Albany High School: An alum's perspective

Albany High School

By Elisabeth Draper

Some people I've met have found it hard to believe that I'm a graduate of Albany High School.

When I was in high school I worked at a store in Stuyvesant Plaza. An older customer once asked where I went to high school, so I told her. She subsequently went on to tell me how she, too, was an Albany Academy girl and what a fabulous education I must be receiving. I hated to correct her, as she was so happy to reminisce, but I said, "No, no -- I go to Albany High."

Her response? A rather deflated, "Oh."

I attended Albany High from 1995 through 1999 and the perception of the school hasn't changed much in 12 years. And while I can't attest to the student experience today, I've always been appreciative of my time at Albany High and am proud to be a Falcon.

Let me tell you why.

Albany High is really a school within a school -- at least it was when I was there. My classes weren't necessarily small, but they were quiet, orderly, and usually interesting. Gym class, lunch, and the time before, after, and in-between classes offered the most authentic representation of the school as everyone was together. No tracked classes, just throngs of kids from all walks of life; a myriad of nationalities and races all together -- mostly harmonious.

Going from Albany High to a homogenous, private Catholic college in Washington, DC was a shock, to say the least. I figured the bland student make-up would be offset by the diversity of our nation's capital. It wasn't until my dorm friends began to tell me about their high schools that I fully understood how unique Albany High is.

In short, Albany High is a microcosm of the world, and, arguably, society. As I said, there were kids from all over the globe and from all sorts of socio-economic backgrounds. Kids who emigrated from Mongolia to the United States, to kids whose families shipped them out of New York City and up the Hudson River to live with relatives. Kids who needed free breakfast and lunch, to kids whose parents owned houses on Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, and everything in between. It was an amazing learning experience and I credit my parents for sending me there.

Taking the good with the bad, Albany High wasn't perfect. There was a gun incident my freshman year, hall monitors regularly broke up altercations in the hallways, and Friday afternoons seemed to be the popular day to bring your toddler to school. The police would regularly arrest kids and there were many days when my dad would drop me off at school and the scent of marijuana would be hanging thick in the air. If the latter is offensive, I apologize; but don't think it isn't happening in some way, shape, or form in the suburbs, too. It just may be not as brazen.

Obviously, it saddens me to read about the struggles that continue to affect Albany High in recent years. To see a school with such high academic distinctions -- specifically, the AP and International Baccalaureate programs -- be plagued with low graduation rates and high drop out rates is frustrating.

If the city is serious about improvements to Albany High, I would like to see what, if any,research has been done into creating two high schools for the city of Albany.

It's also tough (and wrong) to place all of the blame for Albany High's shortcomings on the school district. The school oversees what happens between 7:45 am and 3 pm, and the experience during school hours can and will influence a student's willingness to learn. But it also goes without saying that parents, guardians, and general home life are a large piece of the academic success puzzle, as well. In addition, the perception and the accepted notion that Albany High is inherently unsafe is a problem. As I said before, there are issues at Albany High, but find me a school that doesn't have problems or isn't dealing with violence and drugs.

It's been my observation though, that Albany schools are in a kind of a chicken and egg scenario. The top complaints in the city are poor schools and high taxes. The taxes are high here for many reasons, notably because of a wealth of non-taxable parcels on account of colleges/universities, non-profits, and state and federal buildings. All of this prompts the question: if the schools were better or safer, would more people live in Albany? And if more people lived in Albany, wouldn't taxes be lower? I'm no economist, but this makes sense to me.

When I read Jerry Jennings' 2012 State of the City address, I was pleased to see a real push to improve Albany High and to foster partnerships between colleges and universities in the area. We should hold Jerry to this. However, I'm not sure building a new Albany High is the only means to this end. Moving Albany High to the Harriman Campus would isolate the school by removing it from the heart of the city and placing it in a less walkable neighborhood. Moreover, Albany High isn't that old -- the current location opened in the mid-70s. While I would support renovations to the existing structure, I don't think Albany needs a new, single campus high school at the Harriman Campus.

If the city is serious about improvements to Albany High, I would like to see what, if any,research has been done into creating two high schools for the city of Albany. Last week, the New York Times ran an article titled "City Students at Small Public High Schools Are More Likely to Graduate, Study Says." It looked at how several smaller public high schools in New York City have yielded higher graduation rates and improved college preparedness. I'd be interested in seeing if this idea could be applied here.

