History of Ridgewood High School (2010)
Ridgewood High School is a unique institution. It has a long reputation of fine service to youth. It provides a huge number of opportunities for students to further their academic, social, or athletic interests. At no time in the past have the students of Ridgewood High enjoyed as many rights and privileges as they do today. Students are becoming increasingly involved in determining the course of their own education. These privileges are to be encouraged and expanded, but they will bring with them ever‑increasing responsibilities for the students of Ridgewood High School. More than ever, each student must realize that there are over 1,650 other students who are a part of this high school and that whatever one student does has an effect on all others. If we can keep this in mind and act accordingly, Ridgewood High School will be that much better.
Ridgewood High School was founded in 1892 when the principal, B.C. Wooster, reorganized the ninth grade into a freshman class and made it the first‑year class of high school. The following year, a sophomore class was added. These two classes met in a four-room structure on Union Street. In 1895, the building on Beech Street (now named Cottage Place) was completed. Due to its spacious rooms, the high school was able to offer a three‑year course. That year, Ridgewood High School was added to the approved list of high schools by the High School Commission of New Jersey. The first class to graduate from this three‑year course consisted of two persons. At the end of Mr. Wooster’s principalship, the number of students reached 87 and the number of alumni, 57. By 1912, the high school had 223 students and had outgrown the Beech Street Building. Planning began for a larger facility. The Board of Education purchased the Edwards property on East Ridgewood Avenue and the field between the Edwards property and the Ho‑Ho-Kus Brook, formerly called the White Star Baseball Field. In 1915, the voters defeated a proposal to erect a high school to accommodate 450 students at a cost of $150,000. A year later, $225,000 was appropriated for a new high school to accommodate 600 students. In 1918, the sum was raised to $285,000. Ground was broken in November 1916, and on July 19, 1917, the cornerstone was laid. The formal opening of the new school, delayed by World War 1, was May 7, 1919. In 1915 when Irwin B. Somerville was appointed principal, there were 26 faculty members. The decade was a period of rapid growth. By 1929, the size of the faculty had more than doubled and the number of students had increased greatly. In September 1929, the high school was reorganized into a senior high containing the three upper classes. Freshmen were placed in two junior high schools. One of these was the Benjamin Franklin School which was housed in the high school building. The other, George Washington School, was located on Washington Place. Once again, more space was needed, so a plan was proposed to join the main building with the gymnasium. After several unsuccessful votes, the proposition passed and in the fall of 1930 work was started on the new structure. It was completed in 1931. At that time, Mr. Somerville became supervising principal and George A. Hay was appointed principal. The Village was growing rapidly and within five years, still more space was needed. In 1937, school was dismissed in May so that work could begin building a second floor on the existing building—rooms 202‑216. In September 1945, Ellis D. Brown was appointed acting principal and a year later, he became principal. He served in that capacity until his retirement in June 1960. After World War II, the enrollment again climbed and in 1955 the Benjamin Franklin School was removed from the high school and housed in its new home on North VanDien Avenue, leaving the East Ridgewood Avenue building devoted entirely to grades 10-12. In July 1960, William C. Leach was appointed principal and plans were completed for remodeling and building new additions to provide space for 1,800 students . Work was completed in 1963. In 1970‑71, enrollment was 2,040. A bond issue proposing $7,320,000 for a four-year high school was offered to village voters but turned down in October, 1971. Also defeated at that time was a request for $150,000 for property to enlarge the grounds at East Ridgewood and South VanDien Avenues. In June of 1971, the Ridgewood voters turned back a bond issue for $95,000 to purchase the property at the corner of East Ridgewood and South VanDien Avenues. In order to make instruction and the quality of student life in so large a school more personal and less centralized, the Board of Education in June, 1971, directed that units (Houses) of approximately 700 students each be established. Each house was administered by a dean and a team of three guidance counselors. In 1974, John G. McCutcheon was named principal of the school with an enrollment of 1,935. Under his administration, the House plan gave way to a more centralized administration in which each dean was responsible for a particular area of school life.
Over the years, Ridgewood High School has served students of neighboring communities including Glen Rock, Paramus, Radburn (in Fair Lawn), and Ho‑Ho‑Kus. The last sending/receiving relationship was terminated in 1975 when Ho‑Ho‑Kus residents voted to send their secondary students to Midland Park. In April, 1976, an extensive renovation program (the result of a $4,000,000 bond issue in June 1975) was undertaken. During the 1976‑77 school year, students were housed in five different buildings including Bethlehem Lutheran Church and Emmanuel Baptist Church. To accommodate the building program, a 5-period modular scheduling program was developed with students attending 80-minute classes on alternate days. On July 1, 1977, Dr. Robert Honsinger was appointed as the ninth principal of Ridgewood High School. In September of 1980, the Grade Administrator structure originated with each class having one administrator in charge of attendance, discipline, and class activities during their three years at Ridgewood High School. In September of 1986, the high school became a four-year school with the addition of the Class of 1990 as freshmen. In 1987, after an intensive review and on‑site evaluation by independent observers, Ridgewood High School was one of the few public and private schools of the nation to be granted the prestigious Secondary School Recognition Award by the United States Department of Education. Dr. John R. Crews became the tenth principal of Ridgewood High School on July 1, 1989.
In an evaluation conducted by the Middle States Association in February, 1990, members of the evaluating committee commended many aspects of the curricular and co‑curricular programs and pronounced Ridgewood High School an excellent institution with a superior academic program. In 1991, Ridgewood High School was honored to receive the College Board’s Advanced Placement Recognition Award. During the 1992-93 school year, the schedule was modified in an effort to balance class size and better address student learning styles. The new schedule also introduced Unit Lunch, during which the entire high school stopped classes and all students and staff had a common lunch break. In 1989 and again in 1993 New Jersey Monthly recognized Ridgewood High School as one of the eight best high schools in the state. In April of 1994 Redbook Magazine’s program titled AMERICA’S BEST SCHOOLS recognized RHS for Overall Excellence. During the 1993-94 school year the high school eliminated tobacco use from the campus and within the line of sight of the campus. While this caused some controversy, initially, the national concern about harmful effects of tobacco and secondary smoke confirmed the correctness of the school’s policy change. Dr. John M. Mucciolo was named the eleventh Principal of Ridgewood High School in July of 1997.
In December of 1998, voters approved a 19.8 million dollar referendum of which 18.9 million dollars was earmarked for Ridgewood High School. The end result is a new wing that currently houses Science, Mathematics, and Technology. An Art Gallery and renovated classrooms for fine and practical arts, as well as new physical education facilities, including a new gym, locker rooms, and a Fitness Center were all part of this construction project. In addition, a new Campus Center (multi-purpose room) was constructed utilizing part of the courtyard area. Ridgewood was once again evaluated by the Middle States Association, commended, and granted accreditation for the period of May 1, 2000, through May 1, 2010. Dr. John Lorenz was named the twelth Principal of Ridgewood High School in July 2006. He was succeeded by Jeffrey Nyhuis & Basil Pizzuto as Co-Principals for the 2011-2012 school year.
In July 2012 Dr. Thomas Gorman became the thirteenth Principal of Ridgewood High School and the first RHS graduate, class of 1987 to serve in the position. He was succeeded by former Co-Principal Jeffrey Nyhuis as the fourteenth Principal of Ridgewood High School in July 2022.
Ridgewool remains in the forefront of America’s finest twenty-first century high schools by consistently upholding its Tradition of Excellence.