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Columbia High School (New Jersey)

Columbia High School
17 Parker Avenue
Maplewood, NJ

Type Public high school
Established 1814, 1885
School district South Orange-Maplewood School District
Principal Mrs. Elizabeth Aaron
Assistant principals Charles Ezell
Michael Healy
Cheryline Hewitt
Faculty 159.6 (on FTE basis)[1]
Grades 9−12
Enrollment 1,858 (as of 2011-12)[1]
Student to teacher ratio 11.64:1[1]
Campus type Suburban
Color(s) Red      and Black     
Athletics conference Super Essex Conference
Team name Cougars

Columbia High School is a four-year comprehensive regional public high school in Maplewood, New Jersey, which serves students in grades nine through twelve within the South Orange-Maplewood School District, which includes Maplewood and South Orange Townships. The school has been accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Secondary Schools since 1928.[2]

As of the 2011-12 school year, the school had an enrollment of 1,858 students and 159.6 classroom teachers (on an FTE basis), for a student–teacher ratio of 11.64:1. There were 353 students (19.0% of enrollment) eligible for free lunch and 84 (4.5% of students) eligible for reduced-cost lunch.[1]


  • School history 1
    • Beginnings 1.1
    • Post-Civil War 1.2
    • 20th Century 1.3
      • World War I 1.3.1
      • Post-World War I 1.3.2
      • Vietnam War 1.3.3
      • Invention of Ultimate Frisbee 1.3.4
    • Columbia High School today 1.4
  • Awards, recognition and ranking 2
  • Campus 3
  • Extracurricular activities 4
  • Sports 5
  • Controversy 6
  • Administration 7
  • Notable alumni 8
  • In popular culture 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11

School history


Since the days of the Revolution, a one-room stone schoolhouse had stood on a grassy area known as the Common, located close to the present intersection of South Orange Avenue and Academy Street in South Orange, NJ. ln 1814, this building blocked the construction of a new toll highway from Newark to Morristown. The 73 "Proprietors and Associates" of the school met on August 3 of that year and resolved to erect a new school building near the site of the old one, naming seven Trustees to thereafter oversee the education of local children. The resolution reflected "the desire of the meeting that the said school should in the future have the name of Columbian School of South Orange." [3]

The new schoolhouse was a two-story wood structure, topped by a thin steeple and a lofty weather vane. It was completed before the fall term of 1815. The Trustees decided "That the price of tuition in this school be fixed at $1.75 per quarter for spelling, reading and writing; for Arithmetic in addition to the above branches the sum of $0.25 cts and for Grammar or Geography the further sum of twenty-five cents." The cost of firewood was to be "divided equally among the scholars." On May 10, 1816, the Trustees adopted a seal for the school in the form of "a spread eagle standing on a globe with the word Excelsior underneath in Roman Capitals."

In the early years, students at the Columbia School were not separated according to grade. All were subject to the same rules, among them the following adopted by the Trustees on May 2, 1827: "Every scholar must be made to name every silent letter in his spelling when he spells a word with one in and mention every figure which is placed over a letter and be taught to know their uses and for every mistake or omission in such letter or figure shall be considered the same as spelling a word wrong and subject to the same usage.

"Every scholar that spells a word wrong or omits a silent letter or figure shall step in the rear of the class and there stand until the class shall have spelled through, then those that have spelled right are to move up in a solid body and those who are in the rear to move down and take their places at the foot."

For decades, the school was supported by tuition payments. But gradually the State began to assume a share of the financial responsibility. In 1820, a law authorized townships to levy a tax to pay the tuition of poor students. By 1828, townships had the power to tax for general school purposes. The State itself began to contribute money in 1830, and in 1846 every township was required to raise as much money each year for schools as the State itself contributed. The last tuition assessment for residents occurred in 1861, and thereafter the Columbia School was entirely supported by public taxation.

Post-Civil War

After the Civil War, improvements on the railroad contributed to a decided growth of population in the old Township of South Orange. The general character of the citizenry underwent a significant change and residents known as "commuters" began to emerge in numbers. In 1867, a state law required that Columbia become a graded school. By 1877, the old two-story wooden building erected in 1815 was found to be woefully inadequate for the growing community. One resident complained (perhaps hyperbolically) that "in very cold weather, with stoves at red heat, it is impossible to raise the temperature in the room above 55 degrees, and in such a place are sown the seeds of suffering, disease and death."

The Trustees responded in 1879 by resolving to erect a new brick building, of two stories, to accommodate between 220 and 240 pupils. The new structure was opened in 1880. The final cost of construction was $17,094.49. The building later became the northeast wing of the old South Orange Junior High School, demolished when the present middle school was built.

The separate existence of the high school began in 1885, when the Trustees decided "that in order to increase the efficiency of the Columbia School a new class of a higher grade shall be formed at the commencement of the coming term to be taught by the Principal." Lower grades continued to be housed at Columbia. The Trustees' minutes of May 31, 1888, reflect the principal's request "that a diploma be voted to Miss Etta A. Kilburn" and that, "on motion, a diploma was voted to Miss Kilburn, the first graduate of the high school.