There is no quick or easy solution to improve Albany High for current and future students and I don't purport to have an answer. My hope for the city and for future students is that the school comes into its own and lives up to the vision set forth in the State of the City address while maintaining the diversity, culture, academic rigors, and real-world experience that truly set Albany High apart from the rest.

Elisabeth Draper is a proud alumna of Albany High School.

Earlier and elsewhere:
+ Capital Region high school graduation rates 2010
+ Tough report for Albany High School
+ TU: Plan calls for relocating Albany High to Harriman Campus

Comments

Now for the 64,000 question.

Do you live in Albany currently, and will you be sending your kids through the public school meat-grinder?

Outstanding article and social analysis Elisabeth, and kudos to AOA for giving you the platform on which to share. The perspective of someone who has been there is generally much more insightful and interesting to read than something written from the third person view.

I would love to see AOA do a follow-on style series of posts from local residents of other local school districts.

great article and some sound views. good job

jalarson
ahs '92

that's so cool that Betty Draper went to Albany High.

@Ike Yes, my husband and I own a home in Albany and have no plans to leave as of yet.

I second jalarson- well done, Elizabeth.

Jules
class of '94

Far from a mean grinder- I quite enjoyed my time as a Falcon and would send my kids there. Great article, Bea!

@Ike - I'm interested in what you mean when you refer to the "public school meat grinder." Correct me if I'm mistaken, but I think I might be picking up some...unsavory feelings about where public education is taking our students, and I'd be interested in hearing your opinion.

Meanwhile, I love the article, and I'm a fan of anyone who stands up to defend the unique educational atmosphere of the city school district. There are so many things going on both inside and outside of the curriculum within urban settings that encourage students to see the world maybe not as it always is but as it always should be: diverse, multicultural, dynamic, and full of the human experience. Thanks for putting a positive spin on something that we are all to often ready to dismiss as beyond repair.

I went to School 19 and then my family fled to the suburbs pre-Hackett.

The Albany City schools are not *one* of the reasons I don't currently live in the city, they are pretty much *the* reason I don't live in the city. I am not sending my kids to Public school, and I have never been a fan of the private school scene around here. Don't know what we could do to improve the situation...

Liz,

Thanks for an informative article. I am also an Albany High Grad and just thinking about how this school is perceived just makes my gut turn. For one, I can't tell you how many times I've heard the comment "Oh... YOU went to Albany High?" or "But you turned out OK." As to say I'm an exception to the rule, and the rule is somehow OK for people!? Albany, like many other urban public schools, is exactly what you make of it. Kids who are driven will achieve. I know of at least 10 kids i went to school with that are now lawyers, doctors, scientists, etc. Not to say career success is the only measure of a quality education - just about of my AHS friends are happy, well adjusted, regular people. Who are also sick of hearing "YOU went to AHS?" As if they should be ashamed.

Did I know kids who didn't carve out a great life for themselves? YUP. Do I know as many 'losers' that had the "luxury" of private school or suburban school? YUP.

It's a sad fact: latchkey kids have the short end of the stick right of the bat. Many of these kids have trouble at home, a behavioral or psychological issue, chemical addiction, or grow up in an abusive home. As minors they have very little choice. There are also a high number of achievers at AHS. Kids doing great things, going places, working hard. The school is a microcosm of real life.

I chose to make a home in Albany and found a great career here. I have some friends who moved away to get to suburban schools and I feel when I talk to them about staying here and sending my kid to AHS I need to defend myself and like I'm apologizing. I want to say "what horror your life has become, where you can't subject your kid to this school? You lived it, you know it's not as bad as it's made out to be - so why do you buy in?" I don't know if they're just afraid to buck a trend, they bought in to a sales pitch, or they really believe it's gotten that bad. I don't ask - people tend to take it personally.

The way i see it, any "problems" at AHS are OUR problems, as a city and as a region. Running away from the problem, refusing to pay for it (or throwing money at it) will not solve it.

I'm torn on whether a new building will help -- albeit the 'old building was built on the cheap and 'product of the environment' could partially true for at-risk kids. A new facility is needed - if only to tell these kids that we care about their future.

@ike: Can you expand on the "meat-grinder" comment? Was that meant to be an insult to people who went/go to school there?

