Northgate High School (Walnut Creek, California)
|Northgate High School|
425 Castle Rock Road
|School district||Mt. Diablo Unified School District|
|Superintendent||Dr. Nellie Meyer|
|Color(s)||Crimson and gold|
|Athletics||Diablo Athletic League (DAL)|
|Feeder schools||Foothill Middle School|
Northgate High School (NHS) is a public high school located in the suburban Northgate neighborhood of Walnut Creek, California, United States.Coordinates:  The most recent of five high schools in the Mount Diablo Unified School District, the school was built in 1974, and is home to approximately 1,600 students from Walnut Creek and Concord, California, grades 9–12. Its name derives from its location at the north entrance of Mount Diablo State Park.
Northgate High School opened in 1974 to relieve pressure on neighboring Ygnacio Valley High School in Concord. Students were gradually phased in; the school graduated its first class in 1976. Northgate was the last high school to be built in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District.
In December 2007, a petition was made to move Northgate to the Acalanes Union High School District. The Mt. Diablo school district board and the Contra Costa County Office of Education both denied the petition.
In 2016, a group named Northgate CAPS (Community Advocacy for our Public Schools) began a new campaign to separate Northgate High and its feeder elementary and middle schools into a new, separate school district. On May 2–3, 2017, the Contra Costa County Board of Education held public meetings on the petition. The county board recommended against the proposal; the state board of education could still take up the proposal but has not done so as of July 2018.
Northgate High School was named a distinguished school in 2007. The school employs 60 certified teachers. 19 Advanced Placement courses are offered in fields including science, math, English, foreign language, social science, and art. Approximately 97% of graduates attend four-year or two-year colleges and universities. The school had a 94.8% graduation rate in 2010–2011.
Unlike some other schools in the Mt. Diablo district, Northgate does not have any formal academies. However, for freshmen it does offer a Global Perspectives "pathway". A fixed cadre of students takes three "threaded” classes (English 1, World History, and Art Design) that build connections between the content in all three. Project-based learning is designed to strengthen concepts taught in the classes.
The course catalog also offers several sets of suggested courses for students with a specific interest, but these are not planned collaboratively; they include sequences in communications, environmental studies, animation, and engineering. Every senior must participate in a Mock Congress during the fall and must present a Senior Project at the end of the school year.
The Northgate High School Athletic Department oversees 24 competitive varsity athletic teams that compete in the Diablo Valley Athletic League (in the North Coast Section of the California Interscholastic Federation). Northgate's sports include football, cheerleading, basketball, baseball, soccer, volleyball, cross country, golf, lacrosse, swimming, tennis, track and field, softball, water polo, and wrestling. During the 2013-14 year, the school broke ground on a new center to provide a pool for the aquatics teams and facilities for the school's sports medicine program.
All Northgate performing arts programs operate chiefly out of the Jack De Rieux Little Theatre, which was remodeled and enlarged in 2006.
The instrumental music program consists of a Concert Band, Symphonic Band, Wind Ensemble, Jazz Band, Orchestra, and Marching band (all are regular courses except the extracurricular marching band). Symphonic Band is the largest instrumental music group, typically consisting of 10th, 11th, and 12th grade members. Orchestra consists of students from all grades; the prerequisite is previous experience with private teachers or Orchestra in middle school. The audition process for Wind Ensemble and Jazz Band, the two most advanced bands, is competitive in nature due to a high number of talented students vying for a small number of spaces. In addition to concerts on campus, each spring the jazz ensembles usually hold a concert at Yoshi's nightclub in Oakland. All the other groups perform together at the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts in downtown Walnut Creek. Jazz I won the "Next Generation Jazz Festival" in Monterey in five consecutive years (2014–2018), a record for that competition.
The choir program consists of several groups: the entry-level Concert Choir, which does not require an audition, Cantiamo (Level 2 Women's Choir), Il Coro (Level 2 Men's Choir), Bella Voce (Level 3 Women's Choir) and Madrigals (Level 3 Co-ed Choir). In order to be a part of Cantiamo or Il Coro, students must choose a song to audition with. To get into Bella Voce or Madrigals, any prospective member must have first spent at least one year in Il Coro or Cantiamo (some exceptions have been made in the past), and audition with a song of their choice and a selected choir piece. Cantiamo members trying out will decide whether they are trying out for Madrigals, Bella Voce, or both.
Madrigals have a heavy winter schedule, as they do holiday gigs for restaurants and families that hire them. This fundraising activity has been in place since the late 1970s and occupies most of December for the members. Bella Voce performs a variety of gigs throughout the year as well. The funds from these activities support the students' spring tour. Bella Voce, Madrigals, Cantiamo, Il Coro and the Instrumental Music program all go to Disneyland in the spring to perform and participate in the musical programs that are held for high schools and other performing arts groups. This event is called "Disney Performing Arts" (formerly known as "Magic Music Days").
The drama program consists of four levels, the last being Production Workshop which produces at least one play per semester. Students have the opportunity to try working with all aspects of theater, including stage lighting, sound design, promotions, scenic design, props (theatrical property), and stage management. Northgate also participates in the Devil Mountain Improv League, a completely student-created and student-run coalition of competitive high school improvisational theater students that has been around since 1996.
Northgate hosts approximately 50 clubs and organizations. These include school chapters of Junior Statesmen of America, National Honor Society and the California Scholarship Federation, Model United Nations, the Filipino Cultural Club, Northgate Robotics Group, Key Club and Environmentally Concerned Kids (ECK). The Northgate Bird Saving Association, established in 2014, is dedicated to ensuring that avian species are treated with dignity and respect, and has steadfastly worked to spearhead protecting the numerous species of birds indigenous to the Northgate campus. The conflict management program and peer tutoring program allow older students to advise their peers. The Youth Educators program involves juniors and seniors instructing 8th graders at Foothill Middle School on drug abuse.
Northgate High School has received both acclaim and criticism for its brutalist architecture. The school is built into the side of a hill on Castle Rock Road, at the foothills of Mt. Diablo. The school is sometimes referred to as a prison by its students, because of its concrete exterior and a lack of windows in all classrooms (see Gallery below).
When the school was originally constructed, none of the classrooms had permanent walls; rather, they had half-high walls that could be moved to make more room if needed. Classrooms were later retrofitted with walls because the concept was considered a fire hazard. Movable walls in classrooms were replaced by full-height walls. The school closed for many months after the Loma Prieta Earthquake due to the discovery of asbestos. During the 1990–91 school year, portable classrooms were used on the school grounds and the former Castle Rock Elementary grounds.
The library sits in the main forum of the school and remains one of the only areas with five-foot walls, making the library very open, and is in clear view of the office on the second floor. In the center of the school is a small atrium, which has been variously used as a lounge area or as a native-plant garden with plants, a small pond, and even turtles.
In popular culture
The movie The Principal was partially filmed at Northgate High School. Northgate was chosen as a location for its partial-wall "open environment" classroom design, representing an easy teaching job at a "nice school" for the character Rick Latimer (James Belushi). After getting into trouble he is transferred to a tough school in Oakland, California.
Notable alumni and staff
- Keith Clearwater (1977): professional golfer
- Lee Goldberg (1980): television writer/producer (Diagnosis Murder, Nero Wolfe) and novelist (Monk, The Walk)
- Cathy Podewell (1982): actress
- Kristen Babb-Sprague (1986): Olympic swimmer
- Doug Davis (1993): starting pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks
- Yul Kwon (1993): winner of the reality television show Survivor: Cook Islands
- Eva Marie (2002): fashion model, actress, valet, and professional wrestler
- The Story So Far (band) (2011)
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