Woodrow Wilson High School (Washington, D.C.)
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Woodrow Wilson High School is a secondary school in Washington, D.C. It serves grades 9 through 12, as part of the District of Columbia Public Schools. The school is located in the Tenleytown neighborhood, at the intersection of Chesapeake Street and Nebraska Avenue NW. It primarily serves students in Washington's Ward 3, although nearly 30% of the student body live outside the school’s boundaries.
|Woodrow Wilson High School|
The district's largest comprehensive public high school
3950 Chesapeake Street, Northwest
|School type||Public high school|
|Motto||Latin: Haec olim meminisse juvabit|
(In days to come, it will please us to remember this)
|School district||District of Columbia Public Schools|
|Faculty||102.0 (on FTE basis) (2010-2011)|
|Grades||9 to 12|
|Student to teacher ratio||14.88 |
|Campus size||6 acres (2.4 ha)|
Wilson High School
|NRHP reference No.||10000243|
The school building, built in 1935 and extensively renovated in 2010–2011, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2010. The school was named for Woodrow Wilson, the 28th president of the United States. The school's motto, "Haec olim meminisse juvabit," is a Latin phrase from Virgil's Aeneid; after a storm, Aeneas tells his men that "In days to come, it will please us to remember this."
Woodrow Wilson High School was built on a patch of land acquired in 1930, known by the neighboring Tenleytowners as "French's Woods". In March 1934, the D.C. commissioners awarded the contract to build Wilson to the lowest bidder, McCloskey and Co of Philadelphia. It was built for a total cost of $1.25 million.
Wilson opened its doors to students on Monday, September 23, 1935, as an all-white school, thus becoming the sixth DC Interhigh school. The school started with 640 sophomores and juniors. Many students transferred to Wilson from Central and Western. Western had been running double shifts (9 am – 5 pm) to accommodate the students from the Wilson neighborhoods. The first principal was Norman J. Nelson, who had previously been the assistant principal at Western.
Woodrow Wilson High School graduated its first students in February 1937. Chester Moye was class president from the February graduation class. The new school held its first spring commencement exercises, on June 23, 1937, for 290 students. The class president was Robert Davidson.
In the spring of 1970 about 400 students gathered in the school auditorium to protest inequalities in the school, and almost all of the students were black. Jay Childers, the author of The Evolving Citizen: American Youth and the Changing Norms of Democratic Engagement (2012), wrote that this was an indication of racial tension in the school.
Dr. Stephen P. Tarason became the school's 11th principal in January 1999, when he succeeded Dr. Wilma Bonner. Dr. Bonner spent a brief time working at the DCPS office before moving on to a position at the Howard University School of Education.
In mid-2006, Woodrow Wilson High School was proposed to be a charter school, but the superintendent asked the school to hold off in exchange for being granted control over certain areas of autonomy especially facilities.
Upon Tarason's departure to become a middle school principal in Hagerstown, Maryland, Mrs. Jacqueline Williams became interim principal in 2007. In 2008, DCPS chancellor Michelle Rhee selected Peter Cahall, a former teacher and administrator with the MCPS system, as the new principal.
Woodrow Wilson was one of eleven schools nationwide selected by the College Board for inclusion in the EXCELerator School Improvement Model program beginning the 2006–2007 school year. The project was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The campus was renovated in 2011, in a series of school modernizations at D.C. public schools. The extensive renovations to the historic building included certification to the LEED Gold standard. For the 2010–2011 school year, the students of Wilson were placed in a temporary space at the University of the District of Columbia. The renovated school reopened in October 2011, and festivities included a 75th anniversary celebration.
Childers wrote that the school had been "increasingly troubled" in a period before 2012.
In June 2014 Principal Pete Cahall came out as homosexual to his students during the school's gay pride day. He stated that his students inspired him to come out. The Westboro Baptist Church had stated that it was going to protest against that pride day.
Pete Cahall left his post as principal in December 2014, in the middle of the school year. Previously DCPS had announced that his contract would not be renewed. Cahall stated that his contract was not renewed due to low test scores. In 2015 Cahall became the principal of Thomas Edison High School of Technology.
In spring 2015 a panel headed by teachers and other employees, parents, and members of the surrounding community examined candidates for the position of principal. Kimberly Martin, the former principal of Aspen High School, was selected. She had previously served as the principal of Lorain Admiral King High School in Lorain, Ohio, from 2003 to 2005, after teaching there for five years; as principal of Thomas W. Harvey High School in Painesville, Ohio, from 2005 to 2012; and as principal of Aspen High School in Aspen, Colorado, from 2012 to 2015. She began her term as principal of Wilson on June 29, 2015.
