Boston Latin School
|Boston Latin School|
|Motto||Sumus Primi (We are the first)|
|Established||April 23, 1635|
|Type||Public exam school|
|Affiliation||Boston Public Schools|
|Location||78 Avenue Louis Pasteur,
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
|Colors||Purple and White|
The Boston Latin School is a public exam school founded on April 23, 1635, in Boston, Massachusetts. It is both the first public school and oldest existing school in the United States. The Public Latin School was a bastion for educating the sons of the Boston elite, resulting in the school claiming many prominent Bostonians as alumni. Its curriculum follows that of the 18th century Latin-school movement, which holds the classics to be the basis of an educated mind. Four years of Latin are mandatory for all pupils who enter the school in 7th grade, three years for those who enter in 9th. In 2007 the school was named one of the top twenty high schools in the United States by U.S. News & World Report. As of 2012, the school is listed under the gold medal list, ranking 62 out of the top 100 high schools in the United States (21,776 public high school from 48 states and the District of Columbia were analyzed) by U.S. News & World Report. The school was named a 2011 Blue Ribbon School of Excellence, the U.S. Department of Education's highest award.
The school's first class was in single figures, but it now has 2,400 pupils drawn from all parts of Boston. It has produced four Harvard presidents, four Massachusetts governors, and five signers of the United States Declaration of Independence. Benjamin Franklin and Louis Farrakhan are among its well-known dropouts.
The school was modeled after Boston Grammar School in Lincolnshire, England, from where many of Boston's original settlers derived. Current students assert with pride that Harvard College, founded a year later in 1636, was created for Boston Latin's first graduates. Whether or not that is true, Boston Latin has been a top feeder school for Harvard, and has consistently sent large numbers of students to Harvard, recently averaging about twenty-five students per year. More than 99% of Boston Latin's approximately 400 annual graduates are accepted by at least one four-year college. Latin School admitted only male students and hired only male teachers from its founding in 1635. The school's first female student was not until the 19th century. Helen Magill White was the school's first female graduate and first American woman to earn a Doctorate. However, soon after White's graduation in 1877, Girls' Latin School was founded. For nearly a century, all qualified female students would attend the all-girls institution. It was not until 1972 that Boston Latin would admit its first co-educational class.
Cornelia Kelley, the school's first female Headmaster, served from 1998 to her retirement in 2007, after which Lynne Mooney Teta was selected to become the school's 28th Headmaster. Mooney Teta is a 1986 graduate of Boston Latin, and was formerly an Assistant Headmaster at the school.
Location history 
(links to map & photo sources)
|First Boston Latin School House. Circa 1635.|||
|First School House on South Side of School Street. 1748-1810.|
|Second School House on South Side of School Street. 1812-1844.|||
|Bedford Street School House. 1844-1881.|||
|School House in Warren Avenue. 1881-1922.|||
|School House on Avenue Louis Pasteur. 1922–Present.|||
Boston Latin's motto is Sumus Primi, Latin for we are first. This is a double entendre, referring both to the school's date of founding and its academic stature. Boston Latin has a history of pursuing the same standards as elite New England prep schools while adopting the egalitarian attitude of a public school. Academically, the school regularly outperforms public schools in rich Boston suburbs, particularly as measured by the yearly MCAS assessment required of all Massachusetts public schools. In 2006, Brooklyn Latin School was founded in New York City, explicitly modeled on Boston Latin, borrowing much from its traditions and curriculum.
Admission is determined by a combination of a student's score on the Independent School Entrance Examination (ISEE) and recent grades, and is limited to residents of the city of Boston. Although Boston Latin runs from the 7th through the 12th grade, it only admits students into the 7th and 9th grades. Consequently the higher grades have fewer students than the lower grades, as a relatively large number of students transfer out. The school has historically been described as having a sink-or-swim environment, but in recent years there have been notable efforts to create a more supportive atmosphere.
Because it is a high-performing and well-regarded school in a city school system that is among the worst in the state, Boston Latin has been at the center of controversy concerning its admissions process. Admissions are very competitive, and it is not uncommon for fewer than 20% of applicants to be admitted. Before the 1997 school year, Boston Latin set aside a 35% quota of places in its incoming class for under-represented minorities. The school was forced to drop this policy after a series of lawsuits involving non-minority girls who were not admitted despite ranking higher than admitted minorities. Boston Latin subsequently defeated a legal effort to do away with its admissions process entirely and conduct admissions by blind lottery. Since 1997, the percentage of under-represented minorities at Boston Latin has fallen from 35% to under 19% in 2005, despite efforts by Boston Latin, the Boston Public Schools, and the Boston Latin School Association to recruit more minority applicants and retain more minority students. Some advocate instituting a quota for the number of students that must be admitted from Boston's public middle schools.
