Top 100 Best High Schools 2013 – Dougherty Valley High School – Newsweek – 100/100
Dougherty Valley High School is ranked 59th within California. Students have the opportunity to take Advanced Placement® course work and exams. The AP® participation rate at Dougherty Valley High School is 57 percent. The student body makeup is 53 percent male and 47 percent female, and the total minority enrollment is 74 percent. Dougherty Valley High School is 1 of 6 high schools in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District.
10550 Albion Rd, San Ramon, CA 94582, United States
Dougherty Valley High School (commonly Dougherty, Dougherty Valley, Dougherty Valley High, DVHS, or DV High) is a public high school located in the Windemere development of San Ramon, California, USA. Dougherty is one of four high schools in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District (SRVUSD), along with California High School, San Ramon Valley High School, and Monte Vista High School. Constructed by Shapell Industries of California and Windemere Ranch Partners BLC, Dougherty was the first developer-built school in the SRVUSD. The school opened its doors in 2007.
Dougherty’s mascot is the Wildcat, and its school colors are navy, Columbia blue, and silver. Dougherty is known for its state-of-the-art campus, which features a performing arts center and aquatics center in a joint-use agreement with the city. Dougherty is the top school in the district based on Academic Performance Index and is developing as an athletic force. The school is also home to over 120 various clubs. The school newspaper, the Wildcat Tribune, is notable as the first print publication to interview Chesley Sullenberger after the events of US Airways Flight 1549.
Dougherty Valley High School was built by Shapell Industries of California and Windemere Ranch Partners BLC, which were also the two main developers of the Dougherty Valley area in general. Shapell was obligated through a December 1988 agreement with the SRVUSD to “contribute its fair share of the cost of additional high school space needed to serve students generated by the project,” with the project mentioned being the construction of 11,000 houses in the area. Dougherty is the first developer-built high school in the SRVUSD, in contrast with the typical method of a developer and the state funding the school district for construction of any necessary schools. The district and developers began further negotiations regarding the school’s construction in 2001.
The school’s name was chosen from more than 150 suggestions submitted to an online survey, although the name, school colors, and mascot had to be approved by the Board of Education. The school logo was designed in 2006 by Jennifer Wong, at the time a senior at Monte Vista High School, after winning a student logo design contest with 12 other entries. Wong received $500 for her design and was honored alongside the contest’s runner-ups at a school board meeting. Denise Hibbard, who had been an assistant principal at California High School for six years, was chosen as Dougherty’s first principal.
An official groundbreaking at the school was held on September 23, 2005, with school board members Nancy Petsuch, Greg Marvel, and San Ramon Mayor H. Abram Wilson in attendance. The construction of the school was divided into two phases. The first phase, which involved site grading, utilities, and paving, commenced in May 2005 and was completed by January 2006; the second phase, which involved constructing buildings, landscaping and creation of ball fields, commenced in February 2006 and was completed by August 2007. In a December 2006 meeting, the City Council of the City of San Ramon approved the construction of a performing arts center and aquatics center for joint-use between the city and the SRVUSD. Total construction took 16 months, five months less than predicted.
Several school buildings, nearly finished but with exposed cement walls where stucco will be. The sidewalk and road in front are also incomplete, and gravel is found in their place. The parking lot in front is full of trailers and trucks used by construction personnel.
Dougherty Valley High School in May 2007, while still under construction
The construction of the school cost approximately $128 million, and the total cost, including inspections and management, was about $150 million. The costs of the performing arts center, to which the city contributed $4 million, and the aquatics center, to which the city contributed $9.2 million, were expected to exceed revenues by $400,000 each. According to City Councilmember Scott Perkins, “Other cities have stand-alone [aquatic] facilities that cost $35 million. Were getting 90 percent of that use for a quarter of the price.” In addition, the city approved the $4 million construction of an independent study school on Dougherty’s campus, to replace the area’s older independent study school built in the 1970s. The expenses of construction were shared between Windemere BLC, Shapell, the school district, and the City of San Ramon.
Inauguration and beyond (2007–present)
The SRVUSD opened both Dougherty and Live Oak Elementary School on August 25, 2007. Dougherty began its inaugural school year on August 27, 2007, becoming the first high school in 34 years to open in the SRVUSD. History teacher James Corcoran noted that working at the first year school was an opportunity to develop its community, saying “You oftentimes will go into a school as a teacher, or even a principal, and it’s ‘This is the way we do it around here.’ It’s hard to change that once it’s been set.” Elaine O’Hanlon, founding president of the Dougherty Parent-Teacher Association, said that parent volunteering would be encouraged at the new school.
