Oak Ridge High School (Tennessee)

Oak Ridge High School is the public high school for Oak Ridge, Tennessee, enrolling grades 9 through 12. It was established in 1943 to educate the children of Manhattan Project workers.

Oak Ridge High School
Oak Ridge Wildcat.png
1450 Oak Ridge Turnpike

Tennessee 37830

United States
TypePublic secondary
PrincipalMartin McDonald
Enrollment1,355 (2016-17)[1]
NewspaperThe Oak Leaf
YearbookThe Oak Log


Founding and first locationEdit

Oak Ridge High School was established in 1943 by the U.S. Army to educate children of the workers building and operating Manhattan Project facilities in Oak Ridge. The original school building was in eastern Oak Ridge on the hill above the community's first commercial center at Jackson Square. The school's football venue, Jack Armstrong Stadium and Blankenship Field, is adjacent to the original site of the school.[2]

The schools' mascot and colors were selected in 1943 by Ben Martin, who was athletic director (1943-1971) and coached football (1943-1947), basketball (1943-1959), and track (1944-1965). As a graduate and former athlete at the University of Kentucky, Martin adopted Kentucky's "Wildcats" as the ORHS mascot. He chose cardinal red and gray as the school colors to emulate the successful sports programs at Dobyns-Bennett High School in Kingsport, Tennessee.[3]

New campusEdit

The high school moved to its current central location in Oak Ridge in 1951 after a new state-of-the-art campus was built under the auspices of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, which then operated Oak Ridge and its public schools. The new school, which had a capacity of about 1500 students and cost $2,980,000 to build, consisted of four buildings (designated "A", "B," "C", and "D") in two groups, connected by an enclosed glass corridor. The auditorium had a seating capacity of 1400 and was intended to serve the community as well as the school. The school attracted national media attention for its innovative features. A Nashville newspaper dubbed the new buildings “Classes in Glass” because of the unusually large amount of glass used in their design.[2][4][5] Two circular buildings, designated "E" and "F", were added in 1963.[2] With the move to the new campus, the school's street address was 127 Providence Road for many years until the school's reconstruction in 2005 moved the administrative offices to the Oak Ridge Turnpike side of the school. The school's street address is now 1450 Oak Ridge Turnpike.

Racial integrationEdit

In its early years, Oak Ridge High School was racially segregated like other schools in the region. On September 6, 1955, it became the first high school in the southern United States to integrate after the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision. On that date, 42 African American students attended the first day of school. The integration of Oak Ridge High School was the result of a January 1955 directive by the Atomic Energy Commission. Oak Ridge's advisory town council had passed a resolution in December 1953 calling for school integration, leading to an unsuccessful attempt to recall council chairman Waldo Cohn, and during the summer of 1955 some citizens had urged a school boycott to protest integration, but the actual integration of the high school (which was photographed by Life magazine) was uneventful.[6][7]

In the first year of integration, two African American students became members of the ORHS basketball team, but because segregation was still in force at all other Tennessee high schools, they were not permitted to participate in away games and the coach had to get permission from the opposing teams before they could participate in home games.[6]

Grade level reorganizationEdit

Until 1995, the high school enrolled grades 10 to 12. Grade 9 was added in 1995 when Oak Ridge Schools reorganized grade levels.

School reconstructionEdit

Oak Ridge High School underwent extensive reconstruction, starting in 2005 and completed in 2008, to update its facilities, incorporate significant energy-conserving features, and construct newer, better equipped learning areas. The total cost of the school renovation was $61 million.[8]

Designed by DLR Group, the renovated Oak Ridge High School was featured in the December 2008 issue of School Planning & Design. It received several awards, including a Citation Award from the American Association of School Administrators, recognition as a Green Project of Distinction Winner in the 2008 Green Education Design Showcase, and a 2009 Learning by Design Citation of Excellence from the American School Board Journal.[8][9] The Tennessee School Boards Association selected ORHS as the School of the Year for Excellence in Architectural Design; ORHS earned second place in the Renovation Division.[9]

Oak Leaf controversyEdit

Oak Ridge High School gained notoriety in November 2005 when principal Becky Ervin, then in her first year at the school, censored the student newspaper, the Oak Leaf. The November issue originally contained an article with information on birth control and another with photographs of students' tattoos. Though the paper had already been printed, Principal Ervin attempted to confiscate all 1800 copies. The newspaper's staff, with the help of the Student Press Law Center, brought the controversy national attention.[10] On April 10, 2006, the incident led to Oak Ridge High School receiving a Jefferson Muzzle Award, issued annually by the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression to focus attention on free speech and First Amendment violations in the United States.[11] Also in April 2006, Ervin was released from her position as principal and notified that her contract would not be continued for the following school year. Administrators gave no reason for their decision not to renew Ervin's contract.[12] She was temporarily replaced by vice-principal Chuck Carringer, who was appointed to the position on a permanent basis early in 2007.

