Paul Laurence Dunbar High School (Lexington, Kentucky)

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Paul Laurence Dunbar High School

School typePublic
PrincipalBetsy Rains
Staff106.50 (FTE)[1]
Enrollment1,980 (2018-19)[1]
Student to teacher ratio18.59[1]
Color(s) Red

Paul Laurence Dunbar (PLD) is a high school located at 1600 Man o' War Boulevard on the southwest side of Lexington, Kentucky, United States. The school is one of six high schools in the Fayette County Public Schools district.

Paul Laurence Dunbar High School is named after the 19th century African-American poet, Paul Laurence Dunbar, whose parents were from Kentucky.[2] The school was opened in 1990. With an enrollment of over 2100,[3] it is one of the largest public high schools in Kentucky,[4] and was the largest during the 2005–06, 2006–07, and 2007–08 academic years.[5] It also houses the Math, Science, and Technology Center. The PLD student body, unlike that of most of the other schools named after Dunbar,[citation needed] has a substantial white majority, although African Americans and Hispanics make up roughly one sixth of the students.[3]


The school name was part of a political deal made in 1965 with the city's African-American community. In the era of segregated schools, Dunbar High School, also named after the poet, was the city's lone surviving black high school (grades 10–12 of Douglass School had been shut down in 1963) and one of the main cornerstones of Lexington's black community. When Fayette County's schools integrated in 1967, Dunbar High was closed, with its students being bused to four previously white schools. Eventually, the county school board agreed that the next high school to open in Lexington would bear Dunbar's name, principally at the urging of the Rev. William Augustus Jones, Sr., senior minister of Lexington's oldest and largest black church[6] and a civil rights leader[7] whose five oldest children had graduated from Dunbar and embarked on careers of distinction.[8] To the board's credit, it kept its word, even though a full generation had passed since the original agreement. To keep the schools differentiated, the new school was given the poet's full name, rather than just the last name as with the old school. As an additional tribute to the old Dunbar High School, the gymnasium was named the "S.T. Roach Sports Center" for basketball coach Sanford T Roach, who led the school to a 512–142 record from 1942 to 1965, and is a member of the National High School Sports Hall of Fame and the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame. The new PLD adopted the original school colors of the old Dunbar High (which were red and black, but changed to green and white during the 1940s). The new high school did not, however, retain the former school's "Bearcats" mascot. A vote of the school's future students shortly before the school's opening favored "Bulldogs" and selected "The Victors", by Louis Elbel, as the basis of the fight song.[9]

The building of the original high school at 545 North Upper Street has since been converted to the Dunbar Community Center, which serves myriad cultural, educational and recreational needs for the city of Lexington. The Dunbar Community Center is operated by the city's department of Parks & Recreation.[10]


Since opening, Dunbar has averaged more than 15 National Merit Semifinalists a year, with 71 in the last four years.[3] Of the Class of 2008, 75% continued on to four-year colleges or universities, with another 17% attending two-year colleges or technical schools.[3] As of 2017, Dunbar offers Advanced Placement (AP) courses in twenty subject areas.[3][failed verification]. In January 2019, Dunbar senior Rachel Seevers was named one of 40 finalists nationwide in the Regeneron Science Talent Search, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious science and math competition for high school seniors.[11] Rachel is only Kentucky's fifth finalist in the last forty years. Her project also went on to win the Intel Young Scientist Foundation Award at the 2019 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), placing her second in the world.

