Winston Churchill High School (Potomac, Maryland)

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Winston Churchill High School
11300 Gainsborough Rd, Potomac, MD 20854
Potomac, Maryland
United States
Other names WCHS, Churchill High School, CHS or Churchill
Former name Potomac High School
Type Public Secondary
  • School of Excellence
  • Where Excellence Soars
Established 1964
Status Active
School district Montgomery County Public Schools
Principal Dr. Joan C. Benz
Grades 9–12
Enrollment 2,137 (2016–2017)
9th Grade: 551
10th Grade: 531
11th Grade: 510
12th Grade: 545
Campus Suburban
Mascot Bulldog
Rival Thomas S. Wootton High School
Newspaper The Churchill Observer

Winston Churchill High School, often referred to as WCHS, Churchill High School, CHS or Churchill, is a high school in Potomac, Maryland, an unincorporated section of Montgomery County, Maryland.

The school is named after Sir Winston Churchill, British statesman and politician who was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during World War II. Founded in 1964 as Potomac High School, the school's name was changed to "Winston Churchill High School" three years later.[citation needed] Churchill is part of the Montgomery County Public Schools system. The majority of the students come from Herbert Hoover Middle School (75%) and Cabin John Middle School (25%). The principal, as of the 2017-2018 school year, is Dr. Joan C. Benz, who will be replaced by Brandice Heckert on June 1st, 2018 after Dr. Benz announced their retirement.[1][2]

School awards and recognition[edit]

Churchill has been in the top 100 High Schools in the United States for years, climbing to as high as 42 in 2007 and 75 in 2017 .[3] Churchill earned the 2007 Maryland Blue Ribbon Award,[4] and it was selected by the U.S. Department of Education as a 2007 National No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon School.[5] In 2012, Churchill was rated the best high school in Maryland and fifth among non magnet schools nationally according to U.S. News & World Report.[6] In 2016, the same report ranked Winston Churchill High School 94th in national ranking, 2nd in Maryland High Schools and 146th in STEM High Schools with 83.9(out of 100) College Readiness Index.[7] In 2017, Churchill was ranked the best high school in Maryland and 75th in the nation by U.S. News. [8]

Departments and programs[edit]

Churchill has nine academic departments: Art, Computer Science, English, Foreign Language, Mathematics, Performing Arts, Physical Education, Science, and Social Studies.

Autism Program[edit]

The Autism Program provides a program for students with low-functioning autism. In the Autism Program, students learn how to improve their skills at undertaking certain tasks. Students in this program also learn speech.

Signature Program[edit]

The school also has a Signature Program, which allows students the opportunity to follow one of several course paths to specialize in a particular career field. The Signature Program comprises three academies: The Academy of Math, Science, & Technology; The Academy of International Studies; and The Academy of Creative and Performing Arts.[9]

Bridge Program[edit]

The Bridge Program provides a program for adolescents and young adults with learning/emotional disabilities. The program's intention is on fostering academic skill development and altering behaviors that interfere with academic learning.[10] It is supervised by an interdisciplinary team intended to meet the needs of socially vulnerable middle and high school students who may be challenged by problem-solving abstract thinking, organizing and planning, interpreting social cues, establishing relationships with peers, coping with anxiety, changes in routine, and transitioning.

Performing arts[edit]

Churchill is well known for its performing arts programs. Many theater productions are put on regularly, including several nights of one-act plays in which many students are able to participate. Theater classes at three levels and a television production class are taught under the direction of Naomi Ratz, also the director for the fall musical and winter play.

Churchill also has an outstanding show choir program. Simply Irresistible is the all-female group, and Showstoppers is the mixed-gender group. Both groups regularly compete within Montgomery County, as well as regional and national competitions. Churchill also hosts its own show choir competition annually, The Mid-Atlantic Show Choir Showcase.

Under choral director Matthew Albright, Churchill has four choral music groups: Voice of a Generation (VOAG), Simply Irresistible, Jazz Ambassadors and Showstoppers.[11]

Voice of a Generation is a non audition group for students who like to sing, and learn about the study of music. Students learn how to sight read and read music, as well as improve their performance skills.

