Montgomery Blair High School
|Montgomery Blair High School|
51 University Boulevard East
|Type||Public (Magnet) Secondary|
(To Expand Knowledge)
|Oversight||Montgomery County Public Schools|
|Principal||Renay C. Johnson|
|Number of students||3,083|
|Campus size||42-acre (170,000 m2)|
|Color(s)||Red and White|
|Athletics||23 varsity sports|
|Athletics conference||MPSSAA Montgomery County League|
The school was named after Montgomery Blair, a lawyer who represented Dred Scott in his United States Supreme Court case and who served as Postmaster General under President Abraham Lincoln. It originally opened in 1925 as Takoma Park-Silver Spring High School. In 1935, however, Montgomery Blair High School opened at 313 Wayne Avenue, a location overlooking Sligo Creek, now occupied by Silver Spring International Middle School. In 1998, the campus moved two miles (3 km) north to the Kay Tract, a long-vacant tract of land adjacent to the Capital Beltway.
The school has two magnet programs: the Math/Science/Computer Science Magnet and the Communication Arts Program (CAP), which draw students from both the Silver Spring area and across Montgomery County, and make up approximately 15% of Blair's student population. It is a member of the National Consortium for Specialized Secondary Schools of Mathematics, Science and Technology (NCSSSMST).
- 1 History
- 2 Campus
- 3 Academics
- 3.1 Science, Mathematics, and Computer Science Magnet Program
- 3.2 Communication Arts Program
- 3.3 English Department
- 3.4 Fine Arts Department
- 3.5 Foreign Language Department
- 3.6 Mathematics Department
- 3.7 Science Department
- 3.8 Social Studies Department
- 4 Athletics
- 5 Student activities and traditions
- 6 Notable alumni
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Philadelphia-Chicago Campus Era (1925–1935)
Montgomery Blair High School, then known as Takoma-Silver Spring High School, became the first high school to serve Silver Spring, Maryland when it opened in 1925 with 86 students. The 3.8-acre (15,000 m2) campus was located at the corner of Philadelphia Avenue and Chicago Avenue in suburban Takoma Park, Maryland. By the end of the 1920s the school had expanded to host students in eighth and ninth grades, who attended the school's junior high school, as well as tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades, who attended the school's senior high school. As Silver Spring and Takoma Park continued to rapidly grow, the school eventually encompassed all levels from kindergarten to twelfth grade. By 1934, the school was over-capacity with a total enrollment of 450 students, and so, in September 1935, the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades relocated to a new high school named Montgomery Blair Senior High School, also known as the Wayne Avenue Campus. During the transition period, students, teachers, and administrators had to commute between the two campuses and created the annual yearbook, Silverlogue.
Wayne Avenue Campus Era (1935–1998)
When Montgomery Blair High School's 23.5-acre (95,000 m2) Wayne Avenue campus opened in March 1935, it was the sixth high school in Montgomery County, and the first in the lower county. One of several Montgomery County schools designed during that period by Howard Wright Cutler, the facility then consisted only of the C building, overlooking Sligo Creek. In 1936, the Auxiliary Gymnasium was added, followed by the B building in 1940, and the D building in 1942. MBHS's first football team was founded in 1944, and the War Memorial Stadium opened in 1947. In 1950, the A building was constructed, containing the Blair Library/Media Center. With the addition of the Main Gymnasium/Fieldhouse in 1954, MBHS possessed one of the finest basketball and football facilities in the county. The E building was added in 1959 as an administrative section, followed by the 1969 opening of the 1200-seat auditorium, named for long-time teacher and librarian, Elizabeth Stickley. The most recent addition was the automotive shop building in 1973.
During World War II, students from the University of Maryland taught several classes, and in some cases, able senior students taught sophomore classes. The Blair Library created the "Senior Corner" to honor those who had not returned from war. Life Magazine featured the school's Victory Corps close order drill team. Prior to the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, Blair was an all-white school. In 1955, the school began to integrate along with the rest of Montgomery County.
