Skyline High School (Oakland, California)

Coordinates: 37°47′55.89″N 122°9′41.67″W / 37.7988583°N 122.161575°W / 37.7988583; -122.161575

Skyline High School (Oakland, California)
Motto Veritas (Truth)
Established 1959
Type Public High School
Principal Troy Johnston[1]
Faculty 143
Teaching staff 91
Students 2,137
Grades 9 - 12
Location 12250 Skyline Blvd.,
Oakland, California, United States
District Oakland Unified School District
Oversight Western Association of Schools and Colleges
Accreditation Western Association of Schools and Colleges
Campus Urban
45 acres (0.18km2)
Colors      Red
Athletics Oakland Athletic League
Mascot Titan
Yearbook The Olympian
Newspaper The Oracle
National ranking 25

Skyline High School (also known as Sky High or SHS) is a public high school in Oakland, California. It is noted for its strong academics and athletic programs, and consistently ranks as the top performing school in the area in terms of standardized testing, SAT scores, college acceptance rates, and matriculation. Skyline High School is part of the Oakland Unified School District. The primary feeder schools traditionally included Montera Middle School, Hillcrest Middle School, Bret Harte Middle School and Edna M. Brewer Middle School. More recently, in a process called "open enrollment," students living in Oakland have been allowed to choose which high school they would rather attend, replacing the old system in which students were put into schools based on their address.

Skyline High School was recognized with the Blue Ribbon School Award of Excellence by the United States Department of Education, the highest award an American school can receive. Skyline High School was also a California Distinguished School.



Skyline High School entrance, 2009

Skyline was constructed in the late 1950s by Branagh Construction Inc. The original name chosen for skyline was Hill Area High School; however, two prominent Oaklanders, George R. Sistek and Sean Kingston, suggested renaming the school after the boulevard on which the school was built. The school was officially named Skyline High School in February 1961.

At the beginning of the first school year in 1961, senior administrators requested two student body representatives of each class to formulate a student government, mascot and class ring concepts.

On December 14, 1961, the student body voted to adopt a Greek theme. They first selected a house-type government, in which the students of Skyline were divided into five counseling groups containing sophomores, juniors and seniors. In order to gain membership into one of these groups, students attended rush week, where they were offered bids into the various houses. Each group was named after a different Greek house: Delta, Epsilon, Phi, Chi, and Omega. The counselor of each house was also the house adviser.

The five houses would not only sponsor events, but would often compete against each other in various activities. This included things, such as bake-offs and sports. In 1974, however, the student body voted to combine the house in order to promote the spirit of unity, and the competitions would be phased out in favor of a new event, Titanpalooza, which was Skyline's annual homecoming fair. Since then, Titanpalooza has continued to be an annual tradition while the spirit of competition has been preserved through intramural sports.

Each house had an executive branch, a legislative branch, and a judicial branch. The officials within each branch were elected by the members of their house. Each house had a court, where they would assist the administration in various school decisions. If a student was late to class many times, the court would decide what the student’s punishment would be. Currently, however, a new system has been instituted, and is known on campus as "tardy sweeps." Under this system, students who are caught outside of class without a valid pass during school hours are rounded up by security and placed in the cafeteria for the duration of the class period, a controversial method which has been partially effective in motivating students to attend more classes. The student body chose the house system because it would get students more involved in the democratic system, which would develop leadership in them. It gave the students a much more active and efficient role in the way Skyline was run, and they were thus motivated to participate in government.

After 1974, when the Greek system was phased out due to a student body vote, the student government remained, though it now represented each class instead of different houses. In addition, the Associated Student Body was created in order to represent the interests of the entire student body.

Despite the phase-out of the Greek system, the students chose to continue maintaining the Greek theme, and going along with this, chose the Titan as the school mascot.

In Greek mythology, the Titans were mighty giants. They were valiant warriors who were revered and idolized for their greatness and eternal glory. Originally, Skyline considered adpoting the moniker "Warriors," but this title was already taken by rival McClymonds. The student body felt like all incoming student should emulate the Titans. They felt that the new school was to have high standards, and the Titan would be the symbol of these standards.

