Wilton High School

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Wilton High School Emblem
Wilton High School
Magnet School No
School District Wilton Public Schools
School Colors Blue and White
Coeducational Yes
Year Opened September 1971
Charter School No
Grade Levels 9-12
School type Public
Principal Robert O'Donnell
Year-round schedule No
Enrollment 1216
Sports Teams The Warriors
Mascot Warrior
Homepage www.edline.net/pages/Wilton_High_School

Wilton High School is a public high school in Wilton, Connecticut, considered "one of Connecticut’s top performers" in various measures of school success,[1] including scores on standardized math and reading tests.[2] In 2013 U.S. News and World Report ranked Wilton as the 6th best public high school in Connecticut and 292nd in the country.[3]

The school's present, permanent location did not open until 1971. Since then the school has experienced rapid population growth. From the height of the 1970s to 2006, the student body grew 7.5 times as large. In the fall of 2001, a major multimillion-dollar construction project was completed, significantly expanding the square footage of the school.[citation needed] Growth from 2001 to 2006 increased 29 percent.[4]

The demographics of the school are unusual for Connecticut. Compared to other high schools in the state, the student body of Wilton High School is more affluent and substantially less diverse:

Ethnicity/economic status indicator.[4] Year Wilton Similar
Eligible for free/reduced price meals 2005-06 0.9% 1.0% 22.4%
Eligible for free/reduced price meals 2002-03 0.6% n/a 17.6%
Juniors, Seniors working 16+ hrs./week 2005-06 n/a 6.5% 21.7
Juniors, Seniors working 16+ hrs./week 2000-01 15.8% n/a 31.7
K-12 students, non-English home language 2005-06 4.7% 2.7% 11.4
White 2004-05 92.7% 67%[5]
Hispanic 2004-05 1.9% 15%[5]
African American 2004-05 1.3% 14%[5]
Asian American 2004-05 4.0% 3%[5]
American Indian 2004-05 0.1% >1%[5]

The school's current principal is Robert O'Donnell, who in 2011 replaced long-time-principal Timothy H. Canty (a Wilton graduate). Canty was involved in several high-profile free speech disputes with students before transferring to the Board of Education for two years and then announcing his departure from the school district in 2013.[1][6][7]

History of secondary education in town[edit]

Before 1959[edit]

Even though Wilton became an independent town in 1802, separating from Norwalk,[8] its education system was highly unorganized until the late 1950s.

In the early and mid-20th century, Wilton students went to high schools in Westport, New Canaan, Norwalk (until 1930), Danbury, and Ridgefield. Since the schools in these communities were becoming overcrowded with population growth, a regional high school for Wilton was proposed in 1935 but was vetoed by the state governor. The next year, Wilton, Weston, and Redding began a joint study, which rejected the idea again. Instead, the committee recommended that Wilton wait for population to increase enough to support a high school, and in the meantime buy enough land for the school. In 1940, a town meeting approved purchase of the Harbs Farm property, a 65-acre (260,000 m2) tract near the intersection of School and Danbury Roads. In 1944, a regional high school was proposed again, and again the idea was rejected, this time by the town of Redding, which killed the proposal. A consultant hired by Wilton town officials recommended in 1948 that town population growth could support a high school in less than a decade. The regional high school idea was then permanently dropped.[9]

Prior to the 1959 academic year, all students seeking public secondary school education had to attend Staples High School in Westport. In 1951, Westport officials, facing their own town's population growth, notified Wilton that it should prepare to remove its high school students from that town's school by 1957. In 1956, 10th-grade students began attending classes in the Wilton Junior High School building, and 11th-grade students joined them there in the fall of 1957, so that only Wilton's seniors were at the Westport high school. In that final school year for Wilton students in Westport, the top two graduating seniors at Staples High School were from Wilton. A $1.2 million wing was completed for the junior high school building in the fall of 1958.[10]

High School shuffle 1959-1971[edit]

In 1962, the public secondary education building moved again. This time the destination was a brand new structure currently known as the Middlebrook School. The first graduating class of this new high school, the class of 1963, numbered 170. Overall enrollment that year was 615. Although this was a new facility, it was quickly deemed as inappropriate due to its diminutive size, in the wake of the "baby boomer" education era.

