Newburgh Free Academy

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Newburgh Free Academy
Newburgh Free Academy.jpg
School viewed from northeast corner, 2007
201 Fullerton Ave.
Newburgh, NY
United States
School districtNewburgh Enlarged City School District
Enrollment4,289(Both Campuses Combined[2]
Color(s)Blue and gold
MascotGoldback (eagle)
RivalsMonroe-Woodbury High School, Kingston High School
Information(845 563-5400)

Newburgh Free Academy is the public high school educating all students in grades 912 in the Newburgh Enlarged City School District, which serves the city of Newburgh, New York, the towns of Newburgh and New Windsor, and portions of the towns of Marlboro, New York, Cornwall, New York and various others.

It traces its history back over two centuries, to the years prior to mandatory public education.


The school traces its history back to the early days of the United States. The Rev. George H. Spierin proposed to open an "Academy" in Newburgh. Work began in 1796 under the direction of the trustees of the glebe. (A glebe was land originally set aside in the early 18th century for a pastor and his church. The glebe for the Newburgh area was issued in 1719.) A portion of the first Academy was occupied in 1797. The building was 60 feet (18 m) by 40 feet (18.5 × 12.3m), two stories high, built of wood, and lined with brick. It was located on Liberty Street and cost around $2,500. The building was not finished until some years later when a court room was included. The building itself saw use as not only a school and court, but was also site for town meetings and political organizations.

The first record of a teacher employed was in 1799 when Samuel Nicholson was hired. The Academy had only one teacher during its first eight years of existence. In 1807 management of the school passed from the hands of the trustees of the Glebe to a regularly incorporated Board of Trustees. At that time rates for tuition were adopted. The charge per quarter was $2.50. This was for the study of writing and arithmetic. A scholar studying Greek, Latin or French was charged $5.00 per quarter.

In 1807 Richard A. Thompson was employed as principal. He lived in the school rent free and was paid $100 at the end of the year. He also received all money arising from the tuition of scholars attending the Academy. A Female Department was established at the Academy in 1809. Reading, writing, sewing, and drawing were taught. On April 6, 1852 the New York State Legislature authorized the establishment and organization of free schools in Newburgh. Within a month free education was introduced into what was then the village of Newburgh. The Academy then came under the control of Board of Education as the senior department of the Newburgh Public Schools. In 1871 a three-year course of study was arranged, at the completion of which students were required to take a written examination. Those who passed the examination were granted diplomas as graduates. The first Commencement Exercises were held on April 28, 1871, and included the participation of a Salutatorian and Valedictorian.

Ten years after the first official Commencement Exercises the Academy had outgrown itself. A "new" Academy was built on Montgomery Street in 1886 for around $70,000. On September 2, 1886, 201 students registered for classes at the "new" Academy, which now housed grammar and academic classes. Actual classes began on September 20. The Montgomery Street building consisted of twelve school rooms, a large assembly room, a drawing room, a laboratory, an annex, and janitor's quarters. Each school room contained desks for 45 students, and was equipped with countersunk ink wells, black boards, closets, and electric bells. It was also during 1886 that "the free book system" was adopted by the Board. Three years later on July 7, 1889 the Board received a certificate of admission of the Academy to the University of the State of New York. Soon afterwards a definite standard was set up for graduation, and the high school course was extended to four years. In September of that year the department plan of teaching, that is assigning teachers to subjects rather than to grades, was adopted. Three courses of study were established: English, Scientific, Latin-Scientific, and Classical. It was also in 1886 that corporal punishment was abolished. A superintendent's report says that "the unlimited use of the rod is certainly not desirable." Six years after moving into its "new" Montgomery Street building the Academy adopted its school colors: navy blue and gold.

Compulsory education laws such as those of 1894, and increasing population in our city resulted in an enlarged high school enrollment. The need for a larger and more modern building was becoming increasingly evident as our school and country entered the 20th century. In 1926 construction began on a 7-acre (28,000 m2) lot at the corner of Fullerton Avenue and South Street for a million dollar building, which was to accommodate 1,500 students. (Note: All three previous Academy buildings were built within the original glebe boundaries.) On January 23, 1928 the first classes were held in the present Newburgh Free Academy building, but it was not until March 1928 that the construction work was finally completed. In the fall of 1931 the annex was added to the building, adding dressing rooms, a music room, and an additional place for gym work.