In 2015 DCPS proposed a $15.6 million budget for Wilson, $300,000 fewer than the previous one, despite a projected enrollment of more students.
Proposals for name changeEdit
Wilson was "a staunch supporter of segregation, setting back African Americans in their quest for civil rights. A conversation about whether Wilson is an appropriate name for a high school has been simmering in D.C. for years. It gained traction when Princeton University students protested in 2015 as their school debated removing Wilson's name from campus buildings. Organizers of the latest movement to change the school's name want the school to honor the neighborhood’s black community, not someone whose policies laid the groundwork for dismantling it." According to proponents of name change, "the community in Northwest Washington has to acknowledge that the federal government — after Wilson left office — uprooted established black communities to create the upper-income, largely white enclave it is today. Organizers of the latest movement to change the school's name want the school to honor the neighborhood's black community, not someone whose policies laid the groundwork for dismantling it." On September 15, 2020, a DC Public Schools official announced the school would change its name after 85 years of being Woodrow Wilson High School. Officials said the city wants a replacement by the end of the 2020 year which is estimated to cost 1.2 million dollars.
The Beacon, the school newspaper, described the school as "an integrated school, an unusual, precious, fragile organism, attacked from many sides" in December 1970.
In 1955 99% of the students at Wilson were white, and by the late 1960s the school was still predominately white. A racial integration campaign occurred in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The school was 17% white by 1980. The current racial makeup of the student body is 34% white, 32% black, 22% Hispanic/Latino, 6% Asian, and 5% multiple races.
By 2012 there had been a decline in students from wealthier families; by then many alternative options for schooling had appeared in the DCPS system.
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The campus includes an Olympic sized swimming pool, theater space, and a large atrium. There is a turf football field behind the school, surrounded by a running track, which is closer in length to 350 meters than the standard 400.
Wilson primarily serves students in Ward 3. School boundaries encompass everything west of 16th Street, NW; all of southwest Washington north of the Anacostia River; and parts of Capitol Hill southeast. Neighborhoods include Adams Morgan, Georgetown, Glover Park, Chevy Chase, and Tenleytown.
- Bancroft Elementary School
- Eaton Elementary School
- Hearst Elementary School
- Hyde-Addison Elementary School
- Janney Elementary School
- Key Elementary School
- Lafayette Elementary School
- Mann Elementary School
- Murch Elementary School
- Oyster-Adams Bilingual School
- Shepherd Elementary School
- Stoddert Elementary School
- Deal Middle School
- Hardy Middle School
- Oyster-Adams Bilingual School
However, nearly 30% of the student body live outside the school’s boundaries. Those students come from all parts of the District. In all, students come to Wilson from 40 different schools in the city.
Many of the students live in poor neighborhoods near Wilson. The neighborhood surrounding Wilson has a median family income of over $80,000 as of 2012.
The school's student body is ethnically mixed: 32% African American, 34% Caucasian, 22% Latin American, and 6% Asian American.
Curriculum and student performanceEdit
Woodrow Wilson High School is the top performer in the non-magnet High School system in the District of Columbia Public Schools system and one of the top performers in DCPS overall. Students are required to complete 24 credits for graduation, including courses in Art, English, Health and Physical Education, Mathematics through Calculus, Music, Science, Social Studies, and World Languages.
Many Wilson students enroll in advanced courses; as of 2015 Wilson has one of the largest numbers of Advanced Placement courses and electives in DCPS. In the 2012-2013 school year, Wilson had a 50% rate of scoring 3-5 in Advanced Placement courses
Out-of-boundary students must maintain minimum GPAs in order to remain at the school: 2.5 for students in an academy and 2.0 for students not in an academy.
Many Wilson students, about 55% of the student body in the 2013-2014 school year, are members of "academies" that seek to tailor a student's curriculum to his or her academic and/or professional interests. These include the Finance Academy, HAM (Humanities, Arts, and Media), WISP (Wilson International Studies Program), JROTC, Hospitality and Tourism, AAA (Academic Athletic Achievement), and SciMaTech (Science, Math, and Technology).
Athletics begin at WilsonEdit
During its first school year in 1935–36, Wilson was not eligible to play in the Inter-High School Athletic Association. The newly formed basketball and baseball teams played an exhibition-only schedule the first year, and there was no football team. The basketball and baseball teams began their official Inter-High Series competition in the 1936–'37 school year. The football team played an exhibition season in 1936-37 and then officially joined the Inter-High Series, a year later, in the fall of 1937.
