2019-2020 News — 22 October 2019
Oakland High turns 150
Oakland High School

A new sign marks the side of Oakland High’s gym in late 2011. Image credit: Thanh Nguyen.

By Selena Lu

Having started in 1869, this year, 2019, Oakland High School remembers its 150th anniversary with an open house and celebration.

The free open house and celebration will happen Saturday, Oct. 26, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

In the library at 10, there will be displays of old Aegis newspapers, old yearbooks and scrapbooks (each class used to make a scrapbook of the important events of their 4 years at OHS), photographs of the old Oakland High buildings, and time capsules from the 1970s, said Georganne Ferrier of the Wildcat Alumni Association.

Starting at 11, in the commons, there will be a welcome and music by alumni Jeremy Cohen, displays from the academies and career pathways, performances by current cultural clubs, sports teams demonstrations featuring the Women’s Basketball Team, and OHS 150th memorabilia like t-shirts and mugs for sale. In the gym, there will be demonstrations by the various sports teams and the cheerleaders. 

Starting at 2 pm, a concert will take place in the theater. There will a variety of music featuring the Oakland High Jazz Band, Purple Silk Orchestra, and alumni musicians Los Rakas, Boots Riley, and Raymond Miles. OHS alumni Mike Vax, who has become a successful jazz trumpeter, will also be performing.

The celebration is jointly planned by the Wildcat Alumni Association (WAA) and Oakland High School. Everyone is invited, including students, parents, alumni. Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell, the School Board members, city council members and Mayor Schaaf have also been invited. Food will be provided.

OHS is the oldest high school in Oakland. From a one-room high school, its building changed six times before it settled on the modern four-building campus it is today. It has gone through 21 principals, with Matin Abdel-Qawi being the 22nd.

Oakland High School was first just one room in a middle school. In 1878, the school moved to a new building, which was destroyed in a fire in April 1889. Students were moved, but the rebuilt building was destroyed in an act of arson after 16 days. 

The school board decided to move Oakland High and give it a new building–opened in 1895, it was nicknamed the “Old Brick Pile.” 20 years later, in 1928, the building had grown old compared to all the new buildings that were built around it and the community convinced the school board that a new building was needed.

This new building opened in 1928 and was moved to where the school is now. It was nicknamed “The Pink Palace.” But it was declared not earthquake-proof and rebuilt. The result is our current school, which opened in 1980, sans the Wong building, which opened in 2011.

The academies and pathways of our school each started at different times. VAAMP was the school’s first academy, created in 1994. ESA came a year later in 1995. PHA was the third academy. PLTW came to the school four years ago, in 2015, and LSJ started around the same time. The most recent pathway, RISE, grew out of the Newcomer program in the 2018-2019 school year.

O-High used to have a JROTC program that started in 1920, a gun range, and shop classes that introduced the trades to students, but they were all done away with. The Oaken Bucket, a magazine of student writing, has also disappeared, along with many sports teams like bowling.

However, many things have been added to Oakland High since its start. A multicultural week was created last year, celebrating the diversity the school has obtained. Numerous new clubs have sprouted–anime club, a makers club, and photography club for example. A Future Center, helping students prepare for college was created five years ago. And the theater program that had vanished for years was restarted by English teacher Chris Johnston last year.

“I think the school has been more open to new ideas,” ESA 12th grader Gildardo Berrospe commented. ”They’re trusting students more.”

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