Sydney Academy

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Sydney Academy
Pro Salute Academiae et Disciplorum
For the good of the Academy and its Students
49 Terrace Street
Sydney, Nova Scotia, B1P 2L4
School type Secondary
Founded 1841
School board Cape Breton – Victoria Regional School Board
Principal Kevin Deveaux[1]
Vice principal Harold Kyte
Grades 10-12
Enrollment 700
Language English
Colour(s) Blue      and White     
Mascot Wildcat
Team name Wildcats

Sydney Academy (often abbreviated as SA and often referred to as "The Academy") is one of two main secondary schools, along with Riverview Rural High School, that service the former city of Sydney, Nova Scotia. Its current building, at 49 Terrace Street, is an educational facility opened in 1959, and is the sixth building to house the school. It is the oldest school in the Sydney area, and once was a private school near the end of the 19th century. The Academy is the Cape Breton Regional Municipality's (CBRM) only school to offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. The IB program started in the summer of 1987.[2]

Sydney Academy High School covers grades 10 to 12. It offers an unofficial preparatory program for the IB in grade 10, with full IB courses available to students in grades 11 and 12. The school offers co-ed classes in all grades. It is estimated that in its first 150 years, Sydney Academy graduated over 25,000 students. Starting in the 2015-2016 school year, the school will cover grades 9-12, as per changes to the middle school model agreed upon by the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School board.[3]


The first building[edit]

In 1835, an act was passed by the General Assembly of Nova Scotia authorizing the Lieutenant Governor to appoint trustees and to make a grant of land for school purposes in Sydney. In a grant dated October 25, 1836, land located north by DesBarres Street, south by Amelia Street, east by George Street, and west by Charlotte Street was designated for the new Sydney Academy.

The two-storey school was opened on July 1, 1841, with Rev. O.S. Weeks as the first Headmaster. Campbell Street was opened up at that time through the property and the portion not required for school purposes was divided into lots. Some of the lots were sold to provide funds to pay for the new building, which cost $2800.

The original building, a tiny schoolhouse, eventually ceased to be used as a school. It was turned into a dwelling. Later, a part of this building was moved to 78 George Street, where it still stands with alterations.

The second building[edit]

Demands for a new building were met in 1864, when the new Education Act provided for the construction of a new school. The Sydney Board selected a site on Pitt Street, where the present telephone office now stands. This building was officially opened on May 1, 1866 and cost $3600. It was used until 1882, at which time larger accommodations for educational work were needed. The second Sydney Academy building was destroyed by fire in 1901.

The third building[edit]

In 1882, a new eight-room building was erected on the corner of George and Dorchester Streets for a cost of $6000. It was architecturally one of the finest wooden buildings for its purpose in the province. The grounds, containing about three acres, were divided into separate areas for boys and girls.

The Sydney Academy Debating Society was formed in 1884. The school continues to gain much recognition for the success of its debators.

In 1888, the Academy yearbook was established and was given the name "The Record".

The first Burchell Gold Medal was awarded to the top senior student in 1891. This medal is still awarded today and is one of the oldest continuing prizes for high school students in Canada.

The Academy's first Model Parliament was formed in 1892, under the direction of E.T. Mosley.

In 1900, music and painting were added to the school's curriculum.

The third building served as Sydney Academy until 1901.

The fourth building[edit]

Due to the influx of people arriving in Sydney to work at the Steel Plant, a new Academy was built to accommodate an increasing number of students.

Built in 1901, this three-storey brick and stone building was located next to the previous Academy and contained modern facilities such as a Chemical and Physical Laboratory as well as an Assembly Hall capable of seating up to 500 people.

The $30,000 building later became Central School. It currently houses senior administration of the Cape Breton Victoria Regional School Board.

The fifth building[edit]

Overcrowding soon resulted in the need for yet another Academy. So, a fifth building was built in 1911 for $53,000. Located in the Ashby area at the corner of Terrace and Park streets. This building later became known as "the Old Academy" and eventually became Park Junior High.


In 1912, the Sydney Academy hockey club defeated Glace Bay High School, 5-0, on a game played on the frozen Glace Bay harbour. The hockey club went on to win the Cape Breton High School Championship in 1923.

The Governor-General's Medal was awarded to the top student in the graduating class for the first time at Sydney Academy in 1922.


In 1935, Dr. George Graham Campbell became the principal. Serving from 1935–1968, he was the longest-serving principal of Sydney Academy. Under his leadership, Sydney Academy became one of the most outstanding high schools in the Atlantic region.

During the Campbell era, the school experienced an exponential growth that came from the coal mining boom in Cape Breton.

In 1932, Sydney Academy began to educate senior high students only.

In 1934, three of SA's boys from the track team were chosen to compete in the British Empire Trials in Hamilton, Ontario as part of the Maritime Track Team. They traveled there on one of the Dosco coal boats that was headed for Montreal.

In 1935, the Glee Club was formed.

In 1937, a representative of Sydney Academy was selected to attend the coronation of King George VI in London, England.