In 1966, a building committee was created to expand the new high school building, but the group recommended that the town instead buy land to the northwest of the high school building, and in 1967 the town approved the idea. The land was condemned, but the property owners appealed to the courts, delaying the project. Temporary classrooms were set up outside the old high school building. The town approved $12.6 million for the building, and the new structure was built to hold 1,500 students, with the possibility of expansion to hold 2,000.[11]

The present day Wilton High School opened its doors in September 1971, reaching a maximum student population of 1646 during the 1976-77 academic year. WHS has graduated nearly 12,500 students as of the 2006-07 academic year.[12]

Recent history[edit]

In 1996, Wilton High School participated in the A Better Chance (ABC) program which brought minority students from inner-city schools to live in town and attend the school. As of 2004, ABC leased the former Goslee House at 6 Godfrey Place from the town library for student housing.[13]

For the 26 years that Guy Whitten coached the high school lacrosse team, it won 17 state championships and 11 Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference titles. In Whitten's final year, 1995, the team was undefeated. The girls' gymnastics team won 13 FCIAC titles in 15 years, as well as several state championships.[9]

In 2001, two extensive additions to the school were completed as well as other renovations. The project included new classrooms, more modern science labs, new music rooms, a larger cafeteria, and a new theater building with an 800-seat auditorium.[14]

In 2007, the state of Connecticut enacted legislation preventing physical restraint or seclusion of special needs students except in limited situations,[15] largely as a result of allegations of mistreatment of four special education students in Wilton High School and other Wilton schools in 2005.[16][17] Jill Ely claimed that, without notifying her, the school forced her retarded son into a room at the high school that was held shut until he became completely quiet.[17] She said that her son injured his arm trying to get out and once, she later learned, “he was left crying and whimpering for almost the entire day.” An investigation by the Wilton Bulletin in 2006 found that the high school “safe room” had never been inspected by the fire marshall and lacked a Building Department certificate of occupancy.[18] Maryanne Lombardi made similar claims that her 9-year old autistic son, who did not speak, was routinely sent to a “padded cell called the timeout room” at another Wilton school.[17][18] Gloria Bass, the grandmother of two special needs students, also said that one child had been restrained for months in a storage closet without her knowledge.[17][18] Superintendent Gary Richards defended the schools’ actions saying: “We do the best we can with kids who sometimes are very challenged.”[17]

In March 2007, a controversy arose which achieved national prominence when Principal Timothy Canty, on the objection of a student, cancelled an original student play by an advanced theater class concerning the Iraq War, a project he had originally approved. He justified his action by claiming it “might hurt Wilton families ‘who had lost loved ones or who had individuals serving as we speak,’ and that there was not enough classroom and rehearsal time to ensure it would provide ‘a legitimate instructional experience for our students.’”[19] The play, "Voices in Conflict", had been written and produced by students under the direction of 13-year English teacher Bonnie Dickinson. It was supposed to have been performed in school during the day. School officials, including Superintendent Gary Richards, notwithstanding national attention over the cancellation and a letter protesting it signed by Stephen Sondheim, Edward Albee, Christopher Durang, John Guare, and John Patrick Shanley, refused to allow the production to be performed at the school.

Theater groups rallied to the students’ defense, and the play was subsequently performed at the Fairfield Theatre Company, The Vineyard Theatre, The Culture Project, and The Public Theater.[20] The play was produced for Connecticut Public Television, and Bonnie Dickinson became the official 2007 Honoree of the National Coalition Against Censorship and the winner of the Connecticut Center for First Amendment Rights 2007 “Freedom Award.”[21]

In 2013, after the Wilton Board of Finance returned its proposed budget with instructions to reduce it by $750,000, the Board of Education voted to impose "pay-to-play" fees on all athletics and school clubs, with a fee of up to $100 per sport and $50 per club.[22]


Boys' lacrosse[edit]

