History of California High School
History and Overview: California High School
California High School is a four-year comprehensive public high school located along the East Bay’s 580/680 corridor in the city of San Ramon, one of four comprehensive high schools in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District. Cal High's school colors are orange and black; the mascot is the Grizzly. The school’s crest depicts the rich mountains, deserts, and coastline of California.
California High School was established in 1973 in what was then known as San Ramon Village. The school was built in an open classroom design, with four main classroom pods: Coast Pod, Desert Pod, Mountain Pod, and Valley Pod. The four pods clustered around a center which housed the library upstairs and science rooms below; Gold Coast classrooms for electives were located off the back side of the main building.
Each pod teamed teachers representing different subjects, a dean, and a counselor in an academic unit. Presided over by its first principal, Ernie Berger, Cal High initially opened as an intermediate/high school with students in grades 7-10. Over the next several years, the school added 11th and 12th grade classes. After Pine Valley Middle School opened in 1977, California High School developed into a traditional high school serving grades 9-12 with a seven-period day. In 1977, the internal structure of the main building’s pods was modified to create self-contained wedge-shaped classrooms separated by folding walls. Students found areas to hang out in the orange, blue, and brown locker bays.
The 1970s saw significant growth and change in the Tri-Valley area surrounding California High School. Housing developments and light industry expanded. In 1978, Bishop Ranch Business Park opened in San Ramon, attracting corporate headquarters and regional business centers, including Chevron, Pacific Bell, Toyota, and United Parcel Service.
In 1983, San Ramon incorporated as a city. The cities of San Ramon and Danville developed partnerships with the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, including shared-use facilities and parks. The San Ramon Olympic Pool and Aquatic Center and the tennis courts at California High School are examples of this active and continuing alliance.
California High School has been the beneficiary of community support from its inception, including community volunteers, student internships, and corporate partnerships. Cal High Booster groups, the San Ramon Valley Education Foundation, and corporate partnerships have supported students, teachers, and programs. State grants and voter-approved bond measures and parcel taxes have funded facility expansion, remodeling, and technology upgrades. In 1998-1999, new construction funded through a local parcel tax allowed the school to add a new commons and facilities for science, technology, music, sports, and administration. In 2004, California High School added a ten-classroom World Language Building.
Following the passage of Measure A in 2002, Cal High underwent its most significant remodeling project. New construction took place around the perimeter of the campus as facilities were readied to house students. The old main classroom building was demolished; an open quad built on the location of the original building became the center of the redesigned campus. The new main building with 67 classrooms and the library were completed in 2006. In 2007, the school opened the new career technology building, student quad, and counseling building, and the fine arts building was completed the following year. The Event Center, which serves as a second gymnasium, opened in 2010; the Cal High theater reopened that same year after undergoing significant renovation. After these improvements, the school continues to implement several additional projects. Solar panels were installed over the south parking lot in 2011. Measure D funds passed in 2012 provided the modernization of the science building and funded new bleachers to be installed in the stadium.
Ernie Berger Stadium, named after California High School’s first principal, is a multi-use athletic stadium with an all-weather track. Other sports facilities at Cal High include tennis courts, four baseball/softball fields, the aquatic center, the gym, the Event Center, and a newly renovated weight room equipped with lifting machines and 12 fully stocked Olympic weightlifting cages. After years of renovation and reconstruction, the only structure remaining from the original school design is the old gym, the original Grizzly Den.
California High School Principals from 1973-2017
- Ernie Berger 1973-1983
- Phil White 1983-1986
- Joe Rancatore 1986–1992
- Maurice Ghysels 1992-1993
- Katie Curry 1993-1995
- Rob Stockberger 1995-1999
- Mark Corti 1999-2014
- Sarah Cranford 2014-present
From its opening in 1973, California High School has provided students with an enriched and challenging academic program by piloting and implementing innovative programs and instruction. In 1996, California High School adopted a block schedule, and in 1998 California High School became the first Digital High School in the SRVUSD. The school offers a wide range of Honors and Advanced Placement classes. Thematic academic pathways and community internships provide students with connections to career paths. Intervention programs assist students; an embedded tutorial provides all students with access to teachers for remediation and extra support. Over 95% of graduating CHS students continue on to college.
California High School has consistently demonstrated academic excellence as measured by high levels of student achievement. A high performing school which fosters educational excellence for all students, California High School has been recognized as a California Distinguished School in 1987, 1989, 1996, 2005, and 2009, a National Blue Ribbon School in 2006 and 2011, and a California Gold Ribbon School in 2015.
California High School has also consistently been recognized as a top-performing school by national publications, including Newsweek’s Top High Schools and U.S. News & World Report’s Best High Schools. Based on academic achievement, California High School consistently ranks among the top 5% of schools nationally.
By 2016-2017, California High School has grown to over 2740 students. The school reflects San Ramon’s cultural, academic, and socio-economic diversity. The community and staff embrace the opportunity to maintain strong traditions while exploring new methods and programs to accelerate academic achievement for all students. California High School continues to adapt to the ever-changing needs of its students, providing a well-rounded, rigorous, and relevant academic program for college and career readiness.
California High School’s mission reflects global goals to prepare students for academic, professional and personal success. These goals are achieved by the people who teach here, the students who thrive here, and the surrounding community that fosters the true sense of being a California High School Grizzly.