Notable honorsEdit

The Oak Ridge Wildcats football team were theoretical national champions for 1958, when they averaged 43.8 points per game and allowed their opponents an average of 2.6 points.[13] In the school's history, the team has won eight state championships.

The Oak Ridge High School cross country teams have won a total of 14 state championships: 8 for boys and 6 for girls. In 2007 the boys' team won the first-ever Nike Team Nationals Southeast Regional and placed 18th at the national meet.[14]

Newsweek ranked Oak Ridge High School 456th on its 2006 list of the United States' 1200 best public high schools.[15]

In 2005, Oak Ridge sent a group of three seniors to the national finals of the Siemens Competition, where they finished fourth for their work in Natural language processing. During the first week of December 2006, three seniors from ORHS presented[16] their research on alternate fuel sources and won first place nationally. Scott Molony, Scott Horton, and Steven Arcangeli split a college scholarship worth $100,000.[17]

In April 2006, another senior tied for first place in the Young Epidemiology Scholars Competition[18] sponsored by the College Board and another senior received a smaller scholarship in the same competition.[19] Oak Ridge is also nationally known for its consistent performance in Science Olympiad. Until recently, ORHS regularly sent a team to the nationals. Students from Oak Ridge also traditionally perform well on the American Math Competition exams.[20]

In 2007 longtime ORHS math teacher Benita Albert was named to the USA Today All-USA Teaching Team, along with 19 other outstanding teachers from around the United States.[21] Earlier that year student Scott Molony was named as one of 20 USA Today student All-Stars.[22]

The Oak Ridge High School orchestra was founded by Edgar Meyer, Sr. in 1970 and was directed by him until 1988. His son, Edgar Meyer, was an ORHS student and is now an internationally renowned bassist and composer who has won four Grammy's[23]. Beginning in 1988, the orchestra was led by Jenifer Van Tol for more than 25 years, and has excelled past any and all other orchestras in a plethora of out-of-state competitions, almost always winning 1st, 2nd, and or/ various overalls. Mrs. Van Tol was succeeded by Doug Phillips in 2014.[24][25][better source needed]

The Oak Ridge high school band (or Wildband), currently directed by Michael Spirko[26], formerly directed by Thomas Wade (retired 2012[27]), Chuck Yost, Jeff Kile and Dale Pendley, consists of two bands: symphonic and concert. They have won many prestigious awards at various band competitions throughout the southeastern United States.[citation needed]

In 2009, ROAR teacher Beth Estep won the Titans Teacher of the Year Award for her outstanding performance and care for her students graduation.

In 2011, Seniors Cassee Cain and Ziyuan Liu won the Siemens Competition for their work using an Xbox Kinect to analyze the walking patterns of people with prosthetics.[28]

In March, 2012, The Oak Ridge Wildbots FIRST Robotics Team in their Rookie year won the Rookie All-Star award at the Smoky Mountain Regional Competition at the Knoxville Convention Center.[29] They would go on to compete at the World's competition in St. Louis from April 25–29. Ultimately placing 68th out of 100 in the Curie division.[30]

In March, 2013, The Secret City Wildbots FIRST Robotics Team in their second year won the Smokey Mountain Regional in Knoxville, TN, along with the HVA RoHAWKtics and Red Nation (Halls), and proceeded to the World Championship in St. Louis from April 24–27. There they achieved 18th Place in the Archimedes division, and placed 19th in the world in an unofficial placement list.


Oak Ridge High School principals through the school's history have been:[31]

  • Charles Oliver, 1943–1945
  • E.C. Cunningham, 1946–1947
  • Donald Roe, 1948–1953
  • Tom Dunigan, 1954–1971
  • Jim Schott, 1972–1973
  • Don Bordinger, 1974–1982
  • William E. Hodgers, 1983–1994
  • James F. Duncan, 1995–1999
  • Kenneth E. Green, 2000–2005
  • Becky W. Ervin, 2005–2006
  • Chuck Carringer, 2006–2009
  • Jody Goins, 2009-2013
  • David Bryant, 2013–2015
  • Martin McDonald, 2015–present