Coach Carl Heintel coached the Wilson baseball, basketball, and football teams.
Wilson was frequently called "the Presidents" by newspaper sports writers in the early years.
On April 20, 1937, the Wilson baseball team scored an 8–3 victory at Central Stadium in the school's first-ever major sport Inter-High win. Wilson pitching ace Kilmer Bortz, with his "befuddling drop" pitch, struck out sixteen Central High School batters. In the spring of 1937, two baseball players were honored as Wilson's first ever All High selections in a major sport: 1B Bill Hawksworth for batting .500 and "whose play around the base was a thing of beauty," and strikeout phenom Bortz. Bortz would later become a highly decorated World War II Navy aviator in the Pacific, including being awarded two Navy Cross medals for his actions during the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
Wilson finished the 1959 season with a perfect record of 18–0 and won their first Inter-High baseball championship. Sherman Rees coached the team. In the final game of the season, the Tigers defeated Coolidge 8–1 at Griffith Stadium; lefty Sam Swindells (8–0) pitched, and SS Marty Gorewitz batted 4 for 4. Swindells would go on to be named the Daily News 1960 Baseball Player of the Year.
The 1962 Tigers, now coached by Bill Richardson, played their way back to the Inter-High Championship game. Wilson curveball ace Kent Feddeman's extra inning 4-hit victory over Anacostia earned Wilson the right to play for another championship. Three days later, they defeated a strong Phelps team 1–0 in extra innings at Georgetown University. Feddeman pitched again, defeating Phelps pitcher Ed Cook despite Cook's 2-hitter. Key to the victory was the solid defense of Wilson SS Pete Swindells.
By 2008, the Tigers had won sixteen consecutive DCIAA baseball championships. At the end of that school year, Coach and AD Eddie Saah retired from coaching with seventeen years at the helm of the Wilson baseball program. Former Assistant Coach Eddie Smith was named as the new baseball coach.
Through their 2011 season, the Wilson baseball program won nineteen consecutive DCIAA championships. Even more remarkable, Wilson's last DCIAA loss was in 1999, in a game against Dunbar High School.
Wilson's basketball teams played an exhibition-only schedule in Wilson's first year, 1935-36. Their first official Inter-High Series games took place in the 1936–37 school year. In the next year of competition – the 1937–38 season – Charles Findley was named Wilson's first All High for basketball. (This selection followed two Wilson baseball players in spring of 1937 and a football player in fall of 1937.)
Wilson's first Inter-High Championship win was in basketball, in 1942. The squad was coached by Tony Kupka and led by Donald Hillock and Fred Vinson, both of whom were named to the All High team. In the semifinals, Wilson won 28–24 over the Roosevelt team under coach Red Auerbach. The "Green Tigers" then decisively won the Inter-High title by beating Central, 46–23.
Wilson won back-to-back Inter-High championship titles in 1953 and 1954. In 1952-53, the top scorer was Lon Herzbrun. In one game against McKinley Tech, Herzbrun scored 41 points – breaking the Inter-High single game scoring record. Herzbrun also broke the Inter-High single season scoring record, and this win ended Tech's run of 30 consecutive victories. That same year, Tennessee bound Herzbrun was named to the first team All Met football team and the first team All Met basketball team, the only Wilson athlete ever to earn that double honor. In Wilson's 1953-54 basketball year, sophomore Lew Luce led the team in scoring; he broke Herzbrun's Inter-High single season scoring record on the final day of the 1954 regular season. Luce went on to be named three times to the All Met basketball team.
Wilson's inaugural football team, coached by Carl Heintel, played its first (exhibition season) game on October 16, 1936, a 12–0 victory vs St. Albans in a driving rain storm. The team went 3–2 in a non-Inter-High exhibition season in 1936. The stars of the squad were RB Dave Tate (who scored Wilson's first-ever touchdown), RB Nick Cokinos, and E Johnny Stevens.
Wilson football officially joined the Inter-High Series for the 1937 season. For his play on the gridiron in the fall of 1937, E Johnny Stevens was named as Wilson's first All High player for football. (Two baseball players had been named that spring for Wilson's first-ever entries into the All High selections.)
The new Wilson Stadium opened during the football season of 1939. The "Presidents," as they were frequently called by the newspaper sports writers in the early years, played their first home football game in Wilson Stadium on October 6, 1939, against Landon. The official flag-raising dedication took place on October 27 in front of a capacity crowd of 2,000 prior to the kickoff of the 1939 Inter-High home opener vs Western.
