Northgate High School (Walnut Creek, California)

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Northgate High School
Northgate High School Walnut Creek Mural.JPG
The Bronco mural on the Gymnasium
425 Castle Rock Road
Walnut Creek, California, 94598
United States
Type Public
Established 1974
School district Mt. Diablo Unified School District
Superintendent Steven Lawrence
Principal Michael McAlister
Vice Principals Stephen Brady, Linda Hayes, Jesika Essapour
Faculty 60[1] (2012-13)
Grades 9–12
Enrollment 1,589[2] (2012-13)
Color(s) Crimson and gold         
Athletics Diablo Valley Athletic League (DVAL)
Mascot Broncos
Newspaper Northgate Sentinel
Feeder schools Foothill Middle School
Information (925) 938-0900

Northgate High School (NHS) is a public high school located in the affluent suburban Northgate neighborhood of Walnut Creek, California.Coordinates: 37°54′28″N 122°00′30″W / 37.90778°N 122.00833°W / 37.90778; -122.00833[3] 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 sixth of six high schools to be built in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District (in 2012, Clayton Valley High School left MDUSD and became a charter school, leaving five regular high schools in the district).[4]

In December 2007, a petition was made to move Northgate to the Acalanes Union High School District. The Mt. Diablo school district board[5] and the Contra Costa County Office of Education[6] both denied the petition.


Northgate High School was named a distinguished school in 2007.[7] 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.[1] The school had a 94.81% graduation rate in 2010-11.[8]

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; these include sequences in communications, environmental studies, animation, and engineering.[9]

Extracurricular Activities[edit]


The Northgate High School Athletic Department oversees 24 competitive varsity athletic teams that compete in the Diablo Valley Athletic League. Northgate's sports include football, cheerleading, basketball, baseball, soccer, volleyball, cross county, golf, lacrosse, swimming, tennis, track and field, softball, water polo, and wrestling. Steve Chappell has been the Athletic Director since 2010. 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.[10]

The annual football game between Northgate and its cross-town rival Las Lomas High School is nicknamed "The Battle of the Creek" after Walnut Creek, California.[11]

More information about the athletic program can be found at the Northgate athletics website.

Performing Arts[edit]

All Northgate performing arts programs operate chiefly out of the Jack De Rieux Little Theatre, which was remodeled and enlarged in 2006.[12]

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 and all the other groups perform together at the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts in downtown Walnut Creek. The chair of the Performing Arts department and director of instrumental music is Greg Brown; as a result of Mr. Brown's extensive experience as a performer and clinic instructor, Northgate is visited by many guest music instructors each year. More information about the instrumental music program is published on the NIMB website.

The choir program consists of several groups: the entry-level Concert Choir, which one does not have to audition for to get in, 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, one must choose a song to audition with in front of the choir officers and Mrs. Maddern. 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), as well as complete a rigorous audition process including choosing a song of their choice as well as learning a selected choir piece. Cantiamo members trying out will be able to decide whether they are trying out for Madrigals, Bella Voce, or both. Mrs. Maddern will pick who goes into what choir.

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 also performs a variety of gigs throughout the year as well. The funds from these activities currently support the students' spring tour. Former Choral Director Chris Piazza was instrumental in developing and supporting this activity, which showcased the school's vocal students to the community at large. Bella Voce, Madrigals, Cantiamo, Il Coro and the Instrumental Music program now all get go to Disneyland in the spring to perform there 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.

Student Groups[edit]

Northgate hosts approximately 50 clubs and organizations.[13] These include school chapters of National Honor Society and the California Scholarship Federation, Model United Nations, Junior Statesmen of America, the Filipino Cultural Club, Northgate Robotics Group, and Environmentally Concerned Kids (ECK). 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 unique 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.

When the school was originally constructed, none of the classrooms had permanent walls; rather, classes had half-high walls that could be moved to make more room in classrooms if needed. This was a main reason that the film The Principal chose to film at Northgate. 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 a period of 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 5-foot walls, making the library very open, and in clear view of the office on the second floor. In the center of the school, there is a small atrium with plants and a small pond that is currently home to a few turtles.

Popular Culture[edit]

The movie The Principal was partially filmed at Northgate High School.[14][15] Northgate was chosen as a location for its partial-wall "open environment" classroom design, representing an easy teaching job at a "nice school" for Rick Latimer (James Belushi). After getting into trouble he's transferred to a tough school in Oakland, California.

Notable Alumni and Staff[edit]


  1. ^ a b Clark, Linda. "Northgate High School Profile 2012-13". Mt. Diablo Unified School District. Retrieved 26 July 2013. 
  2. ^ California Department of Education (30 May 2013). "Enrollment by Grade for 2012-13". Retrieved 26 July 2013. 
  3. ^ United States Geological Survey (March 5, 1997). "GNIS Detail - Northgate High School". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved December 29, 2009. 
  4. ^ Clayton Valley Charter High School. "The History of CVCHS". Retrieved 26 July 2013. 
  5. ^ Dang, Shirley (8 January 2008). "Board votes down Northgate transfer". Contra Costa Times. Retrieved 22 February 2014. 
  6. ^ Dang, Shirley (4 April 2008). "Mt. Diablo district will retain its schools". Contra Costa Times. Retrieved 22 February 2014. 
  7. ^ California Department of Education. "2007 Distinguished Middle and High Schools". Retrieved 26 July 2013. 
  8. ^ "School Accountability Report Card". Mt. Diablo Unified School District. Retrieved 26 July 2013. 
  9. ^ "Northgate High School Course Planning Guide 2013-2014". Northgate High School. p. 8. Retrieved 28 February 2014. 
  10. ^ Mills, David (20 December 2013). "Northgate High Breaks Ground On New Aquatics Center". Walnut Creek Patch. Retrieved 22 February 2014. 
  11. ^ Fajardo, Jose Carlos (19 September 2012). "Northgate High defeats Las Lomas in the football edition of Battle of the Creek". Contra Costa Times. Retrieved 26 July 2013. 
  12. ^ "Northgate High School Little Theater". LCA Architects. Retrieved February 22, 2014. 
  13. ^ Northgate High School. "Clubs 2012-13". Retrieved 30 December 2013. 
  14. ^ Internet Movie Database. "Filming Locations for The Principal (1987)". Retrieved 15 August 2012. 
  15. ^ The 80s Movies Rewind. "The Principal Movie Filming Locations". Retrieved 15 August 2012. 
  16. ^ Kroichik, Ron (9 October 2002). "From The Play to hard time". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved May 30, 2008. 
  17. ^ "Matt Irvin". USC Athletics Dept. Retrieved 22 February 2014. 
  18. ^ Shanahan, Tom (25 August 2002). "Aztecs spotlight". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved 22 February 2014. 

External links[edit]