With Silver Spring's growth, Blair's enrollment jumped from 600 students in 1946, to 1900 by 1956, peaking at 2900 in 1965 before being reduced from 1700 to 1400 after re-zoning in 1982. Enrollment was around 1800 when the Science, Mathematics, and Computer Science Magnet program brought 80 new students in the fall of 1985. The Communication Arts Program (CAP) followed in 1987, bringing 75 new students. Overcrowding became an issue for Montgomery Blair High School, as portable buildings covered what was once open land and enrollment exceeded the building's capacity of 2,000. In 1994, it was decided that the school should relocate to an empty tract of land 1.5 miles (2.4 km) to the north. Construction began on the Kay Tract in the mid-nineties and the Four Corners Campus opened in the fall of 1998. After the move, Blair's Wayne Avenue campus converted into a combination Elementary/Middle School; currently Sligo Creek Elementary School and Silver Spring International Middle School each take up half the campus. The Elizabeth Stickley Auditorium, however, was not included in the conversion plans, and has remained closed since 1997. Nevertheless, the auditorium has received a significant amount of attention throughout the region as it has fallen into disrepair. Several local politicians and leaders, including former Maryland state senator Ida Ruben, current U.S. representative Jamie Raskin and former U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski, have endorsed projects to restore the auditorium to its former condition.
Four Corners Campus Era (1998–present)
Montgomery Blair High School remained at the Wayne Avenue Campus for over six decades until its 1998 move to the current Four Corners Campus at the intersection of University Boulevard, Colesville Road, and the Capital Beltway. When it opened, the new facilities were the largest in the county, spanning a 42-acre (170,000 m2) region, which was nearly twice as large as the old Wayne Avenue site. During the early- to mid- 2000s, the school population spiked to its highest in history at approximately 3,400 students, rivaling that of some community colleges. Although enrollment has since receded to about 2,900 students, the school still has the largest student population in the county. The 2008 year marked a technological breakthrough for MBHS, as interactive digital Promethean boards were installed in many classrooms.
In April 1992, Montgomery Blair High School was the first high school in the nation to initiate and sponsor a display of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. More than 5,000 children, their families, teachers and friends came to see the Quilt.
It has been a popular stop for many politicians because of the school's diversity, strong academic programs, and proximity to the nation's capital. On February 5, 1998, President Bill Clinton and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair stopped at Montgomery Blair High School during a state visit.
On June 23, 2005, President George W. Bush visited the school to discuss his plan to partially privatize Social Security. Students were not permitted to attend. Bush's presence at the school drew approximately 400 protesters, who, despite the last-minute announcement of the visit, questioned both his proposed policies and the fact that this town hall-style meeting was not open to the general public. The demonstration included community members, students and union members. The police tried to move the demonstration to a park more than a block away, but protesters pointed out that there was no reason they couldn't continue their peaceful protest on the public sidewalk outside the fence around the school.
During the 2010–2011 school year, NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar spoke to a packed auditorium of students about his upcoming film and about his life and struggle to become the basketball player he became. Abdul-Jabbar then spoke privately with both the varsity and junior varsity basketball teams before posing for photos and signing a few autographs.
The current campus of Montgomery Blair High School covers forty-two acres between the Capital Beltway, U.S. Route 29, and Maryland Route 193 in Silver Spring's Four Corners neighborhood. The school contains 386,567 sq ft (35,913.2 m2) of space and was originally designed for 2,830 students. Eight years after its completion, the school was more than 500 students over capacity, with a population of about 3,400. As a result, the school at one point had eight auxiliary portable classrooms. Population has decreased slightly due to the opening of other schools and the Downcounty Consortium, and as a result 2 portables were removed at the beginning of the 2006–2007 school year. As of April 2010, the enrollment at Blair is 2,788, and the portable classrooms have been removed. Blair remains the county's largest school.
The school has baseball and softball fields to the east of the main building as well as Blazer Stadium which serves as the home of the school's football, soccer, field hockey, and lacrosse teams. There are three courtyards located throughout the main building. A greenhouse and accompanying patio is located on the second floor on the west side of the main building for the use of horticulture classes. The school building contains a 750-seat auditorium. The main hallway of the school, 'Blair Boulevard" displays flags from many countries, representing its extremely diverse student body.