Declamation is the most time-honored of the school's traditions. Pupils in the 7th to 10th grade are required to give an oration in their English class three times during the year. There is also Public Declamation, where pupils from all grades, or classes, are welcomed to try out for the chance to declaim a memorized piece in front of an assembly. During Public Declamation, declaimers are scored on aspects such as "Memorization" "Presentation", and "Voice and Delivery", and those who score well in three of the first four public declamations are given the chance to declaim in front of alumni judges for awards in "Prize Declamation".
In addition to the well-known and time-honored tradition of declamation in English classes, recently the Modern Languages department instituted an annual "World Language Declamation" competition. Once a year, during National Foreign Language Week (usually the first week of March), students from grades 8 through 12 perform orations in languages other than English. Most students choose to declaim in the modern language they are studying, though some choose Latin, Greek, or their native tongue. Judges are brought in from various institutions around the city, and mark the students in similar categories to those used in Public Declamation. Entrants are categorized by level, rather than language, such that all students declaiming at the first-year level of various languages are competing against each other, all students at the second-year level compete against each other, and so on. Students who regularly perform exceptionally well at World Language Declamation are honored at Prize Night with the Celia Gordon Malkiel Prize. In a move that was controversial among some alumni, the school decided in 2001 to decrease the requirement for students' Latin instruction by one year, starting with the class of 2006. The mandatory minimum period of Latin instruction was decreased for students admitted for 7th grade from five years to four years, and for students admitted for 9th grade from four years to three years. This decision was made by the head of the school's Latin department, in recognition of the fact that the requirement was hampering students' ability to take enough courses in important modern subjects such as Physics, Chemistry, Computer Science and modern languages. However, students still retain the ability to study Latin through their sixth year, and many do so, partly in order to maximize the number of AP courses in which they are enrolled.
In a 1789 codicil to his will, Benjamin Franklin established a legacy to fund the Franklin Medals, which are awarded to the school's top-ranking pupils at graduation. The second most prestigious awards, the Dixwell Prizes, are given to pupils excelling in Latin or Greek.
There are currently two main publications of the Boston Latin School: The Register is the school's literary magazine, and The Argo the school newspaper. George Santayana founded The Register in 1881 to serve as the school newspaper. Over the years, however, it evolved into a purely literary magazine, publishing prose and poetry written by members of the student body, as well as artwork. There are generally two editors-in-chief, and it is published twice per year. The Argo, the school's newspaper, is far younger, having been founded after it was clear that the Register had become a purely literary magazine. As of the 2006–2007 school year, it is published seven times a year. Both the Register and the Argo are entirely student-produced, and both have won awards from the New England Scholastic Press Association.
Another Boston Latin publication is "BLSA Bulletin," published by the Boston Latin School Association, whose president is Peter G. Kelly, '83.
Boston Latin's teams are known as the Boston Latin Wolfpack; their colors are purple and white. Boston Latin has played rival Boston English in football every Thanksgiving since 1887, the oldest continuous high school rivalry in the United States.
Extracurricular activities 
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- BLS Youth CAN
Started in 2006, BLS Youth CAN is the original Youth Climate Action Network group, and now as over 15 over groups. Youth CAN is, as of 2010, working on funding for a green roof, that will service schools in the area with interactive classrooms. A signature Youth CAN event is the "Climate Change Summit", held in May. So far, Youth CAN has raised thousands upon thousands of dollars towards the green roof. Youth CAN has received attention from the likes of Al Gore, as well as local Boston politicians.
The internal television station of Boston Latin School is BLSTV; it has been broadcasting since 2003. Every day BLSTV broadcasts the daily bulletin to all of BLS. All of the broadcasters are students, in either their junior or senior years, and the crew generally ranges in age from freshman to seniors. BLSTV also appears at most school events, filming and archiving all of their footage.