Notable alumniEdit


  1. ^ "Oak Ridge High School". National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved March 12, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c National Register of Historic Places Registration Form for Oak Ridge Historic District, July 18, 1991
  3. ^ Mike Blackerby, Martin 'ahead of his time,' Knoxville News Sentinel, July 25, 2011, page 1B
  4. ^ D. Ray Smith, AEC and Oak Ridge High School, August 14, 2008
  5. ^ Dick Smyser, 53 years ago: First days at our 'new' high school, The Oak Ridger, March 4, 2004
  6. ^ a b Bob Fowler, Before Clinton or Little Rock, Oak Ridge integration made history, Knoxville News Sentinel, February 16, 2009
  7. ^ Charles Barton Jr., Waldo Cohn and the Oak Ridge Recall Election of 1954, The Nuclear Green Revolution website, January 25, 2008
  8. ^ a b "Oak Ridge High School". Educational Design Showcase.
  9. ^ a b Oak Ridge Schools website, accessed August 29, 2009
  10. ^ Sex Ed Becomes a Lesson in Press Freedom By Andrew Chang and Charlotte Sector, ABC News, November 29, 2005
  11. ^ "The Thomas Jefferson Center For the Protection of Free Expression » Muzzle Archive 2006".
  12. ^ ORHS principal reassigned, The Oak Ridger, April 20, 2006
  13. ^ Tank Johnson, 1958: Legends of the Fall, The Oak Ridger, August 1, 2008
  14. ^ "Nike Cross Nationals Southeast Regional - Coverage". AlabamaRunners.
  15. ^ "MSN | Outlook, Office, Skype, Bing, Breaking News, and Latest Videos". www.msn.com.
  16. ^ y Siemens Foundation
  17. ^ It all adds up for ORHS - again, by Bob Fowler, Knoxville News Sentinel, October 31, 2006
  18. ^ "2005-2006 National First Place Winners".
  19. ^ "2005-06 Regional Finalists".
  20. ^ "MAA American Mathematics Competitions - AMC". Archived from the original on March 2, 2008.
  21. ^ All-USA teachers strive to give students confidence, chances, USATODAY.com
  22. ^ Passion fuels seniors' ability to achieve, USATODAY.com, May 17, 2007
  23. ^ "Edgar Meyer Archives". Oak Ridge Today. Retrieved 2020-04-01.
  24. ^ "Phillips named ORHS orchestra director". Oak Ridge Today. June 19, 2014.
  25. ^ "About the Director | ORHS Orchestra". Retrieved 2020-04-01.
  26. ^ "New band directors announced at Oak Ridge High School". Oakridger - Oak Ridge, TN. Retrieved 2020-04-01.
  27. ^ Hobson, Kim Kors. "Reflecting on retiring Oak Ridge High School Band Director Wade & 'excellence'". Oakridger - Oak Ridge, TN. Retrieved 2020-04-01.
  28. ^ "Students on edge of innovation win $100,000 prizes". InnovationNewsDaily. NBC News. Retrieved 26 March 2012.
  29. ^ Macmillan, Emma. "Steven Chu's Visit to ORNL". Additive Manufacturing. Retrieved 26 March 2012.
  30. ^ FIRST. "FIRST Championship - Curie Division". Retrieved 6 May 2012.
  31. ^ D. Ray Smith, 'New' high school in '51 talk of the town - and state, The Oak Ridger, August 12, 2008
  32. ^ General (Retired) B.B. Bell (July 26, 2011). "Gen. Bell: Heritage High School Generals And Our Wounded Warriors-- Thank You". Chattanoogan.com.
  33. ^ Sandra Whitten Plant, ORHS Class of '59 makes its mark on the world Archived 2011-09-28 at the Wayback Machine, The Oak Ridger, May 26, 2009
  34. ^ "Jane Blankenship Gibson". Smithsonian Institution Archives. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
  35. ^ Mike Caldwell, Databasefootball.com
  36. ^ "Nikki Fargas Bio". LSUsports.net.
  37. ^ "Former Ridger found guilty in second husband's death". The Oak Ridger. January 26, 2010.
  38. ^ "Tee Higgins". Clemson Tigers Official Athletics Site. 2017-03-03. Retrieved 2019-07-15.
  39. ^ Otis Howard, Basketball-Reference.com
  40. ^ Guanxi (The art of relationships), page 38
  41. ^ Mike Blackerby, Martin faces alma mater; Ex-Oak Ridge QB takes Kent to Kentucky in upset bid, Knoxville News Sentinel, September 6, 2007
  42. ^ Mike Blackerby, Doug Martin, a coach on the rise, Oak Ridge Sports website, August 5, 2006
  43. ^ Bendewald, Rouse married in Malibu, The Oak Ridger, March 1, 2002
  44. ^ "Speaker Cameron Sexton". Tennessee General Assembly. Retrieved 6 November 2019.
  45. ^ Pounds, Ben (9 October 2019). "'I have great memories here' -TN House Speaker Cameron Sexton". The Oak Ridger. Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
  46. ^ First PGA win a 'blessing' for Oak Ridge graduate Scott Stallings, Knoxville News Sentinel, August 1, 2011

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 36°00′59″N 84°15′40″W / 36.0165°N 84.261°W / 36.0165; -84.261