Piedmont High School (California)

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Coordinates: 37°49′24.35″N 122°13′58.86″W / 37.8234306°N 122.2330167°W / 37.8234306; -122.2330167

Piedmont High School
800 Magnolia Avenue
Piedmont, California
Type Public secondary
Motto "Achieve the Honorable"
Established 1921
Principal Adam S. Littlefield
Grades 9-12
Enrollment 800 (2015-16)[1]
Campus Suburban with close proximity to urban areas
Color(s) Purple and white
Mascot The Highlanders
Newspaper The Piedmont Highlander
Yearbook Clan-O-Log
Front of Piedmont High School.jpg
View of the front of the school from opposite side of Magnolia Avenue

Piedmont High School is a public high school located in Piedmont, California, United States. Piedmont High School is part of the Piedmont Unified School District.

Piedmont High School was recognized with the Blue Ribbon School Award of Excellence by the United States Department of Education. Piedmont High School was also a California Distinguished School.[citation needed] Piedmont has a widely known Bird Calling Contest.


Piedmont High School offers ninth through twelfth grade.

Many families move into Piedmont for the schools once their children reach school-age.[2]

Piedmont's colors are purple and white (representing the Scottish thistle), and its mascot, the Highlander, reflects the school's Scottish heritage.

A bond for the creation of Piedmont High School was passed in 1920, and the school was built in 1921.


In September 1922, the Piedmont Unified School District opened the city's first high school. It was funded by a bond passed by voters in 1920.[3][4]

Piedmont High School was the last public school in California to require uniforms, which disappeared in the 1970s.[5]

The social scene was once dominated by social clubs, which resembled college sororities and fraternities, reminiscent of Lindsay Lohan's Mean Girls. While the social clubs raised money the organizations with which they were affiliated, their charitable exterior was just a front for what they really were, mainly drinking clubs.[6] The male clubs died out in the mid-1990s when they grew irrelevant, but the female social clubs didn't end until 2004 when the incoming senior class exhibited overwhelming indifference and distaste for retaining the tradition.[7] ”The school was covered in the New York Times when in the mid-1990s it began breathalyzing all students before dances.[8]

The school was the site for anti-semitic graffiti and hate speech[9] in 2017 as well as the FSL, or the Fantasy Slut League, in 2012[10].


Students congregate on the grass in the quad during brunch, a 15-minute break between first and second blocks.

Piedmont High School has an open campus, and students can leave during brunch, lunch, and unscheduled periods. The campus is between Piedmont Park on the right of the school and Piedmont Middle School and Witter Field on the left.

The center of campus is a grassy area referred to as "the quad." The quad is center of campus, connecting the Alan Harvey Theatre, the library, the cafeteria and student center, and the amphitheatre. Classes are scattered around campus, with the music and science buildings the furthest apart.

The campus was originally built on a portion of Piedmont Park, and dog-walking trails behind the school connect to the park.


The school was built in 1921 in a neoclassical design, part of the same plan that built the Piedmont city's Exedra. Since its design by architect W.H. Weeks,[3] the school has undergone several reconstructions, for reasons such as expansion, earthquake retrofitting, and combatting dry rot.

The school exhibits various styles of architecture, with remains of the original neoclassical design in the library and the distinct "back-to-nature" look in the breezeway and theater.

In 1974, the school was declared unsafe, under state earthquake laws. It was demolished, and three new classroom buildings and a gymnasium were built. The original library, quad, and administration buildings were rehabilitated.[11]

Reconstruction in the 1970s reflected the "back-to-nature" look popular at the time, using wood instead of shingles. The school's "breezeway," an open, wide corridor running between the school's main buildings, exemplifies this.

The last construction was an expansion of the gymnasium, during the 2003-2004 school year, to include an entrance room that also displays trophies. The school has undergone further construction in accord with Measure E, which issued $56 million in bonds to the reconstruction of school facilities to meet earthquake safety guidelines.[12]


Statistics is one of the elective math classes offered.
The amphitheatre is used for outside performances, such as those during lunch. The mural, painted by past AP Art students, was vandalized in 2005 and had to be repainted by the AP Art students of that year.