In 2009, the SRVUSD was affected by a major statewide school budget crisis. 236 layoff notices were sent to teachers within the district, more than half of whom worked at Dougherty. All permanent teachers were rehired with the help of a $144 per-parcel tax measure passed in May 2009, expected to raise $6.7 million yearly. During the 2009 flu pandemic in the United States, one tenth grade student at Dougherty was known to have been infected with the Influenza A/H1N1 virus; however, closure of the school did not occur, as it was found to be unnecessary and inconvenient. According to Principal Hibbard, “We just have to make sure we educate parents”, and the school administration reacted to the outbreak by sending out an email to parents with advice from the Center for Disease Control.
In the summer of 2011, SunPower began construction and installation of solar panels in the school parking lot. The school district used federal funds from low-interest qualified school construction bond as part of government stimulus from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 for the project. When completed, the panels will reportedly provide the school with between two-thirds to 80 percent of its energy needs.
In the 2008-2009 year, 1,001 students were enrolled in Dougherty. Admission is based primarily on the location of students’ residency, although birth date documentation and immunization records are also required from new students. The school opened in 2007 with 570 students, fitting the initial prediction of between 450 and 600 students. 95 of these students had transferred to Dougherty from another school in the district, and the majority of the freshmen came from Windemere Ranch Middle School. The school started with only ninth grade freshmen and tenth grade sophomores in 2007, and in each successive school year another grade was added until the standard ninth to twelfth grade range was reached in 2009.
In 2007, Dougherty had 277 female students, representing approximately 48.6% of the total student population, and 293 male students, representing approximately 51.4% of the total student population. Nestled in the culturally integrated Windemere development, Dougherty consists of students from many different backgrounds and is the most diverse in the district. Because of its diversity, San Ramon parks and community services division manager John Skeel said in 2007 that “We know that with the new high school (Dougherty Valley High School) and all the new schools, it’s important to stay on top of race issues. With the mixture of middle- and low- income housing in newer neighborhoods, that could be an issue as well.” Dougherty’s 2007 enrollment included a large population of Asian students, accounting for 41.2% of the student body. 32.5% of the school identified themselves as White, 6.5% as Filipino, 6.1% as African American, 4.9% as Hispanic or Latino, 0.7% as Pacific Islander, 0.2% as American Indian or Alaska Native, and 7.9% with more than one ethnicity or no response.
Greatschools.com awarded the school a perfect ten out of ten score, based on a comparison between the school’s standardized test scores and those statewide; it is one of the few schools in California to be distinguished as such. In 2009, Dougherty had an Academic Performance Index rank of 905 out of a possible 1000, growing from the 2008 base score of 891. The school was the highest ranked high school in the SRVUSD, the 27th highest high school in the state, and the 744th highest school in the country by API score. In 2011, Dougherty Valley improved by 12 points the previous year with an API score of 921, making them the 3rd highest high school in Contra Costa County as well as the 1st highest high school in SRVUSD. Dougherty Valley also further improved with an API score of 937 in 2012.
In 2013, the school was awarded a gold medal, and ranked amongst the top 500 schools in the country by U.S. News.
The Dougherty Valley Athletic Department’s mission statement is to “offer athletes positive and rewarding experiences while fostering strong character development.” Sports offered include cross country, football, golf, tennis, water polo, volleyball, cheerleading, basketball, soccer, wrestling, baseball, lacrosse, softball, swimming, diving, badminton, and track and field. Most of the sports have separate men’s and women’s teams, and golf and tennis for men occur in a later season than for women. The athletics department is run by athletic director Evan Powell and assistant athletic director Nechia Miller. Dougherty hired 44 coaches during its opening year, and current coaches include  ex-Amador Valley High School coach Doug Vanderhorst for girls basketball  and former Major League Baseball player Darren Lewis for the varsity baseball team.
The school was part of the East Bay Athletic League (EBAL) for its first year, but has since moved to the Diablo Foothill Athletic League (DFAL). Dougherty’s main rival is considered to be Dublin High School, due to the close proximity of the two schools and past controversy between the schools’ respective coaches. As a young school, Dougherty was competitively growing and establishing itself during its first two years without seniors on its varsity teams. Athletic director Freitas commented in 2008 that “When I was first thinking of taking this job, a lot of people said I should think twice, because we’d supposedly have no chance to win. […] We