Math, Science, and Technology Center[edit]

The Math, Science, and Technology Center, also known as MSTC, is a magnet program housed in Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. The program accepts 55 students each year, selected from the 2500 incoming high school freshmen in Fayette County.[3] Many MSTC courses exceed the comparable AP curriculum.[3][citation needed] Many MSTC students have received perfect scores on both the SAT and ACT exams.[citation needed] MSTC graduates are each offered an average of 50 scholarships from different schools (valued at over 1 million), and have attended twenty of the top thirty universities and colleges in the country as ranked by U.S. News & World Report.[citation needed]

Academic team[edit]

The PLD academic team has won numerous, including Governor's Cup championships in 2000 and 2001.[12] In 2000, Dunbar's United States Academic Decathlon team won the state division for the first time and proceeded to nationals.[13]


Paul Laurence Dunbar offers many sports, including football, boys' and girls' basketball, soccer, baseball, softball, boys' lacrosse, tennis, golf, track and field, cheerleading, swimming, dancing, wrestling, and ice hockey. Altogether, Dunbar's athletic teams have won 25 state championships (cheerleading, 16; boys' soccer, 4; baseball, 4; girls' golf, ; girls' track and field, ; girls' cross country, ; boys' basketball, 1; boys' tennis, ; swimming, ) in the school's 1 years, and the cheerleaders have won national championships.


PLD had a competitive boys' basketball program almost from the beginning. In 1993 the team, led by Darnell Burton, were State Runners-Up,[14] and in 1994, led by Cameron Mills, the team repeated as State Runners-Up.[14] In 1997 the team again reached the Sweet Sixteen, losing in the first round.

The Bulldogs boys basketball team captured the 2016 KHSAA Boys Sweet 16 Championship over Doss 61–52. PLD was led by tournament MVP Tavieon Hollingsworth.[15]


The first football playoff appearance was in 1995.[16] For the first five and a half years, the PLD football team played their "home" games at other Lexington high schools.[citation needed] Midway through the 199 season, PLD's football stadium opened, and that year the school advanced to the playoffs for the second time.[citation needed] In 1996 they were the AAA state runners-up, losing the championship game in overtime.[17]

The football stadium was later named for Jon R. Akers, PLD's first principal and the father of National Football League placekicker David Akers.[citation needed]


The current head coach of the PLD Swim Team is Cole Pleasants, a former swimmer at Dunbar. The Swim Team has three state championships. They won three straight in 200, 200 and 200. Dunbar has dominated their region winning multiple region titles. In 2016, PLD was runner up in team scores at the KHSAA Swimming and Diving Championships. This is a strong sport at the high school with the multiple regional titles and the 5 star elite athletes.


In 1992,[citation needed] 2001,[18] 2005[19] and 2013 PLD Soccer were the State Champions. All four championships were under Todd Bretz, who was the head coach since the program's inception with one of the highest records of any Kentucky high school soccer coaches (493-169-38), until Fayette County schools sidelined him in September 2019. Zach Byrd also won a Kentucky Mr. Soccer in 2010 when Dunbar lost in the elite eight against Henry Clay.


PLD Cheerleading is nationally competitive. They have been UCA National Champions in the Large Varsity Division (all girls) in 1995, 2004–2008, 2011 and 2013. They are the only squad to ever be national champions five times in a row. They were UCA National Runners-Up in 1994, 2002, 2003, 2017 and Third Place in 1993 and 2009, Cheersports National Champions in 2003, KAPOS State Champions in 1994, 1997, 2000–2013, and KHSAA State Champions in 2016 and 2017. They have been nationally ranked for twelve years and have been featured in American Cheerleader magazine. Donna Martin has coached the squad since the school opened in 1990. She has been elected to American Cheerleader's Who's Who of Cheerleading.[20]

In 2001, MTV's True Life series prominently featured Dunbar's cheerleading team in the episode "I'm a Cheerleader."

On November 28, 2005, Lifetime Television announced a reality series featuring the PLD cheerleaders.[21] "Cheerleader Nation" premiered in early 2006. The television show had very high ratings[clarification needed].

Former Dunbar cheerleaders have gone on to cheer for the University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, Morehead State University, Western Kentucky University, Ohio State University, University of Cincinnati, Indiana University, University of Alabama, University of Tennessee, Murray State University, and many other colleges.