Piedmont High School is an academically strong school, scoring a 10 out of 10 for test scores at the website GreatSchools.net. In 2008, it was ranked in the top 100 schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.[13] The school newspaper reported that the average of GPA of 2006's graduating class was 3.47.[14]


Advanced Placement

As of 2009-2010, the school offers the following AP courses.[15]

In addition, honors courses in physics, chemistry, and statistics are offered.[15]

Creative and performing arts

Art classes come in various fields: music (a cappella, band, orchestra, AP Music), visual art (2-D art, ceramics, 2-D AP, 3-D AP), drama (Acting I through IV), dance (Beg-Adv). The school also produces a musical every year (extra-curricular).


Other electives offered include Clan-O-Log (yearbook) and the Piedmont Highlander (link: http://tphnews.com/)(school newspaper), law and society, public speaking, multiple computer classes and creative writing.

Foreign language

Spanish, French and Mandarin are the only three foreign language courses that are offered, and American Sign Language is offered over the summer. In 2007-2008 an AP Mandarin course was added. Prior to the 2007-2008 school year, Mandarin classes ranged from Mandarin I to Mandarin V (honors). The Mandarin program was added in 1995-1996, when it replaced German.[16]

Recent changes


An AP European History course was added, while the junior-level course Honors Chemistry was opened to qualifying sophomores.


The current Mandarin V (honors) was replaced by AP Mandarin.[16]

The science curriculum changed from the system of "Integrated Science" to specific subjects, such as biology. In the old system, student took Integrated Science I as freshmen, Integrated Science II as sophomores, and either chemistry or honors chemistry as juniors. The new system allows incoming freshmen to choose between physical science (for "most students") and biology (for "students showing mastery of PMS science").[17] The options are shown in detail below:[17]

Grade For most students For students demonstrating strong interest in science For students showing mastery of middle school science
9th physical science physical science biology
10th biology biology, and
chemistry or honors chemistry
honors chemistry
11th chemistry or honors chemistry, and
optional second science elective
honors chemistry up to two science electives (optional)
12th up to two science electives (optional) up to two science electives (optional) up to two science electives (optional)

ROP-funded journalism, sports medicine, and biotechnology were added.[17] Also, math progression was clearly defined as follows

Grade For students less adept in mathematics For students proficient in mathematics For students advanced in mathematics
9th Algebra I Geometry Algebra II
10th Geometry Algebra II Math Analysis
11th Algebra II Math Analysis AP Calculus AB
12th Math Analysis AP Calculus AB AP Calculus BC

Graduation requirements

Four years of English are required to graduate, as well as two years of math (although most students choose to do four), and completion of two years of Laboratory Science (again, most students choose to do more). In addition, all students must take one year of an art class, one year of foreign language, one semester of any computer class, and one semester of social psychology (required sophomore year). Freshmen are required to take physical education unless they are nationally ranked in a sport. Sophomore and junior year, only one semester each year is required, which can be replaced by one season of a school sport (V or JV). The minimum graduation requirements are as follows:

  • 4 years of English (AP English is offered as an alternative to 12th grade English)
  • 2 years of mathematics (4 recommended)
  • 2 years of laboratory science (most students take biology, chemistry, and physics)
  • 3 years of social studies (Modern World History in 10th grade, U.S. History (or AP US History) in 11th, and a semester each of civics and economics in 12th grade)
  • 1 year of a foreign language (Spanish, French, or Mandarin)
  • 1 year of performing or visual arts
  • 1 semester of any computer class (Computer Skills, Web Design, Computer Programming I-II, AP Computer Science)
  • 1 semester of social psychology (10th grade)
  • 2 years of physical education (1 year in 9th grade, and a semester 10th and 11th unless playing a JV or varsity sport)

Honors society

The school decided to form its own honors society following the 2005-2006 school year. The new group, the Piedmont Honors Society, has a GPA cut-off of 3.60. In addition, there is a community service requirement of 15 pre-approved hours for sophomores, 25 for juniors, and 35 for seniors. The class of 2007 is the last class to maintain eligibility and membership with CSF.