In the school year of 2017-2018, Montgomery County Public School's Department of Facilities Management added four new portables to the school's campus, due to the large spike in enrollment. In 2022, Blair is expected to undergo construction for a new gym, a larger Student Activity Center and 18 new classrooms.
In 2016, MBHS was ranked 22nd within Maryland and 528 nationally by U.S. News & World Report. The school has an Honors Program and an Advanced Placement Program. The school is one of the few US high schools to have a .edu domain name, with its internet connection having gone live in the late 1980s. MBHS is home to two separately-run student news publications: Silver Chips is the school's print newspaper that is self-funded, and Silver Chips Online is an exclusively online publication which received the National Scholastic Press Association Online Pacemaker Award in 2004, 2005 and 2006. Blair is also home to Silver Quill, a literary arts magazine. Silver Quill is distributed with the school yearbook at the end of the school year.
Science, Mathematics, and Computer Science Magnet Program
In 1985, Montgomery County Public Schools opened its first Science, Mathematics, and Computer Science Magnet program at Blair. At the time, Blair had the highest minority population among the high schools in the County and the lowest standardized test scores. The school board conducted a survey to decide that a specialized science magnet program would attract high-achieving white and Asian students to Blair. Although there was criticism of the program from some parents and students, the leaders of the PTA and the principal supported the program, noting that by 1989 more families were staying in the neighborhood to attend Blair and fewer students were seeking to transfer out. In 1993, the Superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools told the New York Times: "I have never seen a high school's image turn around so quickly."
Since its inception, the Magnet has offered accelerated, interdisciplinary courses in science, mathematics, and computer science. The Magnet offers dozens of courses, including in quantum physics, complex analysis, thermodynamics, discrete mathematics, marine biology, 3D computer graphics, artificial intelligence, the history of science, and organic chemistry. Qualified students who are not in the program can and do enroll in its elective courses. In their senior year, Magnet students complete research projects to enter into the Science Talent Search, in which the program has a long history of success. In 2017, the Magnet's mean SAT score was 2253.
The Blair Magnet is open to students from the southern and eastern areas of Montgomery County, who are selected through a competitive application and testing process (a program at Poolesville High School provides a similar curriculum for students in the northern and western areas of the county).
The Magnet program has been criticized for being overwhelmingly white and Asian, enrolling few black and Hispanic students. The Magnet was threatened with proposed budget cuts in 2008, but after student protests, it was spared from the most severe cuts. In 2018, a retired Magnet teacher was accused of sexual harassment by many former students.
Communication Arts Program
The Communication Arts Program (CAP) at was established at Blair soon after the Magnet, in 1988. It strives to provide a comprehensive educational approach to the humanities by offering accelerated, interdisciplinary courses in English, social studies, and media for participating students. CAP is open to students in the Downcounty Consortium and admission is competitive by application and testing.
CAP offers courses in drama, photography, video production, history, government, English literature, writing composition, journalism and research. The number of CAP classes decreases by year, until students only complete one CAP class in 12th grade. The curriculum frequently builds off of existing Advanced Placement courses but uses the program's resources to add interdisciplinary experiences, such as a simulated presidential election that occurs over the course of a week at end of 10th grade, in which some students serve as candidates and others as campaign staff and reporters. CAP students also maintain portfolios of their work throughout the four years, which must include independent and service-based projects done outside of school. In 12th grade, they must successfully defend the portfolio's contents to a faculty committee in order to complete the program and graduate with a CAP Diploma.
Fine Arts Department
The Fine Arts Department consists of two sub-departments of Music and Visual Arts. The Music Department includes instrumental music, choral music, and general music. Each year the department hosts a fine arts festival, in which students showcase their artistic talent.
Instrumental Music Department
MBHS's Instrumental Music Department consists of three orchestras, three bands, and two jazz bands: Chamber Orchestra (Honors), Symphonic Orchestra, and Concert Orchestra; and Wind Ensemble (Honors), Symphonic Band, and Concert Band. The jazz ensembles are Advanced Jazz Ensemble (Honors), and Jazz Lab Band. In addition, the music program also contains a marching band and a theatrical pit orchestra, as well as an audio library and a professional recording studio.