In 2003, PLD Baseball were state champions.[22] That year they also set a Kentucky record for the most wins in one season, winning 41 games and losing only 4.[23] Josh Ellis went a perfect 12–0 in 2003,[23] despite knee injury suffered in a PLD football game, and was named Kentucky's Mr. Baseball.[23] Dunbar was once again state champions in 2007, where they finished with a 38–6 record, and a state record 1.32 ERA.[24]

Track and field[edit]

In 2005, the girls' track and field team tied as AAA state champions.[25]

Both the boys' and girls' teams have won the Lexington City Championships each year since 2000.[citation needed] The boys placed second in 2007 to Henry Clay High School in a loss by 3 points.[citation needed] The girls won Region 5 AAA in 2001, 2006, and 2007.[citation needed]

Cross country[edit]

Laura Steinmetz was the girls AAA individual state champion in 2005[19] and 2006.[24] The girls team were AAA state champions in 2005[19] and placed third in 2006.[citation needed]


Lacrosse is not sanctioned by the KHSAA. Dunbar's team went undefeated and won first place in the 2009 Bluegrass State Games, the first time lacrosse was included in the Games.[26] In the 2011 season, the Dunbar lacrosse team broke a 7-year streak of losses to Lexington Catholic in the second round of the state tournament. They went 12–2 and concluded their season with a 9–7 victory over Ballard in the D-II Championship game. In 2015 the lacrosse team was runner up, losing to Henry Clay in the Championship Game.

Ice hockey[edit]

Like lacrosse, ice hockey is not sanctioned by KHSAA. Dunbar's team began as a combination of travel and house league players in 2001, and are one of ten teams in the state of Kentucky. However, in 2002 the PLD Ice Hockey team went from being a "metro" team to a strictly all Dunbar student team with the help of PE/Health teacher Mr. Jonas. Dunbar ice hockey has played in both the "A" (varsity) and "B" (junior varsity) levels of Kentucky state hockey.[27]

Fine arts[edit]


The Paul Laurence Dunbar band, currently led by director Brian Morgan, has won national acclaim; they are one of a handful of high school band programs to receive the Sudler Shield twice.[28][29] The school's commitment to a quality band program was clear from the beginning, when Craig Cornish, coming away from three consecutive state marching band championships, and a 4th place Grand National Championship finalist band at North Hardin High School, was hired as director. In its second year of existence, Dunbar band won the 3A state championship. In 1998, then-assistant director Jeff Hood (who had also earned success and national acclaim as band director at George Rogers Clark and Beechwood) took over. In 2015 Jeff Hood retired and Teresa Elliot was selected as the PLD band's third band director in its 26-year history. After 2 years, Teresa Elliott left Dunbar for Frederick Douglass High School. Brian Morgan was selected for the position of head director in 2017. Mr. Morgan has been with the band since it first opened in 1990; first as percussion instructor and later assistant director. The Dunbar band earned the title of state champion in years 1991 (Class AAA),[30] 2003[31] and 2004 (Class AAAA), and 2005, 2007, 2010, and 2011 (Class AAAAA); State Runners-Up in 1992, 1994, 1995, and 2002 (Class AAAA) and 2006 and 2008 (Class AAAAA); and a finalist in 1993, 1996–1999, 2001 (AAAA) 2009, 2012–2015 (AAAAA).[32] In 2004, 2005 and 2008 they were Bands of America Regional and Class Champions, at Middle Tennessee State University, Western Kentucky University and University of Louisville, respectively. In 2014 the band was named Class 3A Champions in the prestigious Bands of America Super Regional in St Louis. In 1995, 1996, and 2007 they were Grand Champions at the Contest of Champions at Middle Tennessee State University. Dunbar has participated in the BOA Grand Nationals contest twice (1996 and 2006) placing in the top 20 both times. Altogether, the band have been Grand Champions more than 50 times. The band performed twice in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City: first in 2007[33] and again in the 2014 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The Dunbar Colorguard is a world class guard that has consistently ranked at both Tristate and National competitions, placing 12th in the 2005 World Colorguard Championships. And in the 2013 WGI championship placed 10th. And have been named Tristate champions several times through the years. WGI Scholastic A Finalist in 2005 and 2013. WGI Scholastic A 16th place in 2010. WGI Scholastic A Semi-Finalist in 2010, 2012, 2014. WGI Nashville Regional Gold Medalist and WGI Mid South Championship Silver Medalist in 2013. Tristate Scholastic A Champions in 2004, 2005, 2009, and 2010. Tristate A Champions in 2003. The PLD guard have captured many best overall Colorguard trophies during marching band season and has become a staple of and a strong presence in the Dunbar band. Many of the guard members play instruments during concert season and in their 2002 show they all dropped their flags and played woodwinds in the 2nd movement.


