The stars are lining up for what is expected to be a spectacular year ahead at Huntington High School, with some exciting new initiatives and a sensational group of 1,600 teenagers and more than 150 faculty and staff members.
“We are looking forward to an exciting year ahead at Huntington High School featuring some new traditions and efforts to energize school spirit throughout the year,” Principal Brenden Cusack said. “The first of two new events of note is our first ever Homecoming bonfire, which will be an awesome event for all ages to kick off our Homecoming Weekend. We are hoping for a big turnout from the whole community to celebrate with us. There will be games, food, music and an evening bonfire when the sun goes down.”
The new school year will also see Huntington hold a stand-alone senior prom and a separate junior banquet. “This change is the product of students’ requests over the years,” Mr. Cusack “Class officers and faculty advisors are looking forward to planning for this change.”
Students were given their schedules last week and those needing to make adjustments have been working with guidance counselors. Teachers have been organizing their classrooms and facilities staff members are putting the final touches on summer cleaning and renovations to the high school library.
“As was the case last year, we’re planning to continue with the tradition of our senior breakfast and senior field day on the last day of classes,” Mr. Cusack said. “This was a huge hit and something I believe will be part of our traditions for many years to come. This year, I’ll be working with student government officers on a number of school spirit events throughout the year to boost school pride and student engagement on an ongoing basis.”
Over the course of the year, Mr. Cusack and his team are planning to explore models of advisory periods in an effort to strengthen connections among students and between students and faculty. “Additionally, we plan to build upon our foundation of restorative practices and implement additional programs that will expand our current efforts,” he said.
Rather than holding a schoolwide assembly in the auditorium on the first day of school, the regular bell schedule will be maintained and grade level meetings will be held during the second week of school. “This approach will allow us to better tailor our presentations to the specific needs of students at each grade level,” Mr. Cusack said.
An incredible array of courses, programs and after school opportunities await Huntington High School students. The building is in tip-top shape and the renovated library is sure to impress.
“I am looking forward to welcoming students back to school on September 4, along with a number of new faculty members, all of whom are sure to make a lasting and positive impression on our students here at Huntington High School,” Mr. Cusack said.
Huntington’s Long History of High School Education
Since 48 leading citizens came together in 1793 and pledged the funds needed to erect a school building devoted to providing the young people of the community with a classical high school education, Huntington has been on the cutting edge of classroom instruction and has been sending its graduates to the top colleges in the country and into every career field imaginable.
The Huntington Academy was a two-story structure with a belfry. It was built on a hill across the street from the Old First Church. The site is now occupied by Town Hall.
A private institution, the Huntington Academy charged nominal tuition on a quarterly basis. It was outside the common-school system and was not under Regents supervision. “It was intended to, and generally did, furnish the means for a more liberal education than was provided by the surrounding common schools,” wrote town historian Charles R. Street more than a century ago. “Many of the best educators of the period taught generation after generation of Huntington youths within its walls. It prepared for college the sons of those who were ambitious to give their sons a liberal education.”
The New York State Legislature passed a law on April 13, 1857 authorizing creation of the Union School District of Huntington. The community gathered at a “special meeting” on September 7, 1857 and approved formation of the Union School District. It is said to have been the first district organized in the state for providing public education beyond eighth grade.
The first annual meeting of the district was held on January 4, 1858 at 6 p.m. at the Huntington Academy. In a close vote, the community elected Smith Woodhull, George A. Scudder, Brewster Conklin, William A. Conant, James P. Jones and Henry G. Scudder to serve as the first board of education. Mr. Woodhull was chosen as board president. George H. Shepard was the first district clerk.
“The members of the board are business men, some of our best financiers, men who are honest and capable, who will faithfully discharge the duties imposed on them, and by no neglect of theirs or want of prudence will a dollar of the people’s money be squandered,” said an article in the January 8, 1858 edition of The Long-Islander.
Huntington Academy was demolished in April 1858 and the Union School was erected over that same summer. It offered the young people of the community an educational program through twelfth grade. The building opened in November 1858 with Algernon S. Higgins as its first principal. He also taught most subjects. Enrollment totaled 220. The first class numbering six seniors was graduated in 1862.
In November 1858, the Board of Education approved the “rules and regulations of the Union School.” The school year was to begin the first Monday in September and “shall consist of forty-four weeks – five days for a week. There shall be a vacation from Christmas to New Years [sic], inclusive. The Spring Term will be followed by one week’s vacation and the Summer Term by six week’s [vacation]. The Holidays shall be Fourth of July and Thursday and Friday of Thanksgiving week.”
Trustees decreed the Union School be organized as per the following: “There shall be one high school, one grammar school, one intermediate school and such primary schools as the number and locality of the primary pupils may require.”
With the near unanimous support of the Board of Education, the Union School began offering free education in 1864. The Union School formally changed its name to Huntington High School in 1897.
All these years later, Huntington High School is still serving the community and continues to provide students with the educational foundation to move on to top tier colleges and universities and eventually a remarkable variety of careers.