Simply Irresistible is similar to voice of a generation, however it is an all girls show choir ensemble put together through highly selected auditions. Shows off female students with more than average musical ability and interest. Students in this group work with a variety of music including jazz and pop music, but also work with sacred and secular music to practice good vocal technique.

Jazz Ambassadors is an audition co ed ensemble with an focus on developing vocal technique. Most songs are challenging jazz music, but can often be stretched to arrangements of all different kinds of music like pop or classical.

Showstoppers is like simply irresistible an honors show choir group with students selected through auditions and must have previously held positions in a choir at Churchill. This group shows musically challenging music to students with incredible talent and passion. Most of the music is popular, but much like the other groups, any musical style, including sacred and secular works are rehearsed and performed. This group also offers many leadership positions that allow students to get more involved in the Department as a whole.

In 2007, Churchill's fall production of Singin' in the Rain was nominated for 6 Cappies High School Theater Awards,[12] winning Best Orchestra (for the third consecutive year), Best Cameo Actor, and Best Cameo Actress. Only one other school received more awards.[13][14]

In 2009, Churchill's fall production of Rent: School Edition was nominated for 4 Cappies High School Theater Awards: Best Male Vocalist, Best Female Vocalist, Best Orchestra, and Best Song. Churchill won awards for Best Female Vocalist as well as Best Orchestra.[15]

Past spring musical performances include:

  • 2013 – Peter Pan
  • 2012 – Legally Blonde

Past fall musical performances include:

  • 2016 -- A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
  • 2015 -- How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
  • 2014 -- Little Shop of Horrors
  • 2010 – Anything Goes
  • 2009 – Chicago
  • 2008 – Rent (School Edition)
  • 2007 – Kiss Me Kate
  • 2006 – Singin' in the Rain
  • 2005 – West Side Story
  • 2004 – Big the Musical
  • 2003 – Guys and Dolls
  • 2002 – The Music Man
  • 2001 – Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
  • 2000 – The Pajama Game

Churchill is well known for its annual Blast from the Past production, in which more than 200 student singers, dancers and musicians perform a variety of popular songs. These songs range from the 1920s to modern day, and they all relate to a selected theme for each school year.

Kristofer Sanz conducts Churchill's orchestras. Former conductor of the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestras (MCYO) Philharmonic Orchestra, David Levin, widely considered one of the best music educators in the Washington area, held the position until his departure in 2012.

Ariel Allal, a graduate from the University of Michigan, directs the bands and teaches AP Music Theory.

Many students form their own bands, typically of a rock variety, and the school occasionally facilitates this by sponsoring a battle of the bands or band performance. Sometimes, the school has sponsored day-long concerts to take place on school grounds. For example, The Merritthon, a fundraising event for Leukemia research, occurred annually from 2002 to 2004.[16]

In 2009, the instrumental music program won four awards at the Windy City Classic, including Best Symphonic Band, Best Orchestra, Best Classical Soloist and Best Overall Program. The jazz band received second place in that category. All three groups received a gold rating.[citation needed]


Churchill produces three publications, all of which have won awards: its newspaper, The Churchill Observer; its yearbook, Finest Hours, and its literary magazine, Erehwon.[17][18][19] Each publication is accompanied by three levels of instruction in the related publishing topics.


Grade changing scandal[edit]

In January 2010, a criminal investigation exposed a grade changing scandal at Churchill.[20] Law enforcement, prosecutors, and school officials examined the actions of many students who used a USB key logger to compromise teachers' passwords and alter the grades of hundreds of students. Three of the eight students identified as agents withdrew from the school, others were expelled.