I enjoyed your article. It reminded me a great deal of my experiences in Schenectady High around the same time. Our city school districts have amazing opportunitites for students that don't get publicized. I had excellent teachers and mentors from school partners like GE R&D that shaped my career. I learned a great deal from my classmates who came from a wide range of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. I had multiple opportunities to participate in enrichment programs and activities in the sciences and arts. Yes, SHS had its problems. But so do the suburban schools. The parents in those districts just have more money to make them disappear.

I now live in Albany and look forward to sending my children through the district schools.

Well said. In fact, couldn't have said it better.

AHS '97

Great article Ms. Draper!

I am a recent grad of AHS- Class of 2011 to be exact. I am now studying at Ithaca College. I cannot tell you how many times I have received the exact same reaction as you. Coming to IC was a huge culture shock and I've actually experienced some of the worst reactions here than ever before about me having attended AHS.

I think it's sad so many people hold these views. Albany High is about what you put into it. I participated in things at AHS that I never could have done at neighboring private institutions. The AP and IBO programs are simply awesome. I never had the desire to attend any other school- even when my parents had their doubts, I reassured them that I was meant to be where I was. Albany High showed me the real world- and I loved every minute of it. It shaped me into the person I am today and I am so proud, so happy that I have the advantage of AHS, that SO many of the kids I meet here lack. I'm not saying they're all bad, or they're all sheltered...I simply mean to reiterate how appreciative I am to have been a product of public schooling my entire education thus far.

There is nothing like having a French Class of all native speakers- nothing like a Theatre Ensemble made up of every different race you can think of. I miss Albany High all the time. I understand that it has many shortcomings, but as you said, what school doesn't? I wish the stigma around AHS would soften, at least a little! It's exhausting to go through the same ordeal each time I'm asked where I went to high school. I went to Albany High, YES Albany High School. And yes I live IN the CITY of Albany. It's true. I love Albany. I love Albany High.

What more proof does anyone need that AHS is a fine school than Jaimie's comment above? If only more suburban parents could hear/read what you have to say.

As someone who has attended and taught in public schools, I feel very comfortable defending the meat-grinder phrase. Public schools are destroying children and enriching union officials and administrators who are far more interested in protecting their turf and the status quo than in educating children.

It's nice to defend your alma mater, and to reflect on where you came from, but by any educational metric Albany High School is a FAILURE. If it's anything like many of the failing urban schools that I am familiar with, it's problem is primarily that it has abandoned its educational mission and embraced its institutional one. It is a place to lock up kids for 8 hours a day.

This past week was National School Choice Week, I would have liked to see something about it on AOA. The status quo has failed in urban public education, and massive changes are required. This article is nothing but a romanticized "Ode to a 'Persistent Failure'" , and that's not me, or oft-denigrated "suburban parents" talking, that's the NY State Ed Dept.

Great take on Albany High. I loved my time there for the students' diversity and the learned ability to side step landmines, a skill everyone must have to succeed in any capacity.
I always got a chuckle from what I then perceived as snobs from the suburban and private schools, the latter of which collectively couldn't hold a candle to Albany High's academic offerings.
Jason Gough
Class of 1988

@daleyplanit

You and I had different experience there, even though we were classmates. I'm not "buying into" an idea that the school was rough. I'm using my own memories of randomly being jumped. And getting thrown over a desk IN CLASS by a boy twice my size for telling him to be quiet. And watching my pals get beat up because, oh, they gave someone a glance that was interpreted as disrespectful or because there was a rumor that one of them was gay. Also, I graduated with a regents diploma while not being able to name the 3 branches of government. Literally.

I didn't relocate to the suburbs because of some "trend". I moved because I didn't want to commit my life to being a community organizer in downtown Albany. If you want to label that as me "running away", then fine. But politics and community outreach is not something I'm made for. I prefer to put my energies into other things I'm passionate about, like animal welfare and nutrition programs.

And listen, I don't hold it against you for deciding on the Albany public school system for your child, in fact, I think it's great and I wish you well. But please stop making me feel like I'm on trial every time I read one of your comments on this topic. I want what's best for my family the same way you do for yours. Can we please agree on that?

Wonderful Peace Elisabeth -- I'm so proud of you! From the perspective of a Capital Region private school graduate I would have to agree with many of the sentiments addressed in your peace. My high School, like your college was both, located in a city, and largely populated by a single demographic. And while my education experience may have differed from yours at Albany high, many of the same problems could be found (Violence, Alcohol, drugs, and incompetent faculty). My private school (and I would agree most) are far from perfect.

