A History of Kenmore West High School
The first schoolhouse in Kenmore was an old wooden building erected in 1892 at the intersection of Delaware Avenue and Delaware Road. When the infant village outgrew this building, it was demolished and the site used for the present Village Hall. The cornerstone for the next high school, the former George Washington Elementary School, now used by a number of agencies, was laid in 1910 and the building completed in 1911 at a cost of $50,000. William C. Urham was the first principal. The 1914 yearbook lists five faculty members and six graduates. To meet the need for current literature in 1914, the Board of Education subscribed to three magazines: "The Outlook," "World's Work," and "Current Opinion." This is an interesting contrast to the 120 periodicals available to today's pupils. The book collection that was built up to 500 books in 1914 now numbers over 25,000 volumes.
When Frank C. Densberger came to Kenmore in 1915 as high school principal, the enrollment of the entire school system had reached 773 pupils; thirty teachers were employed. Soon, the tremendous influx of population necessitated new facilities. The present Kenmore Middle School on Delaware Road was erected in 1924 with subsequent additions in 1928-29. Upon Mr. Densberger's appointment as the first Superintendent of the Kenmore Schools, Mr. Roy G. Freemen was appointed principal of the Senior High School. The Delaware Road building housed both the junior and senior high schools until 1940.
In 1938, a WPA grant of $698,354 was received from the Federal Government toward the erection of a separate building for the senior high school on Highland Parkway, and the school district provided $1,020,000 in additional funds. The twenty acre plot on which the school is situated cost $35,000. The school opened in the fall of 1940 with fifty faculty members and 1250 pupils. In 1959, Kenmore East High School was opened as the district continued to grow. At that time, the Highland Parkway school officially became Kenmore West High School. Mr. Raymond S. Frazier was appointed to the position of principal of Kenmore West in 1952.
The community continued to grow in the subsequent years, requiring a classroom addition to the west wing of school in 1967-68. The latest building project was the construction of the new library information center on the west lawn, and the athletic complex east of the original gymnasium. The additions were planned by Buffalo Architects Duscherer Oberst Design, and completed at a cost of about ten million dollars in the fall of 2000. The design for the library won an award for educational architectural in the summer of 2001.
Kenmore West's enrollment grew steadily through about 1970, and reached its peak in 1969 with over 3000 students in grades 10, 11 and 12. Mr. Alan MacGamwell, a 1944 graduate of the school, was appointed its third principal in 1971, after serving as a teacher, coach and assistant principal in the Ken-Ton Schools. In that era, the school boasted large numbers of National Merit Scholarship winners. The varsity football team under coach Jules Yakopovich won the national championship in 1969.
Mr. MacGamwell retired in 1980 and later served on the Ken-Ton District on the Board of Education. Another Kenmore graduate, Mr. Charles Kristich, class of 1955, succeeded him as principal that year. The Kenmore community, like the rest of western New York, lost population between 1970 and 1990. West's enrollment dipped to a low of under 1400 students in the early 1990's, and many teachers were laid off. Despite the loss of population, however, Kenmore continued to be recognized for its achievements. In 1990-91, West won recognition as a New York State School of Excellence. The district was also honored with the Excelsior Award for Quality that same year.
Douglas H. Smith was the school's fifth principal, succeeding Mr. Kristich who retired in December 1994. Mr. Smith was joined by Mrs. Karen Geelan as co-principal in December of 2005. Mrs. Geelan was later designated as Lead Principal while Mr. Smith moved the the principal position at Franklin Middle. Mr. Dean Johnson was appointed Principal at the start of the 2011-2012 school year.
Currently, West enrolls about sixteen hundred students and has a full staff of over 175 people. The school's alumni include supreme court justices, nationally known scientists, astronauts and journalists, decorated military officers, as well as local and state business leaders and humanitarians.
For more information about the history of the Kenmore schools, please see Robert W. Silsby's book, Settlement to Suburb: A History of the Town of Tonawanda (Sterling C. Sommer, Inc.; 1997). Also worth reading is Images of America: The Town of Tonawanda, by John W. Percy (Arcadia Press; 1997) for its photographs of early Kenmore school buildings. Retired English teacher John Milner's work, Schoolbook: A Teacher's Memoir (Kenmore, NY; 1995) is a reflection on his career at Kenmore West, and is a wonderfully personal look at how Kenmore West has influenced his life and work.
External links provided do not imply endorsement by either Kenmore West High School or the Ken-Ton Union Free School District.
Last Modified on January 12, 2012