Milton Craddock’s first campaign for the St. Tammany Parish School Board, Ward 8, included his dream of a high school for the Pearl River area whose assigned school up to that time was Slidell High. This situation resulted in a hardship of time and resources for Pearl River area families so at the end of his first six-year term, Mr. Craddock orchestrated the planning and building of Pearl River High with the assistance of Sixth Ward board member “Siggy” Halvorsen. Following the 1968 opening of PRHS, Mr. Craddock continued to work tirelessly to provide students all of the academic and extra-curricular opportunities offered in other St. Tammany Parish high schools.
School Administrators and Curriculum
At first Pearl River High opened with only the ninth and tenth grades, and its first principal was Mr. E. W. Rowley who served in that capacity until 1982. Prior to his appointment Mr. Rowley served as an agriculture teacher at Sixth Ward Jr. High. Mr. Rowley, with his faculty of 16, guided the first graduating class of 42 members to its May 19, 1971 commencement.
The building years following the first graduation included the growth of the physical plant as well as the incorporation of extra-curricular activities among which were football, baseball, and girls and boys basketball. Struggling in portable buildings for several years, construction began on Building Two in 1974 which included the Library, Business Department and the Home Economics Department along with a new agriculture facility. These accomplishments led to PRHS receiving the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ accreditation membership in 1974.
Disaster struck PRHS in 1981 when the entire administration building, including several classrooms, burned to the ground. Faculty, staff, and students banded together to return the school to its usual operating schedule, and within one week all classes and students were back on track using more portable buildings.
In May 1982, Principal Rowley retired. Taking the reins was former math teacher and head football coach L. F. Matulich. Coach Matulich, an inspirational motivator, effective disciplinarian, and outstanding leader, re-united the faculty, staff and students into a cohesive team.
Highly regarded by the Pearl River community, Mr. Louis Austin, PRHS’ agriculture teacher, became the school’s third principal in 1987. Under the guidance of Mr. Austin’s strong interpersonal skills the school and community worked together in developing a consensus on difficult issues.
A new era emerged in 1992 when Ron Styron was appointed principal. Mr. Styron had served as assistant principal during the Austin administration. As he initiated a program for the school which included incorporating principles of site-based management, giving greater decision-making power to faculty, students and staff, Ron Styron was awarded a doctoral degree in educational administration. Dr. Styron was instrumental in establishing major technology growth which would continue to propel the school into the 21st century. Physical plant growth included the opening of a third classroom building and the beginning phase of a fourth building which would open in 2001.
The era of 1998 to 2003 brought a familiar face and a new face to the administration of Pearl River High. Mr. Scott King, former assistant principal and band director at PRHS, served as principal from 1998 to 2000. Also a believer in the importance of technology for both students and teachers, Mr. King worked diligently to continue the technology initiative.
In 2000 Ms. Karen Myles Devillier became the first female principal to lead Pearl River High. Because Ms. Devillier was also technology focused, she increased the number of computers, and she made available even more software programs for engaging students in critical thinking skills.
The appointment of Mr. Michael Winkler in August 2003, initiated the beginning of a new leadership style which continues successfully today. The 2005-2006 school year began smoothly until disaster struck again in the form of Hurricane Katrina. On August 29, 2005 Pearl River, Slidell, and much of Southeast Louisiana were devastated by this “hundred year” storm. During, and after the storm, Pearl River High served as a shelter for two Slidell nursing homes as well as numerous people from the Pearl River and Slidell areas. The PRHS students, faculty, and staff and the community of Pearl River will forever be grateful to Mr. Winkler who unselfishly stayed on campus throughout this period to assist the Red Cross in its work and to oversee the repairs of the school. The result of his efforts was a safe and successful school year despite all the difficulties encountered with the storm.