School publications

The school newspaper is the Piedmont Highlander and the yearbook is the Clan-O-Log. Both have existed since the early decades of Piedmont High history, and participants of each publication are involved by taking the offered course. In 2006, the Highlander placed sixth in the National Scholastic Press Association's Best of Show contest.[18] In 2007, the library's Teen Advisory Board revived publication of the literary magazine The Highland Piper, which had last been published in the 1970s. Publication has since been discontinued.[19]


The majority of the student body is White, 68 percent, and Asian, 22 percent.[20] In 2004, the San Francisco Chronicle highlighted the lack of racial and socioeconomic diversity in Piedmont in a Sunday front-page story. Comparing schools in Oakland and Piedmont, the article wrote that "wealth has created separate and unequal schools in [the] Bay Area and elsewhere."[21]

The majority of high school students have lived in Piedmont since elementary school. As in the surrounding cities, only residents of the city can attend school at the district, unless a parent is a district employee.

Public high school enrollment by ethnicity - East Bay.jpg


The high school library serves as a reference source and place to study.

At the beginning of the 2006-2007 school year, the library set up the Teen Advisory Board, a group for students to contribute to the library through writing book reviews, recommending purchases, buying books,[22] decorating the library, organizing library events, and publishing a literary magazine. The literary magazine, The Highland Piper, was launched in the spring of 2007 to publish student original writing. It took its name from the school literary magazine published in the 1930s. It was last printed in June 2009, but a new edition is planned for spring 2014.[23][24]

Bird Calling Contest

Piedmont High is home to the nationally known Leonard J. Waxdeck Bird Calling Contest.[25] Winners of the contest have been featured on the Late Show with David Letterman, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. The contest was started in 1963 by biology teacher Leonard J. Waxdeck.[25][26]


View overlooking Witter Field, which is used by the sports teams of Piedmont High School and Piedmont Middle School.

PHS offers a variety of varsity and junior varsity sports. In addition, many Piedmont students participate in the national championship-winning rowing team Oakland Strokes; at least one Piedmont graduate, Scott Gault, has competed in the Olympics and World Rowing Championships.

Piedmont High football ex-coaches Kurt Bryan and Steve Humphries created the A-11 offense,[27] a controversial football offense in which any of the 11 players on the field is eligible. The offense relies on confusion, and its unconventional look can wreak havoc on even bigger, stronger and faster teams.

In 2004 and 2005, the nationally ranked women's basketball team won two consecutive division IV state championships.

In 2005, the men's varsity Cross Country team became the only men's team to win a state title in the history of the school.

In 2010, Piedmont lacrosse posted a 15-7 record and won a regular season BSAL championship.

In 2011, the boys tennis team finished the season as BSAL League champs, not having lost a league match in 11 straight years.

PHS uses the Highlander, an kilt-clad Scotsman caricature playing the bagpipes, as its mascot.

