Cooley Vocational High School

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Cooley Vocational High School
1225 N. Sedgwick Street
Chicago, Illinois 60610
United States
Coordinates 41°54′19″N 87°38′17″W / 41.9053°N 87.6381°W / 41.9053; -87.6381Coordinates: 41°54′19″N 87°38′17″W / 41.9053°N 87.6381°W / 41.9053; -87.6381
School type Public Secondary Vocational
Established 1958
Status Demolished; 1980
Closed 1979
School district Chicago Public Schools
Grades 712
Gender Coed
Campus type Urban
Color(s)      Orange
Athletics conference Chicago Public League
Team name Comets
Accreditation North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
Yearbook Comets' Trails[1]

Edwin Gilbert Cooley Vocational High School (commonly known as Cooley High, Cooley Vocational High School and Upper Grade Center) was a public 4–year vocational high school and middle school located in the Old Town neighborhood on the Near North Side of Chicago, Illinois, United States. Cooley was a part of the Chicago Public Schools district 299. The school opened in 1958, serving grades 7 through 12. The school was named after Chicago school superintendent Edwin Gilbert Cooley (1857–1905). The school closed in June 1979 due to issues within the school and building.[citation needed]


Built in 1907, The building located at Sedgwick Avenue and Division Street was the original location for Albert G. Lane Manual Training High School (now known as Lane Tech College Prep), a then all boys vocational school which opened the following year. By 1931, Lane's enrollment had soared to 7,000, which caused over-crowding issues within the building. The Chicago Board of Education chose a new site for Lane which opened in 1934. Once Lane moved from the location, The building then housed Washburne Technical High School (which later became known as Washburne Trade School). Washburne occupied the building until the neighborhood's population grew to record high numbers. At that time Cabrini-Green, a public housing project located around the school population had reached about 15,000 residents. Due to this, It became a need for another public high school in the community to prevent over crowding at nearby Lincoln Park High School (then known as Waller High School) and Wells High School.

In January 1958, Washburne's location moved to the south side of the city and Chicago Public Schools purposed Cooley High School for the now vacant building. Cooley, a public neighborhood vocational high school with an upper grade center (seventh and eighth grade program). Cooley opened in September 1958 for the 1958–59 school year. When Cooley opened, The student body was considered diverse; half populated by whites. By the end of the 1963–64 school year, the black student population at the school had increased while the white population decreased drastically by 78%. By 1967, the school's student body was predominately African-American with a percentage of 98%, most of whom lived in Cabrini. In 1975, the Board of Education decided to phase out Cooley due to its low academic performance, the poor condition of the building and the lack of vocational programs. The school was closed after the 1978–79 school year and demolished in February 1980. Cooley was replaced by Near North Career Metropolitan High School, which opened in September 1979.

Other information[edit]

On September 22, 1969, 17–year old junior Johnnie Veal was attacked in the school's basement, resulting in his throat being slashed. The attack was prompted by his switch in street gang affiliation the previous day. Veal was found around 11:30 a.m. by the school's security guard. He survived the attack.[2] Dr. Edward C. Bennett served as principal of the school from August 1970 until it was closed in June 1979.[3]


Cooley competed in the Chicago Public League (CPL) and was a member of the Illinois High School Association (IHSA). The school's sport teams were known as the Comets.

In popular culture[edit]

The high school was the subject of the 1975 film Cooley High, written by Eric Monte, an alumnus of the real-life Cooley High who based the film on his experiences attending the school and growing up in Cabrini-Green. Cooley High was also mentioned in songs by rappers such as Nas and the Wu-Tang Clan.[which?] The R&B group Boyz II Men named their first album Cooleyhighharmony as a homage to the school.

Notable alumni[edit]


  1. ^ "1962 Cooley High School (Chicago, Illinois)". Classmates. Retrieved October 6, 2013.
  2. ^ "Tower Ticker (July 23, 1970)". Retrieved July 18, 2016.
  3. ^ "Education Board Names Principal (August 27, 1970)". Retrieved July 18, 2016.
  4. ^ Cox, Ted. "Jerry Butler: Soul Survivor". Retrieved July 18, 2016.
  5. ^ "Rev. Marvin Yancy Dies Of Heart Attack In Chicago". Jet Magazine. April 8, 1985.

External links[edit]