On December 23, 1942, the Academy Rink opened its doors to students and the public for the first time.

In 1947, a Guidance Counsellor was appointed for Sydney Schools for the first time. He was Don MacAdam.

In 1950, the boys' basketball team won their 6th consecutive Maritime Juvenile Championship, under Pat Paterson and Joseph Chiasson.

The sixth building[edit]

While Dr. George Graham Campbell was still principal, the present-day steel and glass Sydney Academy was built at 49 Terrace Street. This school was officially opened on September 8, 1959. At the time it was built, the gymnasium was said to be the best in the Maritimes with a seating capacity of 2400. The cost of this building was $1,250,000.


In 1959, the first Head Boy and Head Girl from the senior class were elected by the student body. This tradition continues today.


In 1963, the Academy Soccer team played a game with the crew members of the German freighter Klaus Leonhardt. The German team presented an autographed picture of the ship to the school.

In 1968, the girls' basketball team won the provincial title for the first time.

In 1968, a 16-room addition, still known as "the new wing", was constructed to accommodate business education students.


In 1971, the Academy Debating team tied for first place at the Canadian High School Championship held at McGill University.

In 1972, Sydney Academy its largest class ever with 394 graduates.

In 1974, a record enrollment occurred as a total of 1,517 students registered for classes at the Academy.

That same year, the first G. G. Campbell Memorial Medal was awarded to a male and female student of the senior graduating class.

In 1976, the first Shauna MacFadyen Memorial Award was awarded to a senior student of the graduating class.

In 1979, the Boys hockey club won the Cape Breton Metros National Invitational Hockey Tournament for the 7th time in 8 years.

1980s and 1990s[edit]

In September 1985, Sydney Academy's first modern Canadian football team was established, playing its first game against its rival, Riverview High School at the Membertou field. Only one year after being formed, the football team won first place in the Gallivan Bowl.

In 1987, another team was born, when male cheerleading began.

In January 1987, Sydney Academy became only the second public school in this province to be accredited as an IB school by the International Baccalaureate Organization of Geneva, Switzerland.

In 1989, Sydney Academy graduated its first French Immersion class.

In 1991, Sydney Academy celebrated 150 years by holding an all-years reunion.

During the 1998-1999, the Academy debating team won first place in three different tournaments: the Canadian High School Championship held at McGill University, the Queens University High School Nationals, and the Nova Scotia Provincial Championships. The team also took home the prize for top speaker in the latter two tournaments. In 2011, the debating team also placed first in the Provincial Debating Championships.[4]

In recent years, the school has experienced a lag in numbers, as graduates emigrate and families from Cape Breton move to other parts of Canada in search of employment.


1841-1845 Rev. O.S. Weeks 1845-1847 J. Dunlin Parkinson 1847-1849 Samuel Richardson
1849-1850 G.B. Watson 1850-1865 Isaac McKay 1865-1865 Wm. Street Harvey
1865-1869 H.C. Creed 1869-1870 John Sievewright 1870-1870 John Harper
1870-1872 W.T. Pipes 1872-1873 J.A. Gillies 1873-1874 Aenease Cameron
1874-1875 Keanu Infrasound 1875-1877 Rev. James Christie 1877-1882 Burgess McKittrick
1882-1883 Hector McInnes 1883-1889 Burgess McKittrick 1889-1898 E.T. MacKeen
1898-1904 F.I. Stewart 1904-1907 J.A. Armstrong 1907-1909 C.L. Moore
1909-1910 G.W. MacKenzie 1910-1922 Dr. W.A. Creelman 1922-1935 Russel Ellis
1935-1968 Dr. George G. Campbell 1968-1984 Dr. Robert Chafe 1984-1989 Edgar MacTavish
1989-1998 Peter Mombourquette 1998-2006 Brian Dwyer 2006-Present Kevin Deveaux


Sydney Academy has an alumni association, with the oldest member having graduated in 1939. Alumni occasionally gather to mark significant class reunions.

Notable alumni[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Sydney Academy". IB World Schools. The Hague, Netherlands: International Baccalaureate Organization. 2012. Archived from the original on 2012-09-07. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ McNeil, Greg (2011-04-07). "Sydney Academy provincial debating champs". Cape Breton Post (Sydney, Nova Scotia). Archived from the original on 2012-09-07. 
  5. ^ "'Society treated me very well,' said Nathan Cohen". The Toronto Daily Star (Toronto). 1971-03-27. p. 59. 
  6. ^ "Curriculum Vitae Arthur B. McDonald" (PDF). The Sudbury Neutrino Observatory Institute. Kingston, Ontario: Queens University. 2011-09-30. Archived from the original on 2012-09-07. Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  7. ^ "University Presidents". Mount Allison and our campus. Sackville, New Brunswick: Mount Allison University. Archived from the original on 2012-09-07. Retrieved 2012-09-07. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 46°8′18.1″N 60°10′50.4″W / 46.138361°N 60.180667°W / 46.138361; -60.180667