In the Spring of 2014, MBHS's Chamber Orchestra hosted British Composer Paul Lewis as a Composer-in-Residence, receiving pay from the Wolftrap Foundation. Students played the world premier of a 5 movement long piece called "Salute the Silents".
Choral Music Department
General Music Department
The General Music Department offers studies in music history, technology, business, composition, and theory. There are also courses offered in solo and ensemble techniques for piano and guitar playing.
Visual Arts Department
MBHS's Visual Arts Department offers studies in art & culture, ceramics & sculpture, digital art, photography, and studio art.
Foreign Language Department
The Foreign Language Department offers classes up to AP-level in Spanish, French, and Latin, and up to honors-level in Japanese and Arabic. It has recently added American Sign Language (ASL), which offer classes up to ASL 3.
Social Studies Department
MBHS's Social Studies Department offers honors and AP-level U.S. History, American Government and Politics, and World History, the department also offers elective courses such as African American History, Latin American History, European History, Middle East History, Comparative Government, Comparative religion, Cultural Anthropology, Administration of Justice, International Human Rights, Peace Studies Seminar, Economics, and Psychology. It was also the first in the region to offer courses in Women's Studies and the History of Hip-Hop.
- * indicates a sport for which there is also a junior varsity team.
- ^ indicates a sport that is not officially sanctioned by the school and is thus considered a club team.
Student activities and traditions
MBHS has over 95 teams or clubs, some of which are entirely student-run, including the Blair Radio Station, "Blazer Pride" Marching Band, Debate Team, and Jewish Culture Club and Philosophy Club. Popular activities include: Knowledge Master Open, American Computer Science League, Envirothon, Science Bowl, Ocean Science Bowl, Doodle4Google, and Youth and Government.
Montgomery Blair's Computer Team specializes in advanced computer science topics and programming algorithms which extend the classroom curriculum. Upperclassmen students teach new and complex algorithms, data structures, and programming techniques, including Dijkstra's shortest-path algorithm, dynamic programming, and greedy algorithms. The team also delves into other miscellaneous theoretical computer science topics including turing machines, nondeterministic polynomial time, random number generation, assembly language, lambda calculus, and relational databases. The Computer Team participates in the (ACSL), Loyola Programming Contest, University of Maryland Programming Contest, and the USA Computing Olympiad (USACO). The Computer Team won the ACSL All-Star Competition Senior Division in 1991, 1993, 2001, 2003, 2009, 2011 and 2013.
MBHS has an active FIRST Robotics Competition team, Team 449, nicknamed "The Blair Robot Project", inspired from the film The Blair Witch Project. The team was founded in 2000, and has competed in every year since except 2005.
MBHS has a tournament known as Puzzlepalooza. The tournament first began in 2010 and has taken place each May ever since. During a four-day period, teams have 12 hours to complete multiple-leveled puzzles. This puzzles produce a phrase that will be used in the final puzzle, which is the main goal of Puzzlepalooza. Completing this final puzzle results in prizes for the team that solves it. There are also many other prizes available for the teams such as the Spirit Award or the Iron Puzzler Award.
MBHS has an active Science Bowl team, consistently doing well in the Maryland Science Bowl and winning the National Science Bowl in 1999 and 2016. Blair won the National Ocean Sciences Bowl in 2018.
Established in 2016, BlackCAP is a student-run movement dedicated to helping students of color be accepted to and achieve in Montgomery County Public School application programs. BlackCAP was spearheaded by Alix Swann, Jaya Hinton, and Marley Majette (Class of 2018) and is sponsored by Mr. Kenneth Smith. BlackCAP has several components including a safe space for students of color in magnet programs and mentoring programs at Parkland Middle School and Silver Spring International Middle School. 
Blair has had many notable alumni in public service, the entertainment industry, sports, media, business, and academics.
Politics and public service
- Tyras S. Athey, former member of the Maryland House of Delegates and Secretary of State of Maryland.
- William A. Bronrott, former member of the Maryland House of Delegates.
- Stan Greenberg, Democratic Party pollster and political strategist, known for his work on Bill Clinton’s Presidential campaign.
- Thomas R. Norris, U.S. Navy SEAL who received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Vietnam War.