As a homeowner in Albany and soon to be father I feel that while the decision on where to send my child to school will be an important one, it is even more important that the parent(s) and/or guardians are there to provide support and encouragement to help a child develop and succeed regardless of whether it is a public or private education.


Sadly, @albanyjen, I get the sense they can and do hear it, but choose not to listen.

This article is completely spot-on. Great job!

I too am an Albany High graduate, class of 1998. My husband is also a graduate, class of 1995.

Our daughter is in third grade in the Albany City Public school system, and we have the highest esteem for the education she is receiving.

Agreed on Albany High, I graduated in '04 and it's not as bad as people make it out to be.

What public high school doesn't have problems with violence and drugs? As long as kids are required to go to school, there's going to be people who don't want to be there, have a rough life, or just a bad attitude. And there's going to be kids who do want to be there and don't want to start fights.

I think moving the school to the office campus is a sh*tty idea. If they want to sell the land so bad, go ahead. Go go taxable land.

And Albany just so happens to have a gorgeous school sitting empty and in disrepair on Northern Blvd - the lovely former Philip Livingston Magnet Academy.

The school when it opened had almost 1400 students, so there probably wouldn't be a problem fitting the high school population there. It has a large auditorium, gym, full sized pool, plenty of land if they needed to add some adjacent facilities in back.

I know I wasn't alone in high school in thinking that AHS looked, and sometimes felt like, a mental institution sans barbed wire. (Seriously, was it the same architect that built CDPC?)

I think it would show that they really did care - about this city's history and it's future if they renovated Livingston, instead of moving the school to an office campus.

Sure, it's not as central of a location, but it's still walking distance for some of North Albany and Arbor Hill, and CDTA already partners with the school district, change of location won't matter much when it comes to the buses. Livingston has a really long driveway, better for parking the buses than AHS, anyway.

This is my dream, anyway.

It's a great day to be a Falcon! Being a member of the class of 2000 I have many memories of the great Dr. Washburn chanting that in the halls. I left AHS with multiple college credits, passport stamps from 4 countries obtained during school field trips, and more importantly a true sense and respect for diversity that has served me well into my future. Not everyday was issue free, but thanks to AHS I have street smarts and book smarts.

Well said Elizabeth!

Class of 98!

I also worked at Albany high for 2 years as a building sub before getting hired as a full time teacher in another district. I miss Albany high every day. It's my neighborhood, my community, my home away from home.
Every school has problems, including the one I currently work in but I could never have received the education (as a student and then a teacher) I got from any other school. I hold my experiences at AHS dear to my heart. I loved that school and I know there are thousands more that feel the same way.

And by wonderful "peace" I mean great "piece"... I'll blame the initial spelling on my phones autocorrect and my private school education for the proof reading.

Throwdown! Paranoid suburban tinfoil-hat wearing deserters vs naive urban community-organizing liberals. My take on that whole debate is that we are all doing what we think is the best for our kids. Insults about the choices that other people make are counter-productive and rude.

For my 2 cents, go Falcons! I went to AHS, plan on sending my son there, and start student teaching there on Thursday. Some of the comments I have heard from classmates in teacher school about Albany schools may be relevant to this discussion--"I was scared to student-teach at T.O.A.S.T. but now that I'm done I realize-wow!- kids are kids where ever you go"(go figure!) and "oh when you try to do fieldwork at Albany High you will have a whole different and more challenging set of problems than we do at Shen".(trust me, I'm shaking)

OK, fine. There are challenges with a large and diverse student body. But every school has problems. And the whole "oh we'd love to live in Albany and not have to commute but then you have to factor in private school tuition" attitude is worthless. Also is the attitude from alum that yeah, it looks scary from the outside but we have AP classes! And music! And culinary! So you CAN carve out a safe niche! And go to college with a few college credits under your belt AND street cred!

The people I really applaud are the ones who are trying to make it a great school for EVERY student that attends. In the next few years I hope to join their ranks! (Especially if Coleman or McGurn are still there :-) Cue tinfoil hat wearers ripping me a new one about how naive I am.

Elisabeth,
I really liked hearing another person sticking up for Albany High School. I graduated from AHS is 07'. I found the school to be great! In my senior year I took a class that gave me college credit. Also I agree that as long as students have parents or guardians that care, help and make sure there kids are doing good in school. I personally think think that the school district should go and build a second school and divide the school to make the classes smaller and make the school have smaller classes.