In the 1949 season, the Tigers football squad, under Coach Joe Carlo, outscored opponents by 206 to 77. They went on to win their first Inter-High Championship by beating McKinley Tech by a score of 21 to 20, made possible by three extra points from placekicker Dick Sebastian. The next weekend, the Tigers played in the Second Annual City Championship game against Catholic League champions Gonzaga in front of 7,949 fans in Griffith Stadium; the Tigers lost the game with a final score of 12–7. Stars of that team were B Lee Brinson, E Pete Haley, C Preston Kavanaugh, T Don Meaney, and B Leo Speros.
Three seasons later, in 1952, Wilson went unbeaten under the direction of Coach Joe Carlo. The team won its second Inter-High Football Championship in front of 7,000 fans. Although the Western Red Raiders were considered the underdog, they scored a 13–0 lead before the Wilson offense took control and won the game, 41–16. RB Mike Sommer, who had won the Inter-High Track Sprint Champion and been named as All Met Running Back, ran for more than 150 yards (140 m) and scored five touchdowns. The Wilson team continued on to win its only City Championship in football: on December 5, 1952, Wilson beat Catholic League champion St. John's with a score of 24–6 before a crowd of 12,000 in Griffith Stadium. The Tigers' defense dominated the second half of the championship game, denying St. John's any first downs or even access past midfield. Stars of the Wilson performance in that game, and also All Met players, were T Max Carpenter, B Lon Herzbrun, B Mike Sommer, and G Chico Stone.
Wilson players participated in the first integrated high school football game ever played in the District, after the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision came down in May, 1954. On December 4, 1954, five Wilson players – Don McMurray, John Webster, Bob Rogers, Mike Hixson, and Leland Phillips – played on a mixed black and white team before a crowd of 8,800 at Griffith Stadium. The integrated Inter-High All Stars beat St. John's, 12–7, to end the St. John's thirteen-game winning streak and capture the 1954 City Football Championship.
The Woodrow Wilson cross-country team, coached by Alfred Collins, won their first Inter-High championship on November 6, 1963. The championship race was held at the Langston Golf Course. Seniors Charlie Hudson and Charlie Smith finished second and sixth respectively, while sophomore Doug Coffin finished eight. Over the course of the season, both Hudson and Smith set a number of records. Regardless, Eastern and Spingarn High School were the favorites in the championship. The depth of Wilson's team soundly defeated both. The Washington Post named Hudson and Smith to the first team all-met cross-country team, both of whom went on to be founding members of the Sports International Track Club with members from BCC, Gonzaga, St. Albans, Episcopal and the American University. The club attracted a number of world-class athletes who went on to represent the United States, Trinidad & Tobago, and Barbados at the Olympic Games.
The Tigers athletic program maintains the only crew team among D.C. public high schools.
In 2007, Wilson became the first public high school in Washington, D.C. to play varsity ice hockey with a team in the Maryland Scholastic Hockey League's Capitol Conference. The team plays its home games at Fort Dupont Ice Arena, the only public ice rink in the District of Columbia.
The Wilson varsity softball won the DCIAA championship for the three consecutive years in 2007, 2008, and 2009. In 2009 the team, led by seniors Kathleen McLain and Rachel Bitting, played Georgetown Visitation in the Congressional Bank Softball Classic in which the softball champion of the DC public schools played the champion of the DC private schools. Wilson won the game, 3–2; McLain struck out eight batters without allowing any walks, and Bitting hit a walk-off double in the bottom of the last inning.
The Wilson swim team returned for the 2006–2007 season and claimed the city championship in the same year.
Wilson's wrestling program has been intermittent. In 2005, Wilson ended its wrestling program, becoming the last public school in Washington DC to have a wrestling team. However, in 2012, the program was restarted.
The Wilson Cheerleading team won the 2014 DCIAA championship title.
Wilson Stadium opened for duty in 1939. An artificial turf field was installed over the summer of 2007. A sound system, press box, and lights were also added to the stadium. The stadium is now used for several sports, including soccer, football and lacrosse.
There has been an aquatic facility on the Wilson High School campus since the late 1970s. It first opened in 1978, but was condemned and demolished in 2007. A new Aquatic Center for Ward 3 was completed in 2009, with an indoor 50-meter swimming pool, a children's pool, and other facilities.
Wilson's school newspaper is called The Beacon. It began publication in 1935.
