History of Derby Schools
As part of the Olde Derby Day Grand Reunion, the Cultural Commission compiled memories of Derby High School from graduates from the 1920's to the present. They also went back to the archives for a story from the 1800's. We hope that you enjoy reminiscing as much as our authors have enjoyed sharing their stories.
From 1935 Tercentenary Pictorial and History of The Lower Naugatuck Valley
From an educational standpoint, Derby was early in the field as Rev. Joseph Webb seems to have been the first teacher, in the far-distant year of 1688. Rev. John James was hired by the town to teach reading and writing in 1701 at a salary of a few shillings.
The first school in the town was built in 1711; the second on Meeting House hill in 1726; the first academy on Academy Hill in 1786; the Birmingham Academy in 1838 and the Irving School, which succeeded it , in 1869. The present Franklin School was built in 1902, following two earlier schools on Gilbert Street.
In 1876, the first class was graduated from the Birmingham High School, now the Derby High School. The graduates were Jessie Brewster, Lottie Kneen, Nellie Tomlinson, Charles Beardsley and William Durand. The high school succeeded the Birmingham Academy, a private school. The first high school occupied the top floor in the Irving School and Thomas Fuller was principal. In 1877, he was succeeded by his brother, Luther Fuller, who acted as principal until 1879. . The school districts, of which there were nine at one time, were consolidated upon the establishment of the city in 1894 with John W. Peck the first superintendent.
In 1906 the high school was moved to the Cheeseman property on Minerva Street, while the present High School building was started in 1913, but not completed in its present form until 1925. The commercial course was introduced into the high school curriculum in 1907. Mr. Peck was succeeded in 1913 by Edward Fitzgerald. In 1917, Mr. Fitzgerald died and John F. Pickett became superintendent serving until his resignation in 1924, except for an interval during which he served in the World War, when John Lund was superintendent.
Leon R. McKusick became superintendent in 1924 and was succeeded in 1928 by Frank M. Buckley and who in turn was succeeded by Richard Tobin