The Greek theme was carried on to the newspaper and the yearbook. In Greece, an oracle was a person through whom a deity was believed to speak and, thus reveal a vast amount of hidden knowledge. As a result, the newspaper was named the “Oracle” and was dedicated to bringing knowledge to students.

The yearbook was entitled the “Olympian,” which was also used to promote the prominence of the new school. Olympians in Greek mythology were the 12 principal gods of the Greek pantheon. By calling the yearbook “The Olympian,” the students hoped its reputation would reflect the dedicated and hardworking faculty and student body which were shown in the yearbook pages.[2]


Principal: Troy Johnston Assistant Principal(s): Vinh Trinh, Marisol Arkin, Vinnie Blye, and Mr. Rogers[3]

The administration currently makes use ofi iPads to monitor student learning. Principal Johnston's was bought out of his own pocket while his assistant principals had theirs footed by the school budget. Mr. Rogers was originally a cyber high teacher, but Principal Johnston found the money in the budget to hire Rogers.[3]


The view from behind Skyline High School

Skyline High School is located on a 45-acre (180,000 m2) campus at the crest of the Oakland hills. The campus is near the Redwood Regional Park and has a panoramic view of the San Francisco Bay Area. The location of the campus is in an affluent residential neighborhood away from commercial venues; the school has a closed campus system.

The campus

The Senior Quad
Skyline High pergola overlooking the Senior Quad

The school has dedicated various parts of the campus to the different class level, these are:

  • Senior Lawn
  • Junior Quarter
  • Sophomore Square
  • Freshman Bungalow

The Atlas Freshmen House

The Junior Quarter overlooking the food court
The Junior Quarter up-close

To begin the 2009 - 2010 school year, Skyline launched Atlas, an innovative new program for freshmen.

In the Atlas system, each ninth grader is placed in a team named after a mythological figure represented by Skyline’s mascot, the Titan. Atlas is the Titan who carries the heavens on his shoulders, so giving his name to the freshman house symbolizes a commitment to building a strong foundation for a new Skyline.

In the Atlas system, each ninth grader shares the same four teachers for Math, Social Studies, English, and Science. This provides teachers with a greater opportunity to intercommunicate about the students’ social and academic development.

Freshmen also attend a weekly "Advisory" period during which they receive lessons in academic and career planning, study skills, interpersonal development and citizenship.

With each teacher serving as an advisor for only 25 students, the Atlas system permits a greater connection to be established between teachers, students, and families. As one teacher stated, “No one falls through the cracks.” [4]


The Sophomore Square
The Sophomore Square

Skyline High School is known as the innovator of an event called Club Rush, in which all of the various student organizations at Skyline High School gather on the Senior Quad during a 30-minute lunchtime period in order to recruit new members to join their ranks. This event has been going on ever since it came as a result of the efforts of student body president Jeffery K. James in 1964, and has been an annual occurrence ever since.

Skyline High School is also known for its annual homecoming festival, Titanpalooza, in which Skyline students, staff, and alumni all gather on the Senior Quad for a cornucopia of fun, food, and games. It is organized by the Skyline Leadership class, and generally takes place before the homecoming football game.

Senior Picnic is one of the most anticipated events of the year at Skyline High School for the senior class. Officially a retreat for the senior class, underclassmen are not allowed to attend. This event is traditionally organized by the senior class officers in the Leadership class, and in past years, Skyline students have embarked on trips to such locations as Roberts Park, Waterworld California, Catalina Island, and most recently, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Generally, the Skyline High School administration creates strict rules on transportation to the event, and all students must take charter buses to the location or risk suspension. In the aftermath of the latest event in 2009, three students were suspended for two days each by the school's administration for driving to the event.

Sunset Barbecue was an event established in early 2009, in which students gather in the lower basketball courts by the gym after school. Approximately ten student organizations sold food and drinks to Skyline students.

Created three years ago by Skyline film instructor Mark Frey, the Skyline High Annual Film Festival is a major event that occurs at the end of the year, showcasing the multitude of works produced by Frey's film students throughout the year.