The Paul Laurence Dunbar Orchestra regularly places musicians in the All-State Orchestra.[citation needed] The program was built by Robyn Bourgois, who taught two orchestra classes at the school until retiring. After serving for two years as Principal Viola in the Atlanta-Emory Orchestra, Amos Jones, of Dunbar's class of 1996, played professionally for the Charlotte Philharmonic Orchestra.[34]

Student exchange[edit]

Paul Laurence Dunbar currently operates an exchange program with Hillpark Secondary School in Glasgow, Scotland. Students from each school are chosen annually to live with host families of students from the other school. Additionally many French students participate in the Lexington Sister Cities exchange with Deauville, France and County Kildare, Ireland.

Also, 3 students have now participated in the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange to Germany.

Notable alumni[edit]



  • Lee Kiefer (2009–2012) – Senior World Championship Teams: 2011 (Bronze), 2010, 2009; Pan American Games Teams: 2011 (Gold – Individual and Team); Pan American Championship Teams: 2011 (Gold – Individual and Team), 2010 (Gold – Individual and Team); Junior World Championship Teams: 2011 (Silver – Individual and Team), 2010 (Fifth), 2009 (Gold – Team); Cadet World Championship Teams: 2011 (Silver), 2010 (Gold), 2009 (Silver), 2008 (Bronze)



  • A. J. Ellis (1995–99) – A two-time first team All-City selection, A.J. was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2003, has played for on all minor-league levels for the Dodgers, and made his debut for the Dodgers in 2008 as a pinch-runner for Nomar Garciaparra. He was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for the 2016 season.



  • Sean Kelley (2002–06) – Named Kentucky's Mr. Soccer, an NSCAA HS All-American, and the Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior, while leading his team to a state championship.[37] He is currently on trial with FC Dallas. His professional career lasted from 2009 to 2013 last playing for Orlando City