Since the sport gained school-sponsorship, the team has won 21 Connecticut state championships and 13 FCIAC titles.[23] Guy Whitten, the varsity football coach, was hired in 1969 to field a competitive group of athletes from the school's club and intramural programs. Whitten, who is regarded as an influential figure to the popularity that the sport enjoys today throughout the state, would end up coaching boys' lacrosse at WHS for 26 years before his retirement following the conclusion of the 1995 season. Whitten competed for years against veteran New Canaan coach Howard Benedict. Whitten and Benedict are considered the "Founding Fathers of Connecticut Lacrosse." Whitten was chosen to represent his country as the Head Coach of the USA U-19 National Team, who won the World Championship in Adelaide, Australia in 1988. Upon retirement, Whitten had tabulated 410 wins versus only 77 losses for a career winning percentage of %.842. At the time, he was one of only four coaches in the history of the sport to reach the 400 win plateau. In the history of Wilton Lacrosse, the varsity team has never had a losing season; the lowest record ever by the Warriors was in 2007 when they went %.500. Many of the program's athletes have gone on to compete in collegiate teams on the NCAA division I level.

Season W L Pct. FCIAC tournament CIAC (state) tournament National Ranking
2011 16 6 .730 Lost Semi Final to Darien Won State Championship (#21) over New Canaan in the CIAC Finals and defeated Darien in the CIAC Semi-Finals Ranked #29 in nation[24]
2009 16 6 .753 Lost Semi Final to Darien Lost finals to Darien
2008 12 8 .600 Lost Semi Finals to Darien Lost Quarter Finals to Darien
2007 10 10 .500 Lost Semi Finals to Greenwich Lost Quarter Finals to Branford
2006 12 8 .600 Lost Semi Finals to Darien' Lost Quarter Finals to Daniel Hand
2005 16 5 .762 Lost Semi Finals to New Canaan Lost Finals to Darien Ranked #54 in nation
2004 20 3 .870 Lost Finals to Darien Won State Championship (#20) over New Canaan Ranked #21 in nation
2003 13 8 .620 Lost Finals to Darien Lost Semi Finals to Glastonbury
2002 11 7 .611 Lost Semi Finals to Darien Lost Quarter Finals to Cheshire
2001 12 9 .571 Lost Finals to Darien Lost Semi Finals to Fairfield Prep
2000 15 8 .652 Lost Semi Finals to Darien Lost Finals to Darien
1999 20 2 .910 Won Championship over Darien Won State Championship (#19) Ranked #8 in nation
1998 19 3 .863 Lost semi-finals to New Canaan Won State Championship (#18) over New Canaan Ranked #11 in nation
1997 14 7 .667 Lost Finals to Darien Lost Semifinals to Darien
1996 19 3 .863 Won Championship Lost in Finals to New Canaan
1995 23 0 1.000 Won Championship Won State Championship Ranked #2 in nation

Girls' lacrosse[edit]

The girls' varsity lacrosse program, established as a school sponsored sport in 1982, was invariably mediocre until a breakthrough 1995 campaign under first-year coach Joanie Tripp that culminated with a 10-4 record and three athletes named to the all FCIAC team. After a few seasons of disappointing losses in the state and FCIAC tournaments, the Lady Warriors finished the 1999 season with a 17-3 record and claimed their first FCIAC crown, along with the distinction of taking second place in the state tournament. The Warriors would reclaim themselves as FCIAC champions in the 2004 season, which also saw the team take home its first state title in a come-from-behind win over rival Darien.[25] In 2014 they won the Class M State Championship against New Canaan.

Boys' Soccer[edit]

The boys' soccer program has claimed State Championship titles in 1988 and 1998 under longtime former head coach Jim Cook.


The baseball team won the FCIAC Championship in 2015 and 1995. Coached by Timothy Eagen.



The Wilton-Ridgefield rivalry started in 1987, when, after a heated hockey game, a bench-clearing brawl erupted. After 10 minutes of fighting, two students had to go to the hospital and nearly everyone on both teams was suspended. The fans on both sides met after the game outside of the rink (Winter Garden Ice Arena) and proceeded to fight for up to an hour. Since then neither side has backed down and at nearly every sports event between the two there is some sort of fight.