20th Century

In 1894, the South Orange, Maplewood, and Hilton school districts were consolidated and became the South Orange and Maplewood School District, with borders essentially identical to those which presently exist. The District remained unified even after Maplewood and South Orange became separately incorporated, although there was considerable pressure to split as early as 1904.

The close of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th brought significant changes in high school curriculum and school management. The Board of Education had by now replaced the old Board of Trustees. In 1890, "manual training" was offered in school. By 1891, sciences had been added to the course of study. A tradition of excellence was beginning to evolve, and in 1892 two Columbia graduates were admitted to Cornell University. Musical enrichment was added in 1894 with the hiring of a singing teacher from New York City. Early in the 1900s the value of athletics was recognized and encouraged at Columbia by the organization of boys' and girls' teams. The student council was formed in 1912, and The Columbian student newspaper followed in 1915.

There was a reaction to these changes. Complaints arose over so-called "fads and frills"-inessentials said to be leading to the neglect of reading, writing, spelling and arithmetic. New York papers read by local commuters campaigned for a return to the efficiency of the "little old red schoolhouse." But the changes were here to stay.

At the same time, pupil behavior was becoming less inhibited, much to the distress of the adult population. Henry W. Foster, Superintendent of the District from 1900–1927, described the conditions in 1913: "Long before prohibition was adopted, venturesome boys were surreptitiously now and then bringing liquor to dances to add to the excitement. There was a decided reversion to animalistic excitement. Musical rhythm from the wilds of barbarism stirred the pulse. The dance abandoned the restraint and refinement of waltz and polka; Bunny Hug, Turkey Trot, Fox Trot, and Shimmey began to reign."

The Board of Education reacted by banning all but "polite dances" on school premises. However, the proscribed behavior persisted, and the Board then stopped all school dances. That continued until it became apparent that students were going to outside dances anyway and the efforts at control were abandoned.

World War I

World War I profoundly affected life at Columbia. Pupils in assembly regularly delivered patriotic "four-minute speeches." Every room in the school had a full complement of war posters. Quite a number of boys signed up for the Army and the Navy. All male teachers enlisted.

Epidemics raged during the same period of time. Polio spread around the country in 1916 and, at Columbia, resulted in the deaths of one teacher and several children. In 1918, the global influenza epidemic closed all of the schools in the District for three weeks and one teacher died.

In the early part of the 20th century most of the remaining farms in Maplewood and South Orange were sold and subdivided, leading to the present suburban character of the towns. The increase in population placed enormous pressure on the schools. In 1900, the total District school population was 792; by 1927, it had risen to 4,960, an increase of 526%.

Post-World War I

The Board of Education initially responded by constructing a sizable addition to the old Columbia School in 1910, which building still housed primary school children as well as high school students. Seth Boyden School and the old Fielding School were erected in 1913 and 1914, respectively. By the fall of 1922 Marshall School was completed. First Street School followed the next spring, and Jefferson School opened in January 1924. Later that year the junior high schools were organized, and both the Tuscan and Montrose buildings were finished.

More was needed. The old Columbia School could no longer safely accommodate the student population. A magnificent new structure was planned. The design process was unique in that the faculty and all members of the staff participated by submitting sketches, drawn to scale, of the facilities necessary to satisfy their needs. In 1926 construction began on the present Columbia High School building. Work was completed in September 1927, in time for the fall term. So well designed was this building that two years later its floor plan was described and pictured in the Encyclopædia Britannica in an article describing ideal American schools.

During this period of time Columbia gained increasing fame for its academic excellence. Educators generally considered it to be one of the most outstanding high schools in the United States. Much of that reputation was due to Henry W. Foster, Superintendent from 1900 to 1927, and John H. Bosshart, Principal from 1920 to 1927. Bosshart succeeded Foster as Superintendent, and later served as the first head of the New Jersey Department of Education.

American public schools were all significantly impacted by World War II. In the words of Lt. General Brehon Sommervell, then Commanding General, Services of Supply: "The job of the schools in this total war is to educate the nation's manpower for war and for the peace that follows." Columbia High School met the challenge, primarily with curriculum changes designed to prepare boys for service in the military. The science department developed courses in aeronautics. In biology, students studied the effect of flying on the human body. A new modern history course emphasized the "historical background for an understanding of the forces which have caused this global war, of the necessity of destroying that for which our enemies stand and of the magnitude of the international problems which face the world." Even the music department offered a new program "to train pupils in the informal singing that grows out of wartime needs." Columbia had its own Victory Corps with the objective of encouraging pupils "to take some active part in their own community's war effort while they are yet in school.

For many years following its opening in 1927, the high school physical plant was more than sufficient for the needs of its population. Although four classrooms and a shop were added to the structure in 1939, it was not until 1958 that a large addition (now C Wing) was constructed to accommodate a burgeoning student body. By 1964, the dimensions of a new population explosion were perceived, and a special Board of Education committee was formed to investigate the needs of Columbia High School in the 1970s. As a result of this study, it was calculated that further additions would be required. During the 1970−71 school year, B and D Wings were added at a total cost of $5,250,000.