Notable alumni


  1. ^ "Piedmont High". National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved October 30, 2018.
  2. ^ "Moving to Piedmont for the schools". Berkeley Parents Network. Retrieved 2007-02-22.
  3. ^ a b Piedmont Community Calendar, 1997. Copyright 1996 by the City of Piedmont.
  4. ^ "A Brief History of the City of Piedmont". City of Piedmont. Archived from the original on 2007-06-14. Retrieved 2007-02-28.
  5. ^ Szell, Melinda (January 23, 2007). "Decades fly by at Piedmont High". The Piedmont Highlander. pp. 4–5.
  6. ^ "Frats and Sororities Dominated Social Scene of Past | Patch". Piedmont, CA Patch. 2012-03-11. Retrieved 2016-03-09.
  7. ^ Douglass, Claire (January 23, 2007). "The fall from grace: looking back at social clubs". The Piedmont Highlander. p. 5.
  8. ^ Golden, Tim (1997-02-10). "Before the Dance, a Sobriety Check". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-23.
  9. ^ "Northern California high school addresses anti-Semitic, racist incidents with assembly". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved 2017-10-07.
  10. ^ "'Fantasy Slut League' Uncovered At Piedmont High School In California, Parents Give Mixed Reviews On School Response". Huffington Post. 2012-10-22. Retrieved 2017-10-07.
  11. ^ Lombardi, Gail G (January 31, 2007). "A Pictorial History of Piedmont". Piedmont Post.
  12. ^ "Measure E: School Seismic Risk Reduction Safety and Access Program Measure Piedmont Unified School District". SmartVoter.org. Retrieved 2007-03-03.
  13. ^ "Test Score Ratings". GreatSchools.net. Retrieved 2007-02-28.
  14. ^ "Snapshots of the Class of 2006". The Piedmont Highlander. June 9, 2006. pp. 6–7.
  15. ^ a b Student Organizer 2007-2008. Piedmont High School. 2007–2008. p. 15.
  16. ^ a b "History of the Piedmont Unified School District Mandarin Program". Piedmont Unified School District Mandarin Program. 2006. Archived from the original on 2007-09-29. Retrieved 2007-02-22.
  17. ^ a b c Hollis, Toby (January 23, 2007). "New science curriculum announced for next year". The Piedmont Highlander. pp. 1–2.
  18. ^ "NSPA Best of Show Winners". National Scholastic Press Association. 2006. Archived from the original on 2011-05-26. Retrieved 2007-06-29.
  19. ^ Cohn, Jacob (February 16, 2007). "'Highland Piper' revived". The Piedmont Highlander. p. 6.
  20. ^ "Teachers/Students". GreatSchools.net. Retrieved 2007-05-25.
  21. ^ Asimov, Nanette (16 May 2004). "BROWN VS. BOARD OF EDUCATION: 50 years later". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-05-25.
  22. ^ Fried, Molly (February 16, 2007). "Students spend $1500 book-shopping". The Piedmont Highlander. p. 6.
  23. ^ Florsheim, Maya (January 23, 2007). "The Highland Piper pipes again: Library Teen Advisory Board brings literary magazine back to life". The Piedmont Highlander. p. 3.
  24. ^ Literary Magazine Board (2009-01-07). "The Highland Piper (official website)". Retrieved 2009-01-25.
  25. ^ a b St. John, Kelly (June 9, 2001). "Piedmont kids aren't too cool to warble: Inhibitions dropped for bird-call contest". San Francisco Chronicle.
  26. ^ Thiele, Danielle (January 23, 2007). "Centennial Art Look". The Piedmont Highlander. pp. 4–5.
  27. ^ McCulloch, Will (2008-08-30). "Piedmont coaches pioneer radical new offense". San Francisco Chronicle.
  28. ^ "AMONETTE, Ruth Leach". Obituary. SFGate. 2004-06-26. Retrieved 9 September 2013.
  29. ^ "Player Bio: Vern Corbin". University of California. Archived from the original on April 4, 2012. Retrieved February 3, 2011.
  30. ^ Storm, Pamela; Filion, Ron (2006). "Piedmont High School: Class of Fall, 1924". Alameda County Genealogy. Retrieved February 3, 2011.
  31. ^ Rayburn, Kelly (February 25, 2007). "Oakland native takes current fame in stride". Oakland Tribune. Archived from the original on June 6, 2011. Retrieved 2011-02-03.
  32. ^ Gilbert, Brad. Maccabi USA. Maccabi USA https://web.archive.org/web/20130826203440/http://maccabiusa.com/brad-gilbert.html. Archived from the original on 26 August 2013. Retrieved 30 July 2013. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  33. ^ "Robert S. McNamara". UXL Newsmakers. 2005. Retrieved 2007-05-25.
  34. ^ "Piedmont Sports Hall of Fame". Class of 2009-2010. Archived from the original on 23 October 2013. Retrieved 30 July 2013.

External links

  • Official website
  • The Highland Piper
  • Piedmont Unified School District Mandarin Program website
  • The Hairy Lawn News - HairyNet: Irreverent look back at the late 1960s and early 70s - includes classmates bulletin board
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