I went to Chaney High School. At that time, there were six public high schools in Youngstown (Chaney, The Rayen School, North, South, Wilson, and East). East was our cross town rival in the City Series. Apart from that, I did not know much about East.
It turns out that the two schools, which are now the two remaining public high schools in Youngstown, have parallel histories. In the early 1920’s, Youngstown was experiencing explosive growth and the existing schools were becoming overcrowded. In 1921, plans were announced to build new schools on the East and West sides. Both opened in 1925, the West side school being renamed Chaney High School after the recently deceased former superintendent of the Youngstown School District.
When it opened, East was designed to accommodate 1600 to 1800 students. It was a three story brick building of colonial design with a frontage of 284 feet and depth of 165. The interior was trimmed in oak with maple floors in the classrooms and terrazzo hallways. It had 21 classrooms, 10 shops, 12 special rooms, 2 study halls, 2 gyms, an auditorium, lunchroom, kitchen, and two locker rooms (Aley, p. 263).
John W. Smith was the first principal and served in this position until his retirement in 1947. Throughout his tenure, sports teams were known as the Sunrisers. In 1950, they changed the mascot to the Golden Bears, which they remained until the 1998 closing of the school. East underwent renovations in 1955, the same year the new Chaney High School was dedicated. The renovations involved additions to all three floors. Further renovations were completed in 1981 when restrooms were renovated and new doors and windows were installed in the old section of the building. A fence was built around the school grounds in 1987 and the parking lot expanded.
After the mill closures, North High School was closed in 1980 and South High School in 1993. Some of the students from each school were assigned to East. In 1997, when the school district was in debt, a state commission took over operation of the schools and decided to close East as a high school, transferring the students to The Rayen School. In the next years, East became a middle school. It was closed after winter quarter of 2006.
But that was not the end of the history of East High School. In 2007 a new East High School opened at its current location on 474 Bennington. With its opening, The Rayen School and Wilson High School closed and their students assigned to East. When the school opened in 2007, students decided that the Panther would be their mascot, in silver and blue. Ten years later, though, they once again decided to become the blue and gold Golden Panthers.
Once again, Chaney and East were on parallel paths and sports rivalries. Then in 2011, Chaney became a STEM school without sports programs. For a time, East was the only traditional public high school in Youngstown. In 2017, the decision was announced that Chaney would once again become a traditional high school and in 2018, the Cowboys once again fielded sports teams. The Golden Bears and the Cowboys were rivals once more.
Debra Campbell is the current principal of East High School. East High School emphasizes the Three R’s: ”Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships.” It must be working. In 2022, East High School won the Gene Bottoms Pacesetter Award for School Improvement, measured by attendance, on-time graduation rates, and graduation requirements. From 2021 to 2022, attendance jumped from 71.1% to 88.4% and graduation rates from 2017 to 2021 jumped from 68.6% to 84.7%. That seems impressive during a pandemic.
East High School is coming up on 100 years since its founding. It looks like the school is on a good trajectory. And even though they are a sports rival of my alma mater, I wish them well. After all, how else can we have a rivalry!
To read other posts in the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown series, just click “On Youngstown.” Enjoy!