In 2012 Jay Childers wrote that the quality of the publication and the publishing frequency of the Beacon declined as the school had increased difficulties. Historically the school administration did not, and still does not, review Beacon articles prior to publication, even though the U.S. Supreme Court in Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier stated that principals have the right to have control over newspaper content. In August 2015 Principal Kimberly Martin announced that the newspaper would be required to allow her and her staff to review all articles before publication. This led to protests from students, including a Change.org petition. The newspaper staff criticized and stated opposition to the proposal. By September Martin and the co-editors agreed to end the prior review plan. Martin had cancelled publication of a newspaper article at her previous school in Colorado.
Students also publish an annual literary magazine called L.A.V.A..
Awards and recognitionEdit
Notable alumni of Woodrow Wilson High School include:
- Aquil Abdullah (1991), Olympic rower
- Yvette Alexander (1979), former D.C. councilmember
- Robert Altman (1964), attorney and ZeniMax Media co-founder
- John Astin (1948), actor (best known for playing Gomez on The Addams Family)
- Ann Beattie (1965), short story writer and novelist
- Philip Benedict (1966), professor of European History
- Sekou Biddle (1989), former D.C. councilmember
- David Boggs (1968), engineer and co-inventor of Ethernet
- Kwame R. Brown (1989), former D.C. councilmember
- Doris Buffett (1945), philanthropist and sister of investor Warren Buffett
- Warren Buffett (1947), businessman and one of the world's wealthiest people
- Emmanuel Burriss (2003), professional baseball player
- Ruth Burtnick Glick (1960), author under name Rebecca York
- Duane Carrell (1968), NFL punter
- Jack Casady (1962), rock musician most known for Jefferson Airplane
- Ramsey Clark (1946), former United States Attorney General for President Lyndon Johnson and liberal activist
- Jean Craighead George (1937), author of Newbery-winning children's books
- Howard Dawson (1940), U.S. Tax Court judge
- Erik Todd Dellums (1982), television and film actor
- Zelda Diamond Fichandler (1941), theatrical director and producer, co-founder of Arena Stage
- Kenneth Feld (1966), CEO of Feld Entertainment, whose productions include the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and Disney on Ice
- Adrian Fenty (attended, did not graduate), former mayor of Washington, DC
- Angelo Fields (1976), former professional American football player
- Charles Fleischer (1968), actor and voice talent
- Clarence Greenwood (1986), musician under the name Citizen Cope
- George Grizzard (1945), actor on stage, film, and television
- Gilbert Gude (1941), five-term U.S. Congressman from Maryland and author on environmental issues
- Stanley S. Harris (1945), U.S. District Court Judge in D.C.
- John Hechinger (1937), City Council chairman and co-owner of the Hechinger hardware store chain
- Hugh Newell Jacobsen (1947), award-winning architect
- Jorma Kaukonen (1959), guitarist for Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna
- Larry Kramer (1953), playwright, novelist, and gay rights activist
- Romulus Z. Linney (1949), playwright and novelist
- Mark MacDonald, member of the Vermont House of Representatives and Vermont Senate
- Ian MacKaye (1980), singer for Minor Threat and Fugazi
- David Mays (1986), publisher of The Source magazine
- Kenyan McDuffie (1992), D.C. councilmember
- Robert "Bud" McFarlane (1955), National Security Advisor to President Ronald Reagan
- Derek McGinty (1977), television journalist and news anchor
- Donald McKinnon (1956), former New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs and former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations
- Zinora Mitchell-Rankin (1973), D.C. Superior Court Judge
- Paul Miller (1988), hip-hop musician under the name DJ Spooky
- Roger Mudd (1945), broadcast journalist and author
- Jeff Nelson (1980), drummer for Minor Threat and The Teen Idles
- Judith Perlman Martin (1955), syndicated columnist "Miss Manners"
- Adam Rapoport (1987), American magazine editor
- Frank Rich (1967), essayist, op-ed columnist, and writer
- Malaya Rivera Drew (1995), television actress
- Richard Saslaw (1958), politician and Democratic party majority leader of the Virginia Senate
- Clifford Stearns (1959), eleven-term U.S. Congressman from Florida
- Bert Sugar (1953), sports writer and boxing expert
- Harry Thomas Jr. (1978), former D.C. councilmember
- Melvin Tuten (1991), NFL offensive lineman
- Alex Wagner (1995), political journalist and television personality
- John Warner (1945), politician and former U.S. Senator from Virginia
- Jimmy Williams (1978), former NFL linebacker, football coach
- Toby Williams (1978), former NFL defensive tackle
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- "CEO Profile: Disney, Marvel, motorbikes all under Feld's big top". Washington Business Report. WJLA. March 16, 2014.
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