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History In The Making: When CB Went Co-Ed

What is it that makes CB unique? While there are many factors that make the CB community distinct, the conversation inevitably circles around co-education. Gender Equality Club, Girls Who Code, Women Empowering Women, and our stellar women’s sports — did you hear about that comeback playoff volleyball game? — are just a fraction of the […]

News 10 interviews potential co-ed students in this photo from the March 1990 issue of the Christian Brothers Connection

What is it that makes CB unique? While there are many factors that make the CB community distinct, the conversation inevitably circles around co-education.

Gender Equality Club, Girls Who Code, Women Empowering Women, and our stellar women’s sports — did you hear about that comeback playoff volleyball game? — are just a fraction of the ways women have made spaces to thrive at Christian Brothers. Female students, who statistically make up half of the student population, are an integral part of the CB community.  The vibrancy and inclusivity that make CB the place to be is undeniably a product of being co-educational. 

But this wasn’t always the case. After over 100 years as an all-boys institution, it was only in 1990 that the first generation of Lady Falcons graced CB with their presence. 

In the late 1980s, the Diocese of Sacramento had a problem. Admission was dropping rapidly at the all-boys Christian Brothers School and the girls’ Bishop Manogue High School. It was decided that Bishop Manogue would close, and on November 21, 1989, Christian Brothers announced it would be going co-ed. 

“It just seemed obvious that we should blend the two,” says Mr. Danny Delgado ’79. The current science teacher and robotics and cross country coach was a vice principal at CB at the time and a member of the transition committee. 

Not everyone was as enthusiastic about the change.

“I remember going home and wanting to transfer,” Mr. Larry Reel ‘91 said. 

After going to Christian Brothers with all boys for three years, many boys had a strong connection to the school and their classmates. Brotherhood ran deep in Christian Brothers culture and identity, and the idea of that changing was jarring for current students and alumni. 

“The idea of a Brothers Boy was traditional,” said Mr. Delgado. “It was heartfelt and there was a lot of nostalgia wrapped around that…a lot of the alums felt that was going to be lost.” 

“I don’t think the boys wanted the girls there, and I don’t think the girls wanted to be there,” Mr. Dave Desmond ‘94 added.

Mourning the closure of their school, the girls had to deal with their own sense of loss. “We were really heartbroken,” said Linda Delgadillo ‘91, “You look forward to your senior year with traditions and all of a sudden it’s all gone.” 

To younger students, however, the change was less significant. Mr. Armando Diaz ‘94, who was a freshman at the time said “I can’t even say I knew about it, as part of wanting to come here.” 

As Christian Brothers prepared to welcome girls into their midst, a lot of changes had to be made. First there was the issue of making the physical space for the girls, which required new bathrooms, locker rooms, and expanding classrooms. The transition team looked to other co-ed Catholic schools for guidance.

“I personally was sent to San Diego to take a look at [University High School]” Mr. Delgado said. “I interviewed the principal, vice principal, director of development to get an idea of what it was going to take.” 

But even with all that preparation, the first years were still rough. “There was an expectation that it was going to be the same just add girls to the mix, and it took some time to figure out we actually needed to … bring in new things,” said Mr. Reel. 

Mr. Diaz proudly shows off his commemorative button from CB’s first day as a co-ed school

There were not really any preparations on how girls would be incorporated into the general community and included in its traditions. “There were missed opportunities. It just happened so quickly — I didn’t feel like there was a plan in place for us,” said Ms. Delgadillo, who described her first day as an anxious one. “I was nervous about what to expect. My first day of school I remember we were totally outnumbered. There were more male students than female. I remember being in a class of thirty and there were like six girls. I felt a little uncomfortable.” 

Yet another aspect of the change for the girls who were instructed by the Sisters of Mercy at Bishop Manogue was the rowdy atmosphere of the Christian Brothers classroom. 

“We had nuns as our teachers [at Manogue] so we had a lot of structure and we were very respectful,” described Ms. Delgadillo. 

This starkly contrasted with the environment in the all-boys classroom, “The boys were rough in that transition — they farted in class, they cussed in class and it was very loose,” recalled Mr. Diaz. “The teachers were loose too.”

“The language and conversations that they were having I would never speak with a nun,” Ms. Delgadillo laughed. “I was taken aback, like ‘oh my gosh did he just really say that!’ I did not know how to respond.” 

The tension carried out of the classroom. “It sounds kind of odd, but there were a lot of fights my freshman year, like physical fights,” said Mr. Diaz, “I think there was an odd social hierarchy with people jockeying for positions.”

Mr. Reel as featured in the 1990-1991 yearbook .

Even Mr. Delgado admits that “boys were still … treated like ‘boys will be boys’ and girls were treated as the lesser. And it started rough — it started really rough.”

But even with this tumultuous beginning, all say they have fond memories of their high school years. Even though he was initially against the change, Mr. Reel still loved the community at CB. “I’m glad I stuck it out because I met more, better friends,” he said.

Just as many see Kairos as a transformative experience now, the senior retreat helped to build relationships then. “Being in that atmosphere you are placed in different groups and you get to talk to students you never would’ve talked to — I made a lot of friends that way. I’m still friends with people through those groups,” says Ms. Delgadillo. 

Her experience was not the easiest, but Ms. Delgadillo is still invested in the CB community. She ran the class of ‘91’s 10, 20, and 30 year reunions, and became a CB parent.

“Everybody is so connected and intertwined,” she says. “Every now and then if my son is in a job interview and they see he went to Christian Brothers they’re like OMG you went to Christian Brothers OMG do you know so and so.”

Looking back, everyone agrees going co-ed was the right choice. 

“I know that having girls on campus elevated the school,” says Mr. Desmond.  “I think there were certainly some growing pains. I was just along for the ride. I love Christian Brothers…It made us who we are today.”

“I always felt that if I ever had a daughter, she would have enjoyed this school as much as I did, and I know that my sisters went to St. Francis at the time and none of them really enjoyed the experience,” adds Mr. Delgado. ”I think if we had a co-ed situation then, it might have been a different experience for them in a Catholic school.” 

“It taught us the realities of the real world,” Mr. Diaz adds. 

The title page of the 1990 yearbook welcomes its new students

CB students agree that co-ed is the way to go. High school can be a vital time for building gender relations and breaking down stereotypes. 

“I think that when you have women and men, people know how to socialize,” says Anna Deukmejian (‘23). “[You] get a sense of what real life is like, especially going into the workforce or going into college, where you are going to get a co-ed education.”

“I think you get more perspective on the world,” agrees Joaquin Hernandez (‘23). “For example, if I went to an all guys school, I wouldn’t get to have this conversation we are having right now. So it’s stuff like learning more and being educated.”

Its truly difficult to imagine how different CB would be without girls, and it is undeniable that the change to go co-ed was a change for the better. 

“I don’t think anyone would look back and wish for the good old days,” Mr. Diaz says. ”The good old days are now.”

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