- William Addams Reitwiesner, genealogist and Library of Congress employee.
- Craig L. Rice, Montgomery County Councilmember and former member of the Maryland House of Delegates.
Arts and entertainment
- Cynthia Addai-Robinson, actress appearing in TV series Arrow, Spartacus, and Shooter.
- Tyrone Giordano, film and stage actor, known for his lead role in Big River.
- Goldie Hawn, Oscar-winning actress in Hollywood movies including Cactus Flower, Private Benjamin, and The First Wives Club.
- Ron Holloway, jazz saxophonist.
- Eric Hutchinson, singer-songwriter known for his songs "Rock & Roll" and "Watching You Watch Him".
- Joshua Oppenheimer (finished high school in New Mexico), filmmaker of Oscar-nominated films The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence.
- Chuck Redd, jazz percussionist.
- Nora Roberts, best-selling romance novelist.
- Sylvester Stallone, American actor, screenwriter, and film director
- Ben Stein, economist, actor, commentator, speech writer for U.S. President Richard Nixon.
- Rebecca Sugar (traveled to Albert Einstein High School for Visual Art Center Program), artist, composer, and director, created the Cartoon Network series Steven Universe.
Sports and games
- Steve Barber, baseball player for the Baltimore Orioles.
- Tom Brown, baseball player for the Washington Senators and football player for the Green Bay Packers.
- Dominique Dawes (finished high school in Gaithersburg), Olympic gymnast.
- Steve Francis (completed GED), basketball player for the Maryland Terrapins and Houston Rockets.
- Kelli Hill, coach of USA Women’s Gymnastics Teams.
- Wei-Hwa Huang, four-time World Puzzle Champion.
- Sonny Jackson, baseball player for the Houston Colt .45's/Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves; the first black athlete at Blair.
- Johnny Klippstein, baseball player for the Chicago Cubs, Minnesota Twins, and several other Major League Baseball teams, including the 1959 World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers.
- Jake Rozhansky, soccer player for Maryland Terrapins and Israel's Liga Leumit.
- Visanthe Shiancoe, football player for the Minnesota Vikings.
- Willis Wilson, former head men's basketball coach at Rice University.
- Bob Windsor, football player for the San Francisco 49ers and New England Patriots.
- David Vanterpool, basketball player for the Washington Wizards and assistant coach for Portland Trail Blazers.
- Morgan Wootten, high school basketball coach for DeMatha.
Journalism and media
- Carl Bernstein, journalist and author known for breaking the Watergate scandal for The Washington Post.
- Kiran Chetry, journalist and television news anchor for Fox News and CNN.
- Connie Chung, journalist and television news anchor, known for co-hosting CBS Evening News.
- Emily Gould, author and former co-editor of Gawker.
- Tom Marr, former Baltimore Orioles radio broadcaster, longtime radio talk show host on Baltimore's WCBM(680-AM).
- Donna Richardson, fitness and aerobics instructor, author and ESPN commentator.
- Eric Shansby, cartoonist for The Washington Post.
- Daniel Zwerdling, journalist for NPR.
- Matias Duarte, Google Vice-President of Design.
- Shervin Pishevar, entrepreneur and venture capitalist, known for co-founding Hyperoffice and Hyperloop One.
- Maneesh Agrawala, Professor of Computer Science at Stanford, Winner of 2009 MacArthur Fellowship. 
- Jonah Berger, best-selling author and marketing professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
- Jacob Lurie, professor of mathematics at Harvard University, winner of MacArthur Fellowship and Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics.
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Montgomery Blair Senior High School, Silver Spring, Md., Montgomery County's finest school building, was dedicated yesterday afternoon with several hundred students and residents of the community attending the exercises.
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The National Symphony Orchestra, under Dr. Howard Mitchell, will present two young people's concerts at the new gymnasium of Montgomery Blair High School, Silver Spring, Md.
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Elizabeth Waller Stickley, 92, a former teacher who retired in 1970 as librarian at Montgomery Blair High School, died of cardiopulmonary failure Sept. 26 at a nursing home in Lynchburg, Va. . . . The Blair auditorium was dedicated in her name after she retired.
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