An articulate, thoughtful and multiple-head-nod-evoking analysis. A great read -- thank you Ms. Draper.
-Scott Sandman, AHS, '84

My wife went to AHS and had a good experience. I am a product of Catholic and private schools in the City of Albany. My niece graduated from Hackett and as she walked across the stage at the Palace on her graduation day, she was booed by the masses in the audience. It was a display that could've only happened at a beloved Albany School. From that day on I said i would never send my kids to any Albany Public School. We live in the Suburbs and it was the best decision I ever made. Nothing against Albany High, but i come from a big family and we grew up in the City of Albany and ALL my relatives moved out. Let's not sugarcoat AHS, it ain't that good.

"It's also tough (and wrong) to place all of the blame for Albany High's shortcomings on the school district...But it also goes without saying that parents, guardians, and general home life are a large piece of the academic success puzzle, as well. "

Now, if only you could convince Gov. Cuomo and the technocrats at State Ed. of the same thing, the school might have a fighting chance. Alas, the decision-makers have spent precious too few hours inside a classroom in an instructional capacity, especially in an urban setting. While there's nothing wrong with holding teachers to a high standard, placing an entire staff "under review" because of ass backward policies is simply wrong - the staff are not social workers, babysitters or parole officers, nor should they be treated as such. Likewise, placing children with developmental disabilities in an honor's class hoping that somehow the smart kids' intelligence and motivation will rub off on those less capable is bizarre and leads to a further homogenization and dilution of good programs (that attract and retain good students), like AP and IB. But heavens no, we wouldn't want to alienate the community and actually make parents take some degree of responsibility for their CHILDREN'S actions - instead, send them to AHS, and let them run amok whereby they are 'supervised' for at least part of the day. One could easily contend that the school could raise its graduation rate and Regent's exam results by 20 percentage points across the board, if only they could weed out (and never return) the 200 or so kids who do raise hell, and goad another 500 borderline cases into doing the same. There's no saving those 200 anyway; they're already broken. And, to have a child enter high school and not be able to read and write and do basic math proficiently points to failures all along the educational chain, beginning with elementary schools. Unfortunately, both barrels are too often pointed at the high school - by then, the damage has been done.

A student who is eager to learn and values education can be successful anywhere. I believe this has more to do with what happens at home than the school itself.

@joe
I am sorry for the experience that your niece had on what should have been a very special day. She did NOT deserve this.

I too went to parochial and private school in the city of Albany - our teachers would NEVER have allowed that behavior! (and our parents would not have either)

We live in different times - again - may your niece rise above this...

Class of '04.

I was far from the perfect student, but I took advantage of my time at AHS. Thanks to my parents keeping an eye on me, I came through my rebellious phase unscaved.

I graduated with 13 college credits and didn't even take an AP. I
Albany High offers more APs and clubs than any school in the area. If you've talked to many of the alumni, they'll tell you much of the terrible rep is created by the media and its focus on the negative. Did you know AHA has an internationally recognized drama program? Did you know they have an award winning robotics club? Did you know it's only 100 kids out of the thousands of students that are in trouble on a regular basis?

I had a similar experience as the author of this article. I went from the diverse AHS hallways to Niagara University. I was shocked to find i was one of very few students who truly knew the aftermath of 911. I got a taste of life and it's challenges. I watched student after atudent drop out of college due to drugs, parties, alcohol, etc. It doesn't matter what private or suburban schools they attended. It depends much more on the decisions we make, our level of maturity, parental involvement, and student/teacher buy in.

I'm now in my fourth year teaching. I thank my guidance counselor for urging me to enroll into Education Explorations as a senior.

Having attended a SUNY school, I too have had the "oh" reaction from peers who attended schools somewhere near Albany. A question that today still follows is "Well- how was *that*?" And I immediately replied honestly-- "It was great!"

High school is ridiculously formative. It's pretty insane how little money/attention is given to education in this country. But I am happy to say I had a wonderfully memorable experience at Albany High School.

I graduated Albany High School with TWO FULL college semesters completed PLUS 8 additional credits. 38 CREDITS! Without ever leaving school for a single course! I earned all these credits from a mix of AP courses (all taught by exceptional teachers who ACTUALLY prepared me for college level course work while I was a SOPHOMORE in High School -- yes I'm looking at you Thomas McGurn and your "blue" and "salmon" Kishlansky textbooks), HVCC credited courses and also SUNY Albany credited courses- all in a variety of subject areas. I could have finished college a year EARLY because of all the credits I came in with from Albany High School. I could have saved $20,000+ from credits earned in my public school education if I chose to finish college after 3 years.