- Boston Latin Theatre Company
Boston Latin School's Theatre Company produces three to four plays per academic year, including a spring musical. Traditionally, the school also showcases a one-act play in the Massachusetts High School Drama Guild Festival. The 2007 entry, Jordan Harrison's Kid Simple: A Radio Play in the Flesh, advanced to the semi-final level of the festival where it won multiple awards for acting, lighting design, and sound design. In 2004, the student director was awarded for Excellence in Directing, for Jon Klein's Dimly Perceived Threats to the System. Other BLS entries in the MHSDG Festival have included Tristine Skyler's The Moonlight Room (2006), Craig Lucas' Reckless (2005), A.R. Gurney's The Dining Room (2003), Jean-Claude van Itallie's T.V. (2002) and Interview (2001), Elaine May's Adaptation (2000), Steve Martin's WASP (1999), Peter Shaffer's Black Comedy (1998), and The Romancers (1997). In Winter 2008, the Boston Latin Theatre Company produced Tilt Angel, which reached the State Finals of the 2008 MHSDG Festival, the first finals appearance since 2004. Tilt Angel won numerous awards for individual and ensemble acting, as well as for sound, makeup, and lighting design. Tilt Angel was also selected by the MHSDG to be one of two Massachusetts representatives at the 2008 New England Drama Festival, the first time BLS has advanced so far. In Spring 2008, the company produced The Secret Garden. In 2009, they produced Dark Play or Stories for Boys, which was their production for the MHSDG. In 2009, the company was also chosen to present at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The Boston Latin Theatre Company currently has alumni studying at Harvard College, Emerson College, New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, Northwestern University, Boston College, Boston University, Scripps College and the University of Southern California's School of Theatre. In addition, Boston Latin School has its own student-created, student-run improvisational theater group, the Yellow Submarine Improv Troupe, known for its practice of letting any student join without an audition.
- Junior Classical League
Since 2000, Boston Latin School has been an active participant on the local, state and national levels of the National Junior Classical League, formed in 1936, fostering a tradition of deeper academic study of the classics, along with creative expression through visual and creative arts. Boston Latin School hosts a certamen scrimmage (much like a quiz bowl competition) each year in late November or early December, and sends delegates to the State Convention in April, and often the National Convention, which takes places in July or August. In the past years, Boston Latin School's JCL chapter has grown substantially since its founding; Boston Latin School often contributes dedicated certamen players to represent Massachusetts on a national level in certamen.
- Mock Trial
Boston Latin has participated in the Mock Trial program sponsored by the Massachusetts Bar Association since the programs' founding in 1987. The team has since won the State Championship twice: the first in 1987 and then again in 2006. BLS went on to rank 24th in the Nationals at Oklahoma City in 2006. The team receives a mock case each year and prepares drafts of openings, directs, crosses and closings for both prosecution and defense. They then compete at regionals in order to advance to the Championship series. In 2006, the team advanced and won the State Championship.
- Musical arts
Boston Latin School also has an extensive music program. Introductory, Junior, and Senior Concert Bands, Seventh Grade Chorus, Eighth Grade Chorus, Repertory Choir, Concert Choir, and String Orchestras are elective classes (although these grades do not contribute to GPA). After-school vocal ensembles include the a cappella Wolftones and Wolfettes, Show Choir, Gospel Choir and Chamber Choir. Instrumental ensembles include Football Pep Band, Big Band, Junior Big Band, Flute Ensemble, and the Honors Orchestra. There are also fully academic music classes (whose grades are factored into the GPA), such as Introduction to Music Theory, and an Advanced Placement Music Theory class.
The Wolftones and Wolfettes are the only completely student-run musical groups at Boston Latin. The two groups annually organize and perform at a concert called STAND in Harmony. All of the proceeds of the concert are donated to STAND, an anti-genocide group at the school.
The Boston Latin School Gospel Choir was a popular extra-curricular ensemble in the 1990s. It was eventually phased out due to lack of leadership and inconsistent student attendance, but was revived during the 2010-2011 school year.
Each year, all of the musical groups display their talents at Boston Latin School's Holiday Concerts and Music Nights. The former is two nights in mid-December and the latter two nights in Spring, where students perform several selections of music that they have been working on for those who wish to attend.