The total high school population was now approaching 2,400. The same committee which concluded that physical additions were needed also recommended a new organizational plan to prevent students from feeling depersonalized in such a large system. What grew out of this was the House Plan, which, in 1970, divided Columbia into four sub-schools of approximately 600 students each. The goal was to provide the intimacy of a small school within a large plant, and each of the houses had, for example, its own student council, intramural athletic teams, and newspapers. All of these were in addition to the traditional school-wide activities.

Vietnam War

Student reaction to the Vietnam War was a nationwide phenomenon, and Columbia provided no exception to the pattern. A Student Peace Group was organized at Columbia in 1968, and over 300 students actively participated. Members wore black armbands on April 26 of that year, and a community rally was held the next day with faculty members present. On March 17, 1969, 43 Columbia students were suspended for distributing leaflets in school. The American Civil Liberties Union agreed to defend the students, but the issue later became moot when, over a period of time, the students were reinstated.

Invention of Ultimate Frisbee

The Vietnam era generally coincided with a time of protest against all things establishment. One manifestation of this was the ascendancy of

External links

  1. ^ a b c d Data for Columbia Sr High, National Center for Education Statistics. Accessed August 1, 2014.
  2. ^ Columbia High School, Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Secondary Schools. Accessed June 19, 2011.
  3. ^ Foster, Henry W. "The evolution of the school district of South Orange and Maplewood, New Jersey, 1814-1927
  4. ^ a b Gold, Daniel M. (It was conceived on Richmond Avenue four blocks east of the School off Parker Avenue) "An Accidental Sportsman in Hollywood", The New York Times, February 5, 2006. Accessed November 3, 2007. "And yet, as documented in a new book, "Ultimate: The First Four Decades" (, that's exactly what happened when Joel Silver introduced a motion to the council at Columbia High School in Maplewood, N.J., in 1968."
  5. ^ Blue Ribbon Schools Program: Schools Recognized 1982-1983 through 1999-2002 (PDF), United States Department of Education. Accessed May 11, 2006.
  6. ^ Mathews, Jay. "The High School Challenge 2011: Columbia High School", The Washington Post. Accessed September 9, 2011.
  7. ^ "The Top of the Class: The complete list of the 1,200 top U.S. schools", Newsweek, May 22, 2007. Accessed May 24, 2007.
  8. ^ Staff. "Top Schools Alphabetical List 2014", New Jersey Monthly, September 2, 2014. Accessed September 5, 2014.
  9. ^ Staff. "The Top New Jersey High Schools: Alphabetical", New Jersey Monthly, August 16, 2012. Accessed August 27, 2012.
  10. ^ Staff. "2010 Top High Schools", New Jersey Monthly, August 16, 2010. Accessed March 18, 2011.
  11. ^ "Top New Jersey High Schools 2008: By Rank", New Jersey Monthly, September 2008, posted August 7, 2008. Accessed August 19, 2008.
  12. ^ New Jersey High School Rankings: 11th Grade HSPA Language Arts Literacy & HSPA Math 2010-2011, Accessed March 5, 2012.
  13. ^ Architectural Styles as Applied to School Buildings
  14. ^ N. J. High School Team Champions 1956 – Present, New Jersey State Chess Federation. Accessed August 13, 2013
  15. ^ 2010-2011 FTC World Championship Award Winners, First Tech Challenge.
  16. ^ 2012-2013 FTC World Championship Awards List, First Tech Challenge.
  17. ^ League Memberships – 2014-2015, New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association. Accessed October 29, 2014.
  18. ^ 2014-2015 Public Schools Group Classification: ShopRite Cup–Basketball–Baseball–Softball for North II, New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, as of July 8, 2014. Accessed October 29, 2014.
  19. ^ Home Page, Iron Hills Conference, backed up by the Internet Archive as of February 2, 2011. Accessed December 3, 2014.
  20. ^ 2006 Team Fencing - Girls Team Fencing, accessed October 16, 2006.
  21. ^ 2007 Fencing Team Tournament - 2007 Boys Team Fencing, New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association. Accessed May 31, 2007.
  22. ^ Staff. "Columbia, North Hunterdon and Ramapo take titles at boys squad tournament", The Star-Ledger, March 1, 2009. Accessed September 7, 2011. "Columbia won epee, North Hunterdon took foil and Ramapo earned the sabre title at the NJSIAA/Bollinger squad championships yesterday at North Hunterdon in Annandale."
  23. ^ Karn, Jeff. "NJ BOYS FENCING: Columbia tops Bernards for team title", The Star-Ledger, March 2, 2010. Accessed June 19, 2011. "Kelly and Gibson both capped 3-0 performances with crucial third-round victories as Columbia, No. 1 in The Star-Ledger Top 10, defeated No. 2 Bernards, 15-12, in the NJSIAA/Bollinger team final Tuesday night at Morris Hills in Rockaway."
  24. ^ Karn, Jeff. "Columbia wins boys fencing state championship", The Star-Ledger, March 17, 2011. Accessed August 30, 2011. "Epee fencer Devon Good went 3-0 and provided the clinching victory in the 25th bout when Columbia, No. 1 in The Star-Ledger Top 10, downed No. 2 Montclair, 14−13, in a thrilling final of the NJSIAA/Bollinger team championships Wednesday night at Morris Hills in Rockaway."
  25. ^ Daur, Erik. "Mendham stuns Columbia to win state team championship", The Star-Ledger, February 29, 2012. Accessed March 27, 2012. "Led by a 3-0 showings from Alex Andriatis and Adam Campos Mendham, No. 2 in The Star-Ledger Top 10, defeated top-ranked Columbia, 14-13, in the NJISSA/Bollinger Championships at Morris Hills in Rockaway.... Zimmermann came out on top and Mendham captured their first state title, while stopping Columbia;s consecutive dual-meet victory streak at 49."