Notable alumni[edit]


  1. ^ a b Cowan, Alison Leigh, "Play About Iraq War Divides a Connecticut School", news article in The New York Times Metro section, March 24, 2007
  2. ^ Connecticut State High Schools - CT School Rankings
  3. ^ "Wilton High School". U.S. News & World Report. April 23, 2013.  Accessed May 9, 2013.
  4. ^ a b "Strategic School Profile 2005-2006 for Wilton High School" (PDF).  Retrieved March 25, 2007.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Demographics of Wilton High School". Great Schools.  Retrieved March 25, 2007.
  6. ^ Wilton High School official website http://www.wilton.k12.ct.us/whs
  7. ^ Adams, Rob (March 26, 2013). "Canty is leaving for Darien". Wilton Bulletin.  Accessed May 9, 2013
  8. ^ Town USA - Wilton, CT http://www.town-usa.com/connecticut/fairfield/wilton.html
  9. ^ a b Russell, Robert H., Wilton, Connecticut: Three Centuries of People, Places and Progress, Wilton: Wilton Historical Society, 2004, 2007, page 366
  10. ^ Russell, Robert H., Wilton, Connecticut: Three Centuries of People, Places and Progress, Wilton: Wilton Historical Society, 2004, 2007, pp 413-414
  11. ^ Russell, Robert H., Wilton, Connecticut: Three Centuries of People, Places and Progress, Wilton: Wilton Historical Society, 2004, 2007, pp 415-416
  12. ^ WHS Student Handbook http://www.wilton.k12.ct.us/whs/adm/stuhandbook.pdf
  13. ^ Russell, Robert H., Wilton, Connecticut: Three Centuries of People, Places and Progress, Wilton: Wilton Historical Society, 2004, 2007, pp 449-450
  14. ^ Russell, Robert H., Wilton, Connecticut: Three Centuries of People, Places and Progress, Wilton: Wilton Historical Society, 2004, 2007, page 541
  15. ^ Moran, John (February 12, 2012). "Use of Restraint and Seclusion in Connecticut Public Schools". ORL Research Report.  Accessed May 9, 2013
  16. ^ Mylo, Lauren (January 15, 2009). "Wilton women join fight for disability rights". Wilton Villager.  Accessed May 9, 2013
  17. ^ a b c d e Frahm, Robert A. "Parents criticize restraints in schools; at hearing, they seek change in the law". Hartford Courant.  Accessed May 9, 2013 (behind pay wall).
  18. ^ a b c Urban, Peter (January 13, 2009). "Trio seeks to protect disabled children". The (Danbury, CT) News-Times.  Accessed May 9, 2013 (from the Connecticut Post).
  19. ^ Cowan, Alison Leigh (March 24, 2007). "Play About Iraq War Divides a Connecticut School,". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-10-31. 
  20. ^ Ryzik, Melena (June 14, 2007). "Unwelcome at Home, Student Play Is a Hit in New York,". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-10-31. 
  21. ^ "Voices in Conflict," Connecticut Public Broadcast Network.
  22. ^ Adams, Rob (April 12, 2013). "Pay to participate comes to Wilton High School". Wilton Bulletin.  Accessed May 9, 2013.
  23. ^ Wilton Lacrosse History
  24. ^ http://rise.espn.go.com/lacrosse/team-rankings/Boys-2011-Rankings/Boys-2011.aspx?pursuit=Lacrosse
  25. ^ Our History
  26. ^ MacKenzie, Chris (13 March 1978). "A Clone No More, Jeremy Black Is Back". The Hour. Retrieved 28 September 2015. 
  27. ^ IMDB.com Paul Dano Bio http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0200452/bio
  28. ^ Women's Soccer World Online - Kristine Lilly http://www.womensoccer.com/biogs/lilly.html
  29. ^ Bryant Mobile
  30. ^ All About Jazz - John Scofield Bio http://www.allaboutjazz.com/artists/scofield.htm
  31. ^ Davis, Chris (January 31, 2011). "Obama picks Wilton grad as next Solicitor General". Wilton Bulletin. Retrieved March 31, 2011. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 41°12′39″N 73°25′59″W / 41.2108°N 73.433°W / 41.2108; -73.433