Vandalism by Walter Johnson High School students[edit]

During the 2016–2017 year, on a day with a basketball game between Winston Churchill High School and Walter Johnson High School, Walter Johnson High School students put vulgar graffiti on Winston Churchill High School property. The graffiti insulted star basketball player and Brown University lacrosse commit, Reed Moshyedi. This caused $100,000 in damage.[21]


Churchill High School offers the following sports:

State Championships[edit]

State Championships
Season Sport Number of Championships Year
Fall[22] Cross country, boys 4 1968, 1975, 1977, 1978
Cross country, girls 2 1979, 1991
Football 2 1976, 1977
Field hockey 2 1978, 1983
Golf 14 1976, 1987, 1988, 1995, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2014, 2015
Soccer, boys 7 1980, 1985, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1999, 2002, 2009,2018?
Winter[23] Basketball, girls 2 2002, 2003
Basketball, boys 1 1978
Ice hockey[24] 5 2006, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016
Indoor track, boys 2 1976, 2011
Swimming and diving, girls[25] 3 2009, 2012, 2015
Swimming and diving, boys 1 2018
Spring[26] Baseball 1 1979
Outdoor track, boys 1 1976
Wiffleball 5 1969, 1978, 1980, 2011, 2012
Ultimate frisbee 1 2013
Total 47

Notable alumni[edit]


  1. ^ "Parent And Student Handbook 2012–2013" (PDF). Retrieved January 26, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Updated: New Principals Named for Whitman, Churchill High Schools". Retrieved 2018-05-24. 
  3. ^ "Gold Medal Schools". U.S. News & World Report. November 29, 2007. Archived from the original on December 1, 2007. "Winston Churchill High School". U.S. News & World Report. June 7, 2017. Archived from the original on June 7, 2017. 
  4. ^ Jacobson, Erica (December 13, 2006). "Two local schools awarded Md. Blue Ribbon designation". Washington Examiner. 
  5. ^ "Winston Churchill HS Named National Blue Ribbon School". October 2, 2007. Retrieved May 15, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Best High Schools". May 8, 2012. Archived from the original on May 8, 2012. 
  7. ^ "Best High Schools". September 25, 2016. 
  8. ^ "U.S. News 2017 rankings". 
  9. ^ Donaghue, Erin (November 4, 2009). "Signature Program faces more hurdles at Churchill". Potomac Gazette. 
  10. ^ Silverman, Speri (March 20, 2010). "School Based Services". 
  11. ^ "WCHS Choral Music Department". Retrieved September 26, 2016. 
  12. ^ Mack, Jean (May 17, 2007). "And the Nominees Are..." The Washington Post. Retrieved February 5, 2009. 
  13. ^ Vaughn, Peggy (June 13, 2007). "Wootton, Churchill students bring home some Cappies". Potomac Gazette. 
  14. ^ [1] Archived August 25, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ "2009 National Capital Area Nominees". 
  16. ^ Cetron, Ari (June 18, 2003). "Rock for the Cure". Potomac Almanac. Retrieved May 23, 2010
  17. ^ "MSPA 2003 Publications Contest Results". Maryland-District of Columbia Scholastic Press Association. University of Maryland. 2003. Archived from the original on April 24, 2009. Retrieved February 5, 2009. 
  18. ^ "Publication Awards Recognize Best in Area". Maryland-District of Columbia Scholastic Press Association. University of Maryland. Winter 2002. Archived from the original on April 24, 2009. Retrieved February 5, 2009. 
  19. ^ "MSPA 2002 Publications Contest Results". Maryland-District of Columbia Scholastic Press Association. University of Maryland. 2002. Archived from the original on April 24, 2009. Retrieved February 5, 2009. 
  20. ^ Birnbaum, Michael; Morse, Dan; Johnson, Jenna (March 4, 2010). "Criminal investigation opened in grade-changing scandal at Churchill High". The Washington Post. pp. A01. Retrieved May 16, 2010. 
  21. ^ Stabley, Matthew (January 31, 2017). "High School Basketball Rivalry Causes $100,000 in Damage By Vandals". NBC4 Washington. 
  22. ^ "Fall Record Book" (PDF). Retrieved May 15, 2010. 
  23. ^ "Winter Record Book" (PDF). Retrieved May 15, 2010. 
  24. ^ "Maryland Scholastic Hockey League Past Champions". Retrieved March 13, 2013. 
  25. ^
  26. ^ "Spring Record Book" (PDF). Retrieved May 15, 2010. 
  27. ^ Tisha Thompson (July 16, 2015). "'Game of Thrones' Writer Credits Churchill High With His Success". WRC-TV. Retrieved April 22, 2018. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 39°02′38″N 77°10′21″W / 39.0438°N 77.1725°W / 39.0438; -77.1725