From Masten Park High School to City Honors:- Table of Contents

Preface | 1973-74 | 1975-76 | 1976 | 1975-80 | 1980-95 | 1995-98 | Staff

A Brief History of City Honors High School From 1975 to 1998

1973-74: An Unlikely Inception

In the 1973-74 school year, two Bennett High School faculty members, Math teacher Samuel Alessi and English teacher Leon Schor, combined their talents to create what they dubbed Course Y: four thematic, interdisciplinary, extracurricular workshops held in the evening that dealt with topics like the role of technology in our lives.

Much to their surprise, over a hundred students voluntarily attended each of the four sessions. This led the two teachers, plus a teacher at Clinton Jr. High, Walt Nicholson, to propose a school-within-a-school program at Bennett that would emphasize interdisciplinary teaching and learning. They envisioned the program for students of different abilities who wanted an alternative to the programs then available in academic high schools.

served as City Honors Curriculum Coordinator 1975-1980. Left to become Asst. Superintendent of Curriculum.
(Photo: 1975 Bennett yearbook)

taught English at City Honors from 1975-1982. Transferred to another school; presently teaching at Performing Arts.
(Photo: 1976 Bennett yearbook)

taught English for one year while Honors was housed at Bennett. Transferred to another school and later left the area to enter business.
(Photo: 1975 Bennett yearbook)

The ambitious three teachers lobbied Central Staff and Board members. Their chief supporters became Associate Superintendent Joseph Murray and Board of Ed member Florence Bough. Important political allies were Common Council member Bill Price and County legislator Joan Bozer.

It was Murray who chose the name for the program, City Honors, because he favored the college prep school model at schools like the Boston Latin School.

The Buffalo Board of Education approved the school-within-a-school program for grades nine through twelve for the 1975-76 school year. The program was based on seven broad goals:

Historical Perspective
It has always been a source of wonder to many that a conservative, middle-sized city like Buffalo has a school like City Honors. What were the political and social conditions that led to its founding? Here are some possibilities.

In the middle 1970s schools across the nation were catching up to the social revolutions in the previous decade brought about the post-war generation's coming of age, the group we now refer to as the Baby Boomers. For example, college riots in the late 1960s were an angry, violent protest to what they saw as a lack of relevance in the college experience. Colleges responded immediately by making changes in structure and in curriculum. It took a few years for similar sentiments to trickle down to the high schools and then to the elementary schools. Examples of the developments were an emphasis on human relations, schools "without walls," and team-taught courses that integrated subject areas.

The late 1960s also produced race riots. African Americans were angry that their lot had not sufficiently improved. The Supreme Court had declared in 1954 that school segregation was unconstitutional, but it took another twenty years for schools to begin integration. African Americans were clearly unhappy with school systems and curriculum which taught, as feminists in the nineties say, the work of dead, white men.

In the late '60s and early '70s, Bennett High School was a microcosm of the restlessness sweeping the nation. The school enjoyed an academic reputation as one of the best in Western New York, but the changing demographics of the city were affecting the school. The North Buffalo Jewish population was leaving for the northern suburb of Amherst and was being replaced by Italian-Americans moving from the West Side into North Buffalo and by African-Americans who were moving into the Central Park and University districts. An aging faculty at Bennett was having difficulty coping with new demands by students and by young teachers for a "relevant" curriculum.

At the same time, the Buffalo Board of Education was slowly coming to grips with the fact that schools would have to be integrated and that this would necessitate restructuring. The hope was that the public would voluntarily embrace new programs and even new schools so that change could come about in an orderly and non-violent manner. Accepting the proposal for Bennett from three innovative teachers was one of the early steps in a process that would produce the magnet schools.

This page was created by the City Honors School Webmasters class under the supervision of Chuck LaChiusa
Color photos and their arrangement © 2005 Chuck LaChiusa

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