I have no harsh or bad memories of being at Albany High. While my primary classes were "Honors" and AP I was mixed in with the student body plenty in gym, art, health, chorus and home economic classes. I don't know how many people can say they *really* use things they know that they learned in high school, but I can say that any day of the week. Not just from "academic" courses either-- I learned how to properly use weight lifting equipment in gym and the first and only time I ever cross-country skied was behind AHS for gym class. I learned how to make my first apple crumble in a home economics class-- and if you know me now, I write a food blog and that experience cooking in my high school is not forgotten. I don't know how to fully express just how much I learned/have taken away from my AHS education.

For me there was plenty of choice in what I wanted to take, I always made a *real* schedule of my courses with my guidance counselor (which I did again when I got to college, without a counselors help). I took classes from the range of courses offered from some of the very best teachers anywhere- like Mr. Pete's Anthropology and Sociology. I enjoyed school because of my classes, my teachers, my classmates and friends and the overall environment. I never tried to stay home from school because I just didn't want to be there- I never skipped classes (the first of my siblings not to!). I love learning, but I know what it is like to hate a subject or a teacher and I thankfully didn't experience that until I got to college.

I hope the future for all of Albany is bright, as I always do, but especially for the Albany City School District. My fantastic high school experience has impacted who I am as an adult and I hope there are many others who feel the same way I do about a great place, exceptional teachers, and a diverse mix of students who weave a fabric of understanding and a sort of love for each fellow human as an equal, as a friend.

Mary Rosch '05

I wonder if the AHS grads who had good experiences are in a demographic* that's more likely to read and comment on AOA in general.

*Racial, socioeconomic, further education, political, etc.

Well done, Elisabeth! I take such pride in having graduated from AHS. Thank you for the fantastic piece.

@ike

The blanket argument "charter schools are better" is 100% bogus. Charters aren't in it to serve kids, their in it to serve themselves and fight unions. How do they do it?

a) Weed out poor performing kids with developmental and educational issues and force them to go back to public schools
b) kids with behavioral issues are kicked out
c) kids in charters are there at the behest of their parents

Public schools have no option but to accept these kids. Thus, if we look at this as a marketplace: Charters get their pick of the products, then blame the other competitor for the remainder of the items. The samples are not the same for comparison. That said charter backers spend millions attacking unions and lobbying for more charters - all the while complaining about the school taxes. So, instead of putting this money into the education system, it goes to lobbyists and investors.

Want more? Read the letter from Pedro Noguera, formerly of SUNYA board of Trustees, who resigned his post over this entire broken system.

Great piece Elizabeth!

I went to AHS and had a good experience there, I was involved in sports, student government and other clubs. Other school in the capital district don't offer the variety of programs like AHS.

Don't get me wrong we had our good and bad mixture of students. But it was obvious from the start that with hard work and determination we would graduate and make something of ourselves.

Please don't think that issues at AHS is not happening in suburban schools! Its just not being put on front street for everyone to see and hear.

I wouldn't trade my experience at AHS for anything in the world, it has shaped me into the person I am today!

Class of 97'

I too am an alumna of Albany High from many years back. I, too, was scared of the school because of its "bad" reputation, but having no other choice - I dug in.

What I found was a cornicopia of sorts. I had some of the best teachers and the clubs that were available gave me the space that I needed. The theatre group, under Mr. John Velie was like heaven on earth as it provided a place for anyone and everyone. One could be outgoing or shy ( as I was) and there no judgment . There was a place to work and belong.

But, aside from theatre ( my great love), I can say that I had a good education and graduated at the top 5% of my class. I had excellent teachers, mediocre teachers, and also there were the teachers one wants to forget.

Following the progress and process of AHS, I have noted the good marks in AP courses and the Regents. Of that we should be proud.

My daughter's score on 3 AP courses counted in her college admission. Thank you, AHS.

If one wants a good education, one can get it at Albany High. Classmates of mine received full scholarships at Ivy League colleges, such as RPI.

I did not attend an Ivy League school, but my mindset was being out of a campus and in a real city and Boston University served me well. And AHS prepared me well.

I was of the generation who wanted to be in the world, not just learn about it.