In the first ten years of its occupancy pupil enrollment grew from about 1,100 to more than 2,200. The teaching staff increased from 39 to more than 75. To relieve the overcrowding Columbia University Teachers College recommended that two new junior high schools should be built in order to keep Newburgh up with the times. In spite of the Great Depression, two schools, North Junior High School which still stands and operates on Route 9W and South Junior High School which also still stands and operates on Monument Street, were built with the aid of a 45% grant from the Public Works Administration. In 1937 both buildings were dedicated, and the Academy began to see its enrollment drop back to around 1,500 pupils.

In the early 1960s, because of overcrowding due to the baby boomer generation reaching high school age, a major addition was built on the north side of the building. New cafeteria spaces and a planetarium were included in this new building, in addition to many new classrooms. The new addition opened for classes in September 1965.

In the most recent years, pupil enrollment numbers in the upper two thousands is not uncommon, yet Newburgh Free Academy is prided on still providing a quality education for each and every student, with class sizes ranging between four and thirty-five.

In 2002, construction began on the installment of an additional building connected to the original site. Construction ended in early 2003, providing 35+ classrooms, a black-box theatre and a state of the art dance education classroom.

In 2004 NFA, and the school district as a whole, became the first K–12 educational system in New York State to deal with an employed district-wide administrator going through a gender transition while on the job.[citation needed] Because of such resistance from the adults on campus, not generally the students, the school board paid this individual a hefty cash settlement (greater than $90,000) to resign.[citation needed]

Beginning with the 2011–12 school year, Newburgh Free Academy extended to two campuses, utilizing the former North Junior High building, now known as "NFA North Campus" The current school building is entitled "NFA Main Campus." Both buildings hold students in grades 9-12, as an effort to meet state requirements for a standard high school. However, the concept is that both high schools are combined, and all activities stretch between the two campuses. Communication between the two campuses is not yet well established.[citation needed] The enrollment figure for NFA collectively is expected to increase to 5000 students.

Beginning in 2011, the high school was involved in a scandal concerning widespread class cutting and poor graduation rates among Newburgh Free Academy basketball players during their state championship in 2008–09 and the 2009–10 season.[citation needed]

Star players on the 2008–09 and 2009–10 teams told the Times Herald-Record they skipped classes as their coach and administrators looked the other way or actively covered for them. Attendance records later obtained by the paper showed the top six players skipped more than 1,000 classes. E-mails showed NFA teachers had notified top administrators only to see their concerns brushed away. It was only after the allegations became public that the district took any corrective actions.

NFA's Principal Peter Copeletti and Athletic Director Chris Townsend both retired during the investigation. Coach Frank Dinnocenzio was replaced. Assistant Principal Karriem Bunce was suspended.[3]


The NFA basketball team won the 2009 New York State Class AA Championship, as mentioned above. The NFA soccer team also won the 2009 New York State Class AA Championship. The NFA crew team's men's 4+ won the state regatta in 2008, and went on to compete in the national regatta winning 6th place, beating out all public schools in their category. The NFA football team has made the State Championship game twice, in 2011 and 2014, losing both games to Orchard Park and Jamestown, respectively. The NFA baseball team has not been to the state tournament since winning section 9 in 2005, however, they lost in extra innings to the eventual state champions, Kingston, in the section 9 semifinals in 2012.

Newburgh is rivals with Monroe-Woodbury, Kingston, Middletown, and Pine Bush.


Recently in sports, NFA has had various alumni move onto higher stages, with former NFA catcher Rick Pacione being drafted by the LA Angels in the 2011 MLB draft. He currently serves as the Cleveland Indians' bullpen catcher. He was part of the 2016 Cleveland Indians World Series run where they would blow a 3-1 lead to the Chicago Cubs.


Newburgh Free Academy is known nationally for its successful debate team, which includes Policy and Lincoln Douglas. Several of its debate teams have reached the late elimination rounds of major tournaments such as Penn.


  1. ^ a b "2010-11 New York State School Report Card, Accountability and Overview for Newburgh Free Academy" (PDF). (571 KiB), retrieved May 11, 2012.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Murphy, Doyle. "NFA final class-cutting report names no names". Times Herald-Record.


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Coordinates: 41°30′32″N 74°01′39″W / 41.5089°N 74.0274°W / 41.5089; -74.0274