The annual Art Show in the Skyline High School Library attracts many Titans, and is an exhibit featuring the works of Skyline's ceramics and art classes.

Senior Day was officially established as an annual event starting last year, in 2008, by former Associated Student Body President Paul Pugh. During this event, former Skyline students visit Skyline classrooms and present their college experiences to prospective college students.


Skyline High School students at the quad

Skyline High School first graduating class was in 1962. At that time, the student body was predominantly white. The school's demographics have changed over the years. Skyline brings together a diverse group of students coming from various socioeconomic backgrounds. In 2010–2011 Skyline has over 2,000 students with an approximate demographic distribution of:[5]

Class colors

Freshmen -      Gray

Sophomores -      White

Juniors -      Black

Seniors -      Red


The Freshman Bungalow (Skyline High Sustainability)

Skyline High School has committed to “minimize its energy use, reduce negative environmental impacts and promote environmental stewardship.” The Energy and Environmental Advisory Committee has developed a set of ambitious goals for the school to reduce its carbon emissions and eventually achieve carbon neutrality. Skyline High is going Green website collects information about Skyline’s progress toward greenhouse gas emissions reductions and related campus initiatives like courses, research, projects and student groups.[6]


The school newspaper is the Skyline Oracle[7] and the yearbook is the Olympian. These publications have existed since the early decades of Skyline High history. The participants of each publication are involved by taking the offered courses.The Skyline Oracle has won numerous honors over the years for the quality of its publication.

The Skyline Olympian Yearbook is currently under the direction of Martin Rabotti.



Skyline High School students may choose either to pursue in general studies or enroll in an academy. Students who do not enroll in an Academy may take classes offered by the Academy if space is available, though space is often tight due to the program's perceived prestige among the Titans' student body.

I. Elective courses

  • Academic Decathlon
  • Architectural Design
  • Art
  • Ceramics
  • Choir
  • Computer Science/Digital Film
  • Dance
  • Education
  • Environmental Science
  • Film
  • French
  • Graphics
  • Jazz Band
  • Journalism
  • Leadership
  • Mandarin
  • Marching Band
  • Music
  • Orchestra
  • Physiology
  • Psychology
  • Spanish
  • Statistics
  • Stagecraft
  • Theater/Drama
  • Wood Shop
  • Yearbook

II. Advanced Placement and Honors Courses[8]

Advanced Placement Courses

  • Biology AP
  • Calculus AB AP
  • Calculus BC AP
  • Chemistry AP
  • English 3 AP (Language and Composition)
  • English 4 AP (Literature)
  • Environmental Science AP
  • Physics AP
  • Spanish 4 AP (Language)
  • Spanish 5 AP (Literature)
  • Statistics AP
  • US History AP
  • US Government/Economics AP
  • World History AP

Honors Courses

  • Chemistry HP
  • French 3 HP
  • Mandarin 3 HP
  • Math Analysis HP
  • Physiology HP
  • Spanish 3 HP


Selmer Berg auditorium, home to the Farnsworth Theater at Skyline High School
Inside the Farnsworth Theater at Skyline High School

Skyline High academies are “schools within a school” centered on career fields. Ninth grade students apply to the Academy of their choice Spring semester. Students study with the same team of teachers and group of students from 10th to 12th grades in their English/Social Studies and academy lab courses. Some courses include math and/or science, depending on the Academy of choice. Students can take advantage of internships and paid summer jobs in their fields. There are four academies. The Academies at Skyline High School include:[9]

I. Architecture and Graphic Technology

This program emphasizes computer technology and its applications in drafting and graphics. Instruction is in mechanical drawing, graphic design and technical skills, keyboarding and illustration.

II. Computer Science and Digital Film

Students learn web design, basic multimedia, computer programming, and digital film making. The headmaster and founder of this academy is Mark Frey.