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Paul Laurence Dunbar High School". National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved May 6, 2020.
  2. ^ See the entries for "Matilda Dunbar," "Joshua Dunbar" and "Paul Laurence Dunbar High School," in the Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington, Kentucky.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "2008–2009 School Profile" (PDF). Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. Archived from the original (PDF) on August 21, 2010. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
  4. ^ "2008–2009 Audited School Enrollments" (PDF). Kentucky High School Athletic Association. Retrieved November 11, 2009.
  5. ^ Enrollment reports from 2002–03 through 2008–09 are available from the Kentucky High School Athletic Association.
  6. ^ Historic African American Churches: Lexington, KY CVB
  7. ^ 2001 Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame
  8. ^ E.g., [1] and [2]
  9. ^ "New Era Dawns at Dunbar High – Colors, Mascot, Fight Song Chosen". Lexington Herald-Leader. December 18, 1989. Retrieved November 12, 2009.
  10. ^ "Dunbar Community Center". Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government. Retrieved November 12, 2009.
  11. ^ "Regeneron STS". Society for Science & the Public. June 2018.
  12. ^ The Kentucky Association for Academic Competition Retrieved on March 17, 2010
  13. ^ "Dunbar team competes in U.S. Academic Decathlon". Retrieved November 11, 2009.
  14. ^ a b "National City/KHSAA Boys' Sweet 16 Basketball Past State Championship Game Results" (PDF). Kentucky High School Athletic Association. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 3, 2008. Retrieved November 11, 2009.
  15. ^ 2015/16 KY Boys Basketball Stats for Paul Laurence Dunbar: Mar 20, '16 Match with Doss
  16. ^ "KHSAA 1995 Bracket".
  17. ^ "KHSAA State Football Playoffs – Class AAAA". Kentucky High School Athletic Association. Retrieved November 11, 2009.
  18. ^ "2001–2002 KHSAA State Champions". Kentucky High School Athletic Association. Retrieved November 11, 2009.
  19. ^ a b c "2005–2006 KHSAA State Champions". Kentucky High School Athletic Association. Archived from the original on November 21, 2008. Retrieved November 11, 2009.
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ "2002–2003 KHSAA State Champions". Kentucky High School Athletic Association. Retrieved November 11, 2009.
  23. ^ a b c "KHSAA Baseball State Records" (PDF). Kentucky High School Athletic Association. Retrieved November 11, 2009.
  24. ^ a b "2006–2007 KHSAA State Champions". Kentucky High School Athletic Association. Retrieved November 11, 2009.
  25. ^ "2004–2005 KHSAA State Champions". Kentucky High School Athletic Association. Retrieved November 11, 2009.
  26. ^ "Lexington's Dunbar Takes Bluegrass Gold". Kentucky Lacrosse Association. Retrieved November 12, 2009.
  27. ^ "Kentucky High School Hockey League". Retrieved November 11, 2009.
  28. ^ "Dunbar Captures". Lexington Herald-Leader. May 8, 1996. Retrieved November 12, 2009.
  29. ^ "Dunbar Band Gets World-Class Honor". Lexington Herald-Leader. January 4, 2006. Retrieved November 12, 2009.
  30. ^ "Dunbar Band Marches to Top of its Division in Two Years". Lexington Herald-Leader. November 5, 1991. p. B2. Retrieved November 12, 2009.
  31. ^ "Bowl Parade Beckons Dunbar Band". Lexington Herald-Leader. December 10, 2003. p. E7. Retrieved November 12, 2009.
  32. ^ "Strike Up the Band". Richmond Register. November 9, 2009. Retrieved November 12, 2009.
  33. ^ "Hotmail, Outlook en Skype inloggen - Laatste nieuws - MSN Nederland".[dead link]
  34. ^
  35. ^ Venteicher, Wes (2018-12-04). "Gil Durán named to new post as California opinion editor". The Sacramento Bee. Retrieved 2016-05-20.
  36. ^ Kentucky state high school boys' basketball records Archived 2010-02-15 at the Wayback Machine. (pg.5). Retrieved on April 9, 2010.
  37. ^ "George Mason Player Bio". Archived from the original on October 3, 2009. Retrieved November 11, 2009. Prep/Club: Graduated from Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in 2006... Four year varsity letterwinner in soccer... Member of the NSCAA All-America team and earned Gatorade Player of the Year honors senior season... Garnered Kentucky Mr. Soccer honors and was tabbed as the District Tournament MVP in 2005... Named to both the First Team All-Kentucky, as well as First Team All-Lexington senior year... In his final season with the Bulldogs, PLDHS was crowned Kentucky State Champions, Hoosier Cup Champions and the team was ranked No. 1 in Kentucky... In 2005, he recorded 15 shutouts and allowed only 11 goals, while he registered a Kentucky record of 18 shutouts, 12 consecutive, in his netminder role junior season... Member of the Lexington F.C. 88 Premier since 1998... Competed with the Olympic Development Program (ODP) Kentucky squad from 2002–05.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 38°01′04″N 84°34′37″W / 38.01782°N 84.57683°W / 38.01782; -84.57683