  26. ^ Orlando, Chris. "Non-public teams jostle at the top", The Star-Ledger, November 8, 2007. Accessed November 10, 2007. "Breznitsky, who just completed his 33rd season and led Scotch Plains to its second straight and 13th overall Union County Tournament championship last Saturday, has a career record of 554−127−41, which would place him fourth on the list behind Gene Chyzowych of Columbia (700-175-67), Miller Bugliari of Pingry (694−89−53) and Shawnee's Brian Gibney (616−113−47)."
  27. ^ High School Boys Coaching Records: Winningest All-Time Coaches By Victories (Updated 9/8/06).
  28. ^ 2007 Boys Soccer - North II, Group IV, New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association. Accessed November 13, 2007.
  29. ^ Cross Country State Group Team Champions, New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association. Accessed August 30, 2011.
  30. ^ Staff. "Columbia 48, Dickinson 0 (High school Football scores & results)", The Star-Ledger, November 15, 2008. Accessed June 19, 2011. "The senior, a three-year starter at running back and defensive back, rushed for three touchdowns and returned an interception for a score when the South Orange-Maplewood team ended the longest active losing streak in New Jersey with a 48−0 victory over Dickinson in a consolation contest yesterday at Underhill Field in Maplewood. Anderson ran 12 times and gained 107 yards for Columbia (1-9), which had lost 45 straight games since it scored a 21−18 victory over East Orange campus on Oct. 2, 2004."
  31. ^ Kleiman, Dena. "T.M. Study Barred In Jersey's Schools; Judge Bans T.M. in Jersey Schools", The New York Times, October 21, 1977. Accessed June 19, 2011.
  32. ^ Lewin, Tamar; "Growing Up, Growing Apart" at
  33. ^ Bill O'Reilly. Somewhere Jesus is Weeping... Fox News. December 21, 2004.
  34. ^ Nancy Solomon. Racial Achievement Gap Still Plagues Schools. National Public Radio. October 31, 2009.
  35. ^ Staff. "Students win fight to air banned broadcasts", Student Press Law Center, April 5, 2006. Accessed September 7, 2011.
  36. ^ Hu, Winnie. "In New Jersey, a Civics Lesson in the Internet Age", The New York Times, April 27, 2010. Accessed September 7, 2011. "At Columbia High School in Maplewood, that looked like 200 students marching around the building waving signs reading “We are the future” and “We love our teachers.” "
  37. ^ School Sites, South Orange/Maplewood School District. Accessed August 18, 2014.
  38. ^ Columbia High School Hall of fame, accessed July 28, 2006.
  39. ^ a b Two Graduates Inducted Into the CHS Hall of Fame - May 2008, South Orange-Maplewood School District, June 2, 2008. Accessed July 14, 2008.
  40. ^ Freeman, Hadley. "American dreams: He may be known as one of New York's coolest chroniclers, but Paul Auster grew up in suburban New Jersey and worked on an oil tanker before achieving literary success. Hadley Freeman meets a modernist with some very traditional views", The Guardian, October 26, 2002. Accessed September 19, 2008. "Education: Columbia High School, New Jersey; 1965-69 Columbia College, New York; '69-70 Columbia University, New York (quit after one year)"
  41. ^ Rowe, John. "PJ GIVING IT HIS ALL", The Record (Bergen County), March 25, 1992. "His first breakthrough was convincing Mark Bryant of Columbia High School in Maplewood to come to the Hall."
  42. ^ a b c d e Coscarelli, Kate. "THE RE-EDUCATION OF LAURYN HILL: Singer enters school's hall of fame", June 11, 1999. Accessed August 6, 2007. "Just after the jazz band quieted down and Hill was introduced to the crowds, a video montage reeled through some of the past inductees, including actors Elizabeth and Andrew Shue and Roy Scheider, journalists Drew Middleton, and movie producer and writer Linda Gottlieb. But the loudest cheers of appreciation came for sexologist Alfred Kinsey, followed closely behind those for Olympic track star Joetta Clark."
  43. ^ Our Lady of Sorrows February Frenzy Awards, accessed May 15, 2007. "Staff Sgt. Peter S. Connor, United States Marine Corps, was born and raised in South Orange. He graduated from Our Lady of Sorrows in 1946, and later graduated from Columbia High School."
  44. ^ Staff. "Paul R. Erlich", Current Biography yearbook, Volume 31, p. 127. H. W. Wilson Company, 1971. Accessed April 29, 2011.
  45. ^ Polner, Murray. "Paul R. Erlich", American Jewish Biographies, p. 88. Facts on File, 1982. ISBN 0-87196-462-7. "During his childhood his family moved to Maplewood, New Jersey, where he was graduated from Columbia High School in 1949."
  46. ^ Durbach, Elaine. "S. Orange-born architect Eisenman describes Shoa memorial's birth pangs", New Jersey Jewish News, April 19, 2007. Accessed May 2, 2007. "Looking around at the many familiar faces in the audience, the graduate of Maplewood's Columbia High School said, 'This is a strange occurrence for me, being back home with mishpoche. Not that that was a word that was familiar from my home.'"
  47. ^ Sokan, Taiwo. "CHS Radio is Reborn", The Columbian, February 2011. Accessed August 27, 2012. "CHS has fostered many radio personalities over the years including greats such as legendary National Public Radio (NPR) producers, Jonathan “Smokey” Baer and Donna Fiducia."
  48. ^ (Indiana University Press ): 14.Sex the Measure of All Things: A Life of Alfred C. KinseyJonathan Gathorne-Handy, ISBN 0-253-33734-8
  49. ^ a b c d e f Strauss, Bob. "Why America loves Zach Braff", Los Angeles Daily News, September 12, 2006. Accessed May 15, 2007. " But the fact Braff didn't enter the family business might have something to do with growing up in Maplewood, New Jersey N.J., and attending Columbia High School there. The place has produced an extraordinarily large number of show-business luminaries, among them hip-hop queen Lauryn Hill, actors Elisabeth and Andrew Shue, super-producer Joel Silver and even Ahmed Best, the guy who did the voice for detested "Star Wars" character Jar Jar Binks."
  50. ^ a b c d e Hall of Fame, Columbia High School. Accessed February 4, 2012.
  51. ^ Delo, Cotton. "'Daily Show' Writer Javerbaum Inducted into SOMS Hall of Fame: Maplewood native David Javerbaum graduated from SOMS in '85 and from CHS in '89. ", MaplewoodPatch, September 28, 2009. Accessed August 31, 2011.