Musical groups from Boston Latin School also perform at the Massachusetts Instrumental & Choral Conductors Association festival in April. In 2006, the Boston Latin School Senior String Orchestra received a gold medal for the second year in a row while the Senior Concert Band and Concert Choir received bronze medals. In 2007, the Senior Strings received a gold medal while the Wind Ensemble received a silver medal. The Boston Latin Big Band has made it to the International Association for Jazz Education State Finals six years in a row and has placed as high as first in the Berklee College of Music High School Jazz Festival. In 2007, the Big Band won a gold medal at the IAJE state finals.
- NUTRONS robotics team
Founded in 1998, the NUTRONS FIRST robotics team is a high school robotics team based out of Northeastern University, which competes world wide, designing and building robots over a six-week period to compete in a specific task. In 2001 the NUTRONS won the National Championship with students from Boston Latin School. In 2007 the NUTRONS won the Boston Regional Competition and received the Delphi Driving Tomorrow's Technology Award in 2008 and 2009.
- Wolfpack Volunteers
Founded in 2004, Wolfpack Volunteers is a student body organization designed to engage Boston Latin School students in volunteer activities. The organization provides student members with volunteer opportunities in and around the greater Boston community, and encourages student members to participate within neighborhood events.
Club leaders sacrifice leisure time to organize members and provide opportunities to earn community service hours in the school. With events such as Alumni Tours and College Fairs, students gain experience in applying their leadership, organization, and communication skills while working as a team. Other opportunities are less formal and provide students with a chance to relax and have fun while earning community service, such as the Run to Remember, Walk for Hunger, and Aids Walk.
The Wolfpack Volunteers were recognized as the winners of the 2009 Nally Award. The school collected over 2,000 pounds of food from their food drive to benefit city residents.
In popular culture 
- In "Six Meetings Before Lunch", a first-season episode of The West Wing, Rob Lowe's character, Sam Seaborn mentioned Boston Latin School in a discussion of public school reform and school vouchers. He said, “Boston Latin, the oldest public school in America, is still the best secondary school in New England.” Mallory O'Brien replies "They all can't be Boston Latin and Bronx Science."
- On January 8, 2002, President George W. Bush visited Boston Latin School after signing the No Child Left Behind Act earlier that day.
- In Season 1, Episode 12 of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Matthew Perry's character Matt Albie mentioned that his nephew had a 3.8 GPA at Boston Latin.
- In the 2008-2009 school year, former vice president Al Gore visited Boston Latin School and commended the students for their hard work educating the community about making environmentally respectable decisions.
Boston Latin has graduated notable Americans in the fields of politics (both local and national), religion, science, journalism, philosophy, and music. Of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence, five were educated at Latin: Adams, Franklin, Hancock, Hooper, and Paine. Graduates and students fought in the Revolutionary War, American Civil War, World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War, and plaques and statues in the school building honor those who died.
Hall of Fame 
The Hall of Fame, known casually as "The Wall," refers to the upper frieze in the school's auditorium, where the last names of famous alumni are painted. These names include Adams, Bernstein, Fitzgerald, Franklin, Hancock, Hooper, Kennedy, Mather, Paine, Quincy, Santayana, Winthrop, and many others. The most recent name, Wade H. McCree Jr., was added to the frieze in 1999, and the selection of the name involved a conscious effort to choose a graduate of color. There are no names of female graduates, mostly because females have attended the school for just 34 years and the honor is only bestowed posthumously. Currently there is only space for one more name, and the Head Master enjoys telling incoming students that if they work hard enough, one of their names might end up on "The Wall" some day. There is also a lower frieze with the names of many other distinguished graduates, and a place on the lower frieze can be awarded while the person is still alive.
Alumni Association (BLSA) 
Boston Latin has benefited enormously from the efforts of the Boston Latin School Association (BLSA), a private charity dedicated to fostering involvement by and donations from the school's substantial alumni base. The BLSA recently completed its major Pons Privatus (Private Bridge) fund-raising campaign, which raised nearly $37 million in donations from alumni and an additional $20 million in planned gift intentions. At the time, it was the largest fundraising effort in the history of public secondary education. This endowment is mostly supplementary, on top of the roughly $10 million per year in untaxed operating grants the school receives from the Boston Public Schools, which covers most teacher salaries and maintenance. The school also received a $34.6 million multiyear grant in the late 1990s for a major expansion project.
See also 
- John D. O'Bryant School of Mathematics & Science
- Roxbury Latin School
- List of the oldest schools in the world
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- 2011 National Blue Ribbon Schools, accessed April 3, 2012
- "Benjamin Franklin". Exodus Provisions.