III. Education

Interested students enter the Education Academy at the beginning of their sophomore year and remain in the Academy through their senior year. Education Academy students work with Oakland elementary schools in the inner-city on education-related activities and service learning. The following is the Education Academy elective course sequence:

  • Year 1 (Sophomore): Introduction to Education
  • Year 2 (Junior): Educational Psychology
  • Year 3 (Seniors): Peer Education

IV. Performing Arts

Skyline’s Performing Arts Department provides a performing arts education in drama, dance, instrumental music, vocal music, and technical theatre. A typical school-year season includes 12 large-scale productions, frequent off-campus performances, and multiple opportunities to compete. Performances are held in the 975-seat Farnsworth Theater.

Students audition for entrance into the Academy, usually in the spring semester of the freshman year. Once accepted, they are enrolled in the Academy throughout their sophomore, junior and senior years. Academy students take a specific sequence of classes and must perform in their area of specialty. In general, students are required to take college-preparatory academic classes and to enroll in two performing arts classes each semester. The required classes vary, depending on the student’s particular area of study.

The Performing Arts Academy offers instruction in Six disciplines:

  • Instrumental Music, such as Orchestra, Jazz Band and Marching Band (directed by Vincent Tolliver)
  • Vocal Music (directed by Aretha Cooper)
  • Theater/Drama (directed by Jan Hunter (Performing Arts Department head)
  • Dance (directed by Dawn James)
  • Film (directed by Mark Frey)
  • Stage Technology

The Oakland Film office lists Skyline High School as a potential filming location in Oakland.[10]

Student leadership

Skyline High School covered walkway

The Skyline Leadership class provide students with the opportunity to improve their leadership abilities while promoting school spirit on campus and working with the administration to ensure that the school is running efficiently.

Skyline High School students have the opportunity to participate in student governments, these include:

  • All City Government
  • School Site Council
  • SHS Student Government


Skyline High Track and Field
Skyline High Football Field on a rainy day

Skyline High School competes in the Oakland Athletic League (OAL). It currently offers 27 sports programs and is the defending OAL champion in bowling, tennis, volleyball, baseball, track and field, cross country, hockey, golf, swimming, badminton, and soccer.

Men Women
Badminton Badminton
Baseball Basketball
Basketball Bowling
Bowling Cheerleading
Cross Country Cross Country
Football Golf
Golf Soccer
Hockey Softball
Lacrosse Swimming
Soccer Tennis
Swimming Track & Field
Tennis Volleyball
Track & Field

Clubs and student organizations

Skyline High School mascot - Titan
  • Amnesty International
  • Asian Youth Society
  • AGA
  • Baking Club
  • Black Student Union
  • Black Jamaicans
  • Book Club
  • Building with Books Club
  • California Scholarship Federation
  • Chemistry Tutoring Club
  • Chess Club
  • COVE Club
  • Debate Club
  • ECO Club
  • Entrepreneur Club
  • Excel Club
  • Fashion Club
  • Film and Sandwich Club
  • GAIA Club
  • Poly Club
  • Physics Tutoring Club
  • SAT Help Club
  • Seriously Addicted Writers (S.A.W.)[11]
  • SGCP
  • Snow Club
  • Spanish Club
  • Students Against Destructive Decisions
  • Techbridge for Girls
  • Tennis Club
  • Teochew Club
  • Terra
  • University of California Club
  • Vietnamese Students Association
  • Youth Together
  • Young Democrats of America
  • Young Republican National Federation

Campus safety and security

Skyline maintains a full-time force of school police officers who use cameras and foot patrols to monitor inappropriate activities on school grounds. The officers can be dispatched when needed by the Oakland Police Communications Center or from the main office at the High School. The students are required to present a student identification card before entering and exiting the campus during school hours. The added security provides a safe haven for the student body at Skyline High.

Notable alumni


  • John Kilduff - Painter and artist. Host of Let's Paint TV
  • David Tom Cooke - Thoracic Surgeon, UC Davis Medical Center
  • Michael A. Gardner - President and CEO Great American Mercantile Co., Inc./Siegel's Clothing Fulfillment to the Motion Picture and Entertainment Industries
  • Amazon Eve - World's Tallest Model


External links

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