My daughter attended a Catholic girls' school up until middle school. She wanted a broader perspective and I agreed and we signed her up for Albany High.

I wanted her not to just learn about diversity, but to live it. She will tell you that it was not easy. She will tell you that she did not understand many of the difficulties taking place in the hallways. I would tell her that we need to try to understand the whys , and work with what is to make it better. When you know better, you do better.

She will later tell me that the best teachers she has ever had were Albany High ones -Mr. McGurn and Mr. Pete come to mind - They taught her not just facts ( not just studying for the Regents) but how to analyse and think things through.

Albany High has something for everyone - from academics, to chess club, Latin club, cheer-leading, theatre...

Plus it forces one to live in diversity, not just learn about it..

A fellow classmate recently noted that gangs were not as prevalent "way back then." but we have to learn what is our current reality.. We cannot abandon this factor.

We need insight into how society works, what works, and what is needed to make the good better and work on the flaws and cracks.

We need to keep Albany High in the city, not on its outskirts. We cannot give up on our kids.
When I walk into the doors if Albany High, I do, in fact, feel as if I have walked into the world with all of the good and bad and diversity..
Balva '66

I like the way you think.

It is very telling to see so many alumni weigh in on their experiences at Albany High. Let's face it...how many twentysomethings would take time out of their busy social schedules (oh, to be young a gain!) to write as passionately as they have done here,
I am proud to say my children have had wonderful experiences in the Albany schools and I am sad to see them come to an end as they wind down their years at the high school. Let's hope, for the sake of our city, that the state resumes its commitment to educating children, regardless of where they happen to live.

Yes, alumni have responded greatly.
Yet my daughter, a fairly recent graduate , turned me on to this piece and is following the school meetings regarding the search for a new principal. When the yearbook of her class came out, she was active enough to be one of the two voted "most likely to forget Albany High." She had many issues with the school, but today, as an alumna and with the belt of experience behind her, including 4 years in downtown Chicago, she sees what Albany High gave her, and she sees a lack in so many people she has met and is meeting. Also, thank you to Mrs. McCaffney for helping her organize her writing,as writing still remains a passion for her.
By the way, I was a teacher myself -overseas and at Lansingburgh and believe me, it's a profession that is so maligned and underpaid....and one needs dedication to survive- dedication to the students, that is. There is only so much we can do with the parents, as Mr. Pete said in a log a year or so ago, especially if they don't show up. But, I repeat, we cannot give up on our kids and I am writing to tell you the the students of the past few years are thankful for this article, contacting one another, and many are following the meetings regarding the future of Albany High. Balva '66

A huge thank you to Mr. John Velie and Mr. Coleman for such great productions in the drama department and making theatre come alive with excitement at AHS!!
Balva '66

I too am an AHS graduate, class of '99. While I have a certain pride in my alma mater, it is more so in proving to doubters that intelligent, well rounded adults can come out of the school in one piece. I did not always feel safe but I did grow a thicker skin and a level of street smart other schools may not have provided to my character.

I recall, while still attending AHS, the idea was floating around to split the high school into two. An "uptown" building at the Harriman campus which, would leave the current building as the downtown campus. The general consensus was agreed between kids and adults that a large part of the diversity would be lost and the original AHS would continue to flounder much as it has.

I don't know that money alone is the answer here and I can't say that I know what the answer is. I know that my children do not attend Albany schools and I prefer it that way because it would seem that the same question has been posed since around 1999 and no one else is really sure of the right answer yet either.

Great article Elizabeth!

Beautifully written Elisabeth! I whole-heartedly agree with all of your sentiments, though I never got to partake in the bring your toddler to school Fridays!

I also am a 1999 alumni. I loved my experiences at AHS. I had great teachers that were so supportive. I had a child about a week and a half before Regents exams in my sophomore year. A teacher, who most did not like, gathered all the study guides and materials from all my teachers and dropped it off to me at my house and brought a collective gift from my teachers. They cared, not only for me, but for all of their students.
(And I passed all of my Regents and honor classes that year!)

I learned so much about life at Albany High. Though not hands on learning but applications to real life. Yes, there were fights, drugs, guns and baby deliveries in the bathrooms. I learned from those experiences as well. We may not have gotten credit transferable to college but it made me who I am today with compassion, understanding of street smarts.

And my favorite part of Albany High is that I met my husband there! Prior to moving to North Carolina, our children went to Albany City Schools and had wonderful experiences.

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