Teaching Cleveland

Lesson 8


Central High School was the first public high school in Cleveland and the first public high school established west of the Alleghenies. It was established on July 13, 1846. The founding of Central High School was quite controversial because it provided free secondary education at public expense. Up until this time, it was a common belief that education beyond the elementary level was the responsibility of private education at private expense. In his book History of Cleveland, S. P. Orth describes the controversy of public high school education as a proposition that "startled the community and aroused the people, who rebelled at being taxed to support a high school. Common schools were well enough, but there was no sense in having a free high school - as well ask for a free college, they said." The legality of such a proceeding was questioned, but when it was decided that "it was legal to establish a free high school at the charge of the common school fund; the excitement abated, and tax-payers were obliged to submit to the inevitable consequences of advancing civilization."

The first high school in Cleveland opened in the basement of the Prospect Street Church, with Mr. Andrew Freese as the principal. A Reunion Brochure from Central High School describes the difficulties of the first year of operation. "During the first year the high school was operated, Principal Freese had no assistant. It was impossible for him to teach so many pupils, so his wife helped for a half of each day. After the first year, a regular assistant was hired and she received two hundred and fifty dollars per year. It was often necessary to hold classes out of regular hours sometimes assembling after tea in the evening."

The early curriculum included courses in English, mathematics, natural science, bookkeeping, rhetoric, and mental philosophy. In 1859, the course of study was lengthened from 3 years to 4 years and included the addition of German, Latin, and classics.

In 1952, Central High School was merged with East Technical High.

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