  52. ^ "Liam Neeson On Kinsey", CBS News, December 15, 2004. Accessed May 2, 2007. "1912, Kinsey is valedictorian of his class of 1912, Columbia High School"
  53. ^ p. 119Roy Scheider: A Film Biography, accessed December 18, 2006.
  54. ^ Vogel Weiss, Lauren. PAS Hall of Fame: Leigh Howard Stevens, Percussive Arts Society. Accessed May 15, 2007. "Born in Orange, New Jersey on March 9, 1953, he graduated from Columbia High School in Maplewood and was voted 'most likely to succeed' in his class."
  55. ^ Desocio, Lois. "Columbia Recognizes ‘Fabulous’ and Judicial Alumni", The New York Times, May 27, 2010. Accessed August 31, 2011. "Robert Verdi, Ms. Hoens’ fellow 2010 inductee who is a celebrity stylist and television personality, said he felt “out of sorts” over the recognition, considering the judges, doctors and scientists that have come before him."
  56. ^ via Associated Press. "High school honors drummer", The Lewiston Journal, May 13, 1987. Accessed September 7, 2011.
  57. ^ Don Hamingson Literary Showcase - A POETRY READING WITH COMMENTARY BY C.K. WILLIAMS, accessed May 15, 2007. "C.K. Williams is the author of numerous books of poetry including The Singing, which won the National Book Award. Join us for this wonderful opportunity to hear this Columbia High School alumnus read his works and talk to us about the creative process. Among his many awards and honors are the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2000, an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award, and a Guggenheim fellowship."
  58. ^ Thomas, Bob. "Teresa Wright "Pride of the Yankees" co-star dies", copy of item from Associated Press, March 8, 2005. Accessed May 15, 2007. "Wright was born in New York City on October 27, 1918, and grew up in Maplewood, N.J., where she showed promise in theatricals at Columbia High School."
  59. ^ Reel Classics bio of Teresa Wright, accessed December 18, 2006.
  60. ^ Cieply, Michael; and Finke, Nikki. "Spy in L.A. Unsettles `Industry'", Los Angeles Times, January 4, 1989. Accessed August 27, 2012. "Feirstein ("Real Men Don't Eat Quiche") said when informed that four movie producers had privately expressed suspicion that he was contributing and had been a major source for Brady's [Joel Silver] column. The suspicion seems natural: Feirstein is listed on Spy's masthead as a contributing editor, and he has stayed in touch with Silver since the two went to high school in Maplewood, N.J."
  61. ^ Worth, Marcia. "Jersey Boys: James Kaplan talks Sinatra and South Orange: James Kaplan recalls a great teacher and an "idyllic" South Orange as he discusses his new biography of Sinatra", SouthOrangePatch, November 28, 2010. Accessed February 4, 2012. "It takes one Jersey guy to know another. South Orange native James Kaplan has made Hoboken's Frank Sinatra the subject of his newest book, Frank: The Voice. 'I heard the Jersey in his voice as a very familiar sound,' says Kaplan, who moved to South Orange as a young child and attended Montrose School, the brand-new South Orange Junior High School, and Columbia High School."
  62. ^ Venutolo, Anthony. "From heroes to villains, Frank Langella finds the heart in them all", The Star-Ledger, November 29, 2008. Accessed June 14, 2011. "The family moved to South Orange, where Langella graduated from Columbia High School before heading off to Syracuse to study drama."
  63. ^ Leyner, Mark. My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist, Vintage Books, 1993. ISBN 0-679-74579-3. Accessed June 14, 2011. "I attended Columbia High School, where I wrote a column called 'This Side of Paradise' for the school paper. The column chronicled the parties that my friends and I attended."
  64. ^ Meier, Richard. Building the Getty, p. 6. University of California Press, 1999. ISBN 0-520-21730-6. Accessed June 14, 2011. "At Columbia High School in my hometown of Maplewood, New jersey, I took the usual art history and art courses."
  65. ^ Vickar-Fox, Shira. "Head of the Class", New Jersey Monthly, September 2000. Accessed April 29, 2011. "WHAT DO SINGER Lauryn Hill, sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, actor Roy Scheider, and publisher Grace Mirabella have in common? They're all graduates of Columbia High School in Maplewood."
  66. ^ Durbach, Elaine. "Ex-'60s radical shows kindler, gentler side at his alma mater", New Jersey Jewish News, April 19, 2007. "But while the former member of the Weather Underground showed a kinder and gentler side at an April 9 gathering at Columbia High School in Maplewood, his alma mater..."
  67. ^ Staff. "Coach Builds New Eleven: No Veteran of '39 First String in '40 Squad", Newark Sunday Call, September 15, 1940. Accessed June 14, 2011. "In fact, there are left only four letter men of the 1939 squad. They are Tony De Luca, captain and quarterback; Ralph Sazio and Allen Tonkin, tackles, and ohn Mercandante, fullback."
  68. ^ Richardson, William D. "COLLEAGUES HONOR STANFORD MENTOR; Shaughnessy Named 'Coach of the Year' in Poll Taken by the World-Telegram", The New York Times, December 20, 1940. Accessed June 14, 2011.
  69. ^ Maxine N. Lurie, Marc Mappen. Encyclopedia of New Jersey, p. 736. Rutgers University Press, 2004. ISBN 978-0-8135-3325-4
  70. ^ "General Cortlandt Van Rensselaer Schuyler", United States Army General Orders, January 10, 1994. Accessed June 14, 2011. "He attended Columbia High School in South Orange, New Jersey, and in the fall of 1918, after two months of his senior year, he was accepted for the United States Military Academy, entering with the special class starting in November of that year."
  71. ^ Tony Smith Sculpture Project, Lennie Pierro Memorial arts Foundation. Accessed August 31, 2011. "Today Kiki Smith, Tony’s daughter, is one of the foremost artists of her generation. Her sister, Seton, a photographer, is also well known in the art world. Both grew up in South Orange and attended Columbia High School."
  72. ^ Columbia High Soccer