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- Marie Frisardi Cleary (May 19, 1985). "The Halls of Boston Latin School". New York Times. Letter to the editor.
- Bergeron, Amanda (July 21, 2007). "Juanita Ponte, 62; taught at Boston Latin". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2007-07-21.
- Jan, Tracy (2007-02-14). "Boston Latin headmaster to retire". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2007-12-31.
- "Assistant head is named to Latin's top job". Boston Globe. June 26, 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-04.
- (Estimated from: Plan of Boston showing existing ways and owners on December 25, 1635. Author: Lamb, George. 1635 Location: Boston (Mass.)) 
- Boston 1842 "Boston" from Tanner, H.S. The American Traveller; or Guide Through the United States. Eighth Edition. New York, 1842 
- (Estimated from Tanner map)
- Catalogue of the Boston Public Latin School, Established in 1635: With an Historical Sketch, Henry Fitch Jenks. Boston Latin School Association. 1886. Page 94-95.
- Map title: Map of Boston, 1865 Photographically Reduced From City Engineer Plans With All The Latest Improvements. A Complete Guide To Strangers. Publisher: L. Prang & Co. Date: 1865 
- (Estimated from Prang & Co. map)
- Catalogue of the Boston Public Latin School, Established in 1635: With an Historical Sketch, Henry Fitch Jenks. Boston Latin School Association. 1886. Page 303.
- (Estimated from description in Jenks, page 75)
- SCHOLA LATINA BOSTONIENSIS CCCL ANNOS NATA. (BOSTON LATIN AT 350). April 21, 1985. Boston Globe. By John Powers
- Jan, Tracy (March 4, 2006). "Growing a Boston Latin in Brooklyn". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2007-08-31.
- "Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Entrance to Boston Latin School" (PDF). Archived from the original on 2008-02-29. Retrieved 2007-12-31.
- See: Wessmann v. Gittens, 160 F. 3d 790 - Court of Appeals, 1st Circuit 1998 s:SARAH P. WESSMANN, p.p.a. HENRY ROBERT WESSMANN, v. ROBERT P. GITTENS, CHAIRPERSON OF THE BOSTON SCHOOL COMMITTEE, ET AL., and McLAUGHLIN BY McLAUGHLIN v. Boston School Committee, 938 F. Supp. 938 F.Supp. 1001 (1996) Civil Action No. 95-11803-WAG. United States District Court, D. Massachusetts. s:938 F.Supp. 1001 (1996) Julia A. McLAUGHLIN, by Catherine McLAUGHLIN, Plaintiff, v. BOSTON SCHOOL COMMITTEE, et al., Defendants.
- "The Boston Latin Case". Center for the Study of Testing, Evaluation, and Educational Policy. Retrieved 2008-01-29.
- Kate Stevenson (2008). National Foreign Language Week
- Prizes and Scholarships, BLS Web Site
- Vaishnav, Anand (2001-04-13). "Boston Latin Eases Language Requirement". Boston Globe.
- "Publications—Argo". BLS Web Site. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-06-01. Includes scans of first Argo edition, 1969.
- "BLSA Bulletin". Boston Latin School Association. Fall 2008.
- Werchadlo, Emily (2005-11-24). "It's still defined by Latin and English". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2008-01-29.
- Dahlbeck, Dwayne (2007-11-27). "Latin's first conquest comes at last". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2008-01-29.
- "Theatre Company In Line for Multiple Honors". Blsarts.org.
- "President Bush Speaks in Boston". CNN.com. 2002-01-08.
- Rauseo-Ricupero, Ronaldo (2002-01-09). "Bush Comes To Boston After Education Victory". Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 2007-12-31.
- Hill, Tony (2000-11-12). "To Place a Black Man in Latin's Pantheon: An Alumnus Quietly Raised to the Star-Studded Frieze". Boston Globe.
- Boston Public Schools 2006 Budget
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Boston Latin School|
- Official website
- Boston Latin School Association
- Boston Public Schools' Profile PDF for the Boston Latin School
- Boston Public Schools' list of notable graduates of the Boston Latin School
- Boston Latin School Arts Website
- Catalogue of the Boston Public Latin School, Established in 1635: With an Historical Sketch, Henry Fitch Jenks (1886)
King's Chapel Burying Ground
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Boston Latin School
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