first and only secondary school in Queen Anne’s County for African Americans,” says Clay Washington, president of the Kennard Alumni Association. “One of our goals is to honor all those that students and educators who came before us. To show the challenges earlier generations faced to become educated. We want to recognize their legacy.”
In the late 1920’s to early 1930’s, led by the vision of Ms. Lucretia Kennard, the Supervisor of Colored Schools in Queen Anne’s and Caroline Counties, a dedicated group of parents, educators, and county leaders embarked on a journey to educate.
Lucretia Kennard came to the Eastern Shore from Philadelphia in 1903.
A forward-thinking educator impassioned by a sense of purpose, Kennard distinguished herself within a segregated system that was most definitely not structured in her favor. As a supervisor, Lucretia Kennard was responsible for recruiting teachers and developing curriculum for the lower grade levels, but her highest ambition was to open a high school for black students.
A singular force, Lucretia Kennard Daniels died three years before the school that would carry both her name and academic tradition opened its doors in 1936.
Wood shingled, relatively small, and without electricity until the required funds were raised in the community by Mr. Larrie S. Jones; the school’s first and only principal, the original Kennard High School consisted of four classrooms, a small library, and a principal’s office, and was built at a cost of $2600.
Despite often going without sufficient books and supplies, Kennard turned out well-educated African-American graduates across three decades.
After Queen Anne’s County schools integrated in 1966, the adjacent modern brick school built in 1951 continued to be utilized and is now known as Kennard Elementary School, but the original 9400-square foot Kennard High School fell into disrepair.
In 1996, a 99 year lease was granted to the Kennard Alumni Association who began thinking of ways the property could once again have a positive impact on the surrounding community.
Restoration of the structure was a first priority and undertaken in phases. With help from the Maryland Historic Trust and the generosity of various individuals, organizations and local businesses, the first phase – a new roof, asbestos abatement plans, and architectural cost estimates – was completed in 2007.
Next came what the alumni called ‘the face-lift’ phase and then the ‘heart transplant’ which dealt with modernizing the building’s mechanical systems.
Demolition for Phase II revealed structural deficiencies that needed to be addressed before exterior repairs and mechanical, plumbing, HVAC, and electrical upgrades could be completed. These repairs added approximately $145,000 in architectural and construction costs and were completed in 2013.
The final phase of the project will consist of start-up, testing, adjusting, and balancing of all systems. Upon the project’s completion in 2015, Kennard High School will serve the community as The Kennard High School African American Cultural Heritage Center.
The Kennard Heritage Center will be part of the National Register of Historic Places designated Centreville Historic District, and will function as a tour site of the Historical Sites Consortium of Queen Anne’s County.
One of the highlights of the new center will be its “Classroom Museum” featuring pictures, artifacts, and memorabilia depicting the history of the school and its influence in the county. Audio and video “Recorded Histories” will also be featured in the museum. This site, in addition to serving as a site for historical tours to the schools and the public, will be used for a variety of ongoing educational, cultural, and recreational programs for the youth and adults of Queen Anne’s County and beyond.
Program priorities include educational objectives such as tutoring, mentoring, work-sourcing, and childcare; cultural goals represented by the museum but also through support of history and the arts, and recreational and social opportunities.
A memorial to past struggles and as a modern outreach facility offering guidance, The Kennard High School African American Cultural Heritage Center will provide what Clay Washington calls, “a very real, tangible understanding of African American history on the Eastern Shore.”
“We stand on the backs of many brave and strong trailblazers,” Washington continues. “And we want children to know that we’ve all profited from the hard work and rich heritage of earlier generations.
“It’s too easy to forget what it took to get us here.”