Rudsdale High School in Oakland will rename its school library on April 26 for Ronald James “Joe Black” LaFleur, who dedicated his life to his students at the school.
LaFleur, who died last year on April 16, was well known for his humor and charming personality, but more importantly, remembered for his efforts on behalf of underachieving students who rose to excellence with his help.
“Mr. LaFleur based his teaching on his childhood experiences and understood the importance of students having self-respect. He recognized the chain of low self-image, low self-esteem and a lack of discipline that prevented students from reaching their full potential, so it was important to him to connect them to their history,” said Principal Willie Thompson-
The principal originally brought LaFleur from Elmhurst Middle School in 2006 to teach the Read 180 Program, a highly structured curriculum and instruction program proven to raise reading achievement for struggling readers in grades 4–12+and designed for students reading two or more years below grade level.
“Mr. LaFleur knew a lot about English, was great at breaking lessons down for the students, and held them to the same standards as all high school students in Oakland, regardless of situations, or what they had experienced. He had great stories that engaged students,” said history teacher Dionne Embry.
According to math teacher Taysha Daviston, LaFleur was “Witty and charming.”
“Students who took his class were able to pass the CAHSEE (exit exam), all while being engaged by his elaborate stories. Students came to school every day looking forward to his English class. He was a very special man,” said Daviston.
Ronald James LaFleur graduated from James Stephens High School in Ville Platte, Louisiana in 1970. After graduation, he went to Grambling College. As an undergraduate, he was a member of the Grambling Marching Band, and the Omega Psi Phi Service Fraternity, Gamma Gamma Chapter. In 1974, he earned a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Parks and Recreation.
He was employed by Alameda County in Leandro as a juvenile probation officer, retiring after 25 years. Starting a second career, he obtained a teaching credential and taught for 15 years in Oakland until his death.
Rudsdale High School is located at 8251 Fontaine St. in Oakland, the site of the former King Estates Middle School.