In popular culture

Other notable alumni not currently in the hall of fame include:

The school has a hall of fame listing many notable alumni. They include:[38]

Notable alumni

  • Elizabeth Aaron - Principal
  • Michael Healy - Assistant Principal
  • Charles Ezell - Assistant Principal
  • Cheryline Hewitt - Assistant Principal

Core members of the school's administration are:[37]


Columbia High School has also had many student led walk-outs. In late March 2006 hundreds of students walked out after tensions with the principal regarding censorship issues and racial comments. The students were calling for her resignation. The next year a new acting principal was instated and the following school year she became the official principal.[35] On April 27, 2010, hundreds of students participated in a state-wide walkout of high school students protesting the budget cuts put in place by Chris Christie.[36]

55% of the students are African American heritage and 38% are Caucasian. Within this black-and-white composition are found a variety of ethnic backgrounds including Jamaican, Nigerian, Haitian, African-American, English, French, Jewish, Polish, Italian, and Irish. There has been much discussion regarding the Racial Academic Achievement Gap in the school district, and the tracking is often cited as the most glaring example of a racial disparity.[34]

In 2004, Columbia High School made national headlines when the administration amended a policy regarding religiously themed holiday songs putting more strict guidelines in place. Many people believed the new rules to be too strict. Radio personality Don Imus produced a song on his radio program entitled "Oh, Little Town of Maplewood", mocking the new rules of Columbia High School. The new guidelines were also mentioned on The O'Reilly Factor.[33]

In June 2000, writer Tamar Lewin of The New York Times wrote "Growing Up, Growing Apart",[32] a lengthy feature highlight how an ethnically diverse trio struggled to maintain friendships and cope with teen life at Columbia. The story trailed Aqeelah Mateen, an African-American Muslim, Kelly Regan, an Irish Catholic, and Johanna Perez-Fox, a Puerto Rican Jew; the group quickly became ambassadors for the school, and for their respective ethnic groups. The article wasn't controversial, per se, but directed national attention to the school district and to Columbia specifically.

In the mid-1970s the school district was sued for teaching Transcendental Meditation and its Science of Creative Intelligence course for credit. The U.S. District Court ruled in the case called, Malnak v. Yogi (1979), that TM was "religious in nature" and that its use in public schools was in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution which requires "separation of church and state."[31]


Columbia's Varsity football team has been notably unsuccessful in recent years, winning only two games over a span of five seasons, including three consecutive winless seasons from 2005–2007, but broke their 45-game losing streak with a 48−0 victory over Dickinson High School in the last game of the 2008 season.[30] In 2009, The team finished 8−1 in the regular season, but lost to Westfield High School 41−6 in the first round of playoffs.

The school's cross-country team won the Group IV boys title in 1960 and has had a number of individual state champions.[29] In 2008, a senior girl won the Essex County Championships.

The boy's soccer team is coached by Gene Chyzowych, one of the most successful active scholastic soccer coaches in the nation.[26][27] The 2007 boys soccer team won the North II, Group IV state sectional championship with a 1−0 win over Westfield High School in the tournament final.[28]

The girl's track and field team won the New Jersey girl's indoor track relays in the winter of 2005. The boys track team placed 5th at the Nike Indoor Nationals in the 4x400 meter relay in 2009, making it the best in history for Columbia boys and breaking a school record. In the 2010 outdoor season, both the girl's and boy's teams went to the New Balance Outdoor Nationals, where the girls team won, making them #1 in the country, and the boys placed 6th.

Ultimate was invented at The Columbia High School in 1968. The ultimate team has won the state championship 11 times in the tournament's 13-year history. The team has won the championship every year since 2001 giving it a 12-year winning streak. The team has attended the Paideia cup tournament in fencing team (started in 1982 by Jerome Glasser and subsequently prevented from dissolution by Daniel Glasser) is one of the largest in the nation, having over 100 freshmen join the team in the last year alone. The boys team is consistently ranked among the top in the state, while the girls team has won the state championship 8 out of 10 years. The girls team record for the combined 1999-2005 seasons was 94−4. In 2006, the girls fencing team defeated Bernards High School 19−8 to win the NJSIAA 2006 Girls Team Fencing state tournament.[20] Columbia won the 2007 Boys Team Fencing state championship with a 16-11 win over Voorhees High School.[21] The team's head coach, Dr. Arthur Paulina, won his milestone 300th victory during the 06-07 season. In the 2008−09 season, the boys fencing team took home the épée state title.[22] In the 2009−10 season, the girls team won District III, but finished 5th in the state, losing in the quarterfinals to Governor Livingston High School. The boys team won the Cetrulo Tournament and the NJSIAA/Bollinger District 3 championships, earning them a top seed going into the NJSIAA State Championship Tournament. The boys team won state championships for the first time since 2007 in a 15−12 win over Bernards High School.[23] In the 2010−11 season, the girls placed No. 3 in the team state championships after defeating Governor Livingston High School in the consolation meet. The boys won their second consecutive state championship defeating Montclair High School (New Jersey) in the final by a 14-13 score.[24] In the 2012 NJSIAA/Bollinger tournament, Columbia lost in the final to second-seeded West Morris Mendham High School by a score of 14−13, ending the school's 49-match winning streak.[25]

The Columbia High School Cougars compete in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA).[17] With 1,358 students in grades 10-12, the school was classified by the NJSIAA for the 2014-15 school year as North II, Group IV for most athletic competition purposes, which included schools with an enrollment of 1,087 to 3,896 students in that grade range.[18] Prior to the NJSIAA's 2010 realignment, the school had competed as part of the Iron Hills Conference, made up of public and private high schools in Essex County and Union County.[19] Prior to 1972, the school competed in New Jersey's Big Ten Conference. Many of the teams are successful on the local, state and national level.


The FTC robotics team 4102, founded in 2011, placed first in the New Jersey FTC State Championships during its rookie year in 2011 and again in 2013, qualifying for the FTC World Championship both times and placing as a finalist both years.[15][16]

In 1956 (tied with Cranford High School), 1982 and again in 1990 (tied with Cherry Hill High School East), the school's chess team was the New Jersey high school team champion, winning the Father Casimir J. Finley Trophy.[14]

Extracurricular activities

In each era of construction, the chosen design was seen as controversial. The D-Wing, the most recent and most obvious addition to the School, boasts a dramatic modernist design typical of the late-1960s and early 1970s. The clash between this new (and already out-of-fashion) style and the original architecture of the A-Wing is especially visible from Parker Avenue.

CHS has had a major addition every 20 to 30 years. In the 1930s, an industrial arts wing brought students the skills needed during the Great Depression. In the 1950s, a large addition, now known as "C-Wing", added classrooms to cope with increasing student numbers as well as a massive gymnasium (bringing the total number of gyms to three). In the early 70s a projected enrollment boom and the need for new science, fine arts, and industrial arts space created the need for "B" and "D" wings. A new cafeteria, the largest public school library at the time, space for academic advising, a now-gone small movie theater and A/V room and a TV studio were built. With these additions, the earlier 1927 structure is only visible from the front facade and between later additions. In 2005, much of the space previously used for industrial arts such as wood shop and auto shop was transformed into a theatre performance and general use space. In 2009, renovations were completed on the main entryway, reviving original stone and woodwork, but with a conspicuous misspelling of the school's motto, "Excelsior", carved as "Excelcior" into the masonry floor.

Predominant original exterior features include carved limestone detail, numerous false chimneys, steeply pitched slate roofs, and a seven-story clock tower. While it is not known for certain that Columbia High School was inspired by any earlier structures, the strong resemblance to Laynon Hall at Guastavino tile ceiling remains, the chandeliers are gone, and a giant arched window is blocked by a later addition.

While thousands of schools were constructed in the same era with little more than local notice, the opening of the present-day Columbia High School warranted articles in The Architect, Architecture, Architectural Record, American School and University, The Brick Builder, Pencil Points, and The American School Board Journal. Rendered in the Collegiate Gothic style by James O. Betelle of the Newark, New Jersey architectural firm of Guilbert & Betelle, the school served as a standard in design as evidenced by the inclusion of a floor plan in a 1930 Encyclopædia Britannica article, and later design homages such as John Marshall High School (Los Angeles, California). Collegiate Gothic, or Academic Gothic, construction was prevalent among schools and colleges in the 1920s, and was Betelle's preferred building style for both its scholastically historic roots and practical considerations.[13]


The Columbia High School Student Council was named an "NJASC Honor School" for the 3rd consecutive year in January 2008. It also won a "Top 10 Projects" award for their event, 'School in Action Night'. They won the same honor the year before for their 'How to Start a Gay-Straight Alliance' presentation created by Christian Fuscarino and Jake Esformes.

The school was the 96th-ranked public high school in New Jersey out of 339 schools statewide in New Jersey Monthly magazine's September 2014 cover story on the state's "Top Public High Schools", using a new ranking methodology.[8] The school had been ranked 47th in the state of 328 schools in 2012, after being ranked 75th in 2010 out of 322 schools listed.[9] The magazine ranked the school 89th in 2008 out of 316 schools.[10] The school was also ranked 79th in the magazine's September 2006 issue, which surveyed 316 schools across the state.[11] ranked the school 150th out of 381 public high schools statewide in its 2011 rankings (an increase of 29 positions from the 2010 ranking) which were based on the combined percentage of students classified as proficient or above proficient on the mathematics (82.5%) and language arts literacy (94.6%) components of the High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA).[12]

In the 2011 "Ranking America's High Schools" issue by The Washington Post, the school was ranked 43rd in New Jersey and 1,358th nationwide.[6] In Newsweek's May 22, 2007 issue, ranking the country's top high schools, Columbia High School was listed in 1192nd place, the 39th-highest ranked school in New Jersey.[7]

Columbia was ranked the 36th best high school in New Jersey in 2012 by U.S. News & World Report.

For the 1992−93 school year, Columbia High School received the Blue Ribbon Award from the United States Department of Education, the highest honor that an American school can achieve.[5]

Awards, recognition and ranking

Columbia High School was the first school in the nation to observe Earth Day on April 17, 1970. Due to the fact that Columbia was on spring break on April 22, when Earth Day was scheduled for national observance, the presentation was known as Earth Day Minus Five and a specially prepared flag was run up the main flagpole by students Tim Lee and Larry Schindel. The all day observance, which was coordinated by biology teacher, Jeffrey Himmelstein began with Congressman Joseph Minish as the keynote speaker and several noted scientists from the area conducted seminars. Featured was an assembly with films and slide shows that were created by several students and environmentally themed folk songs were sung by Dorothy Giordano.

By the late 1970s, student populations around the nation had entered what proved to be a period of extended numerical decline. The Board of Education organized a citizen Educational Task Force, which conducted a District-wide demographic study and ultimately recommended a series of school closings and consolidations. One of the results was the entry of the 9th grade into the high school in 1980. Declining enrollment, as well as cost considerations, led to the discontinuance of the House Plan in 1982.

Columbia High School today

). The Mirror) and the school's yearbook staff (The Columbian. The event has drawn former CHS Ultimate players from as far back as the early 1970s to return to "The Lot" to play against the current incarnation of the team. The original game was played between the school's newspaper staff (Thanksgiving An annual CHS Ultimate Alumni game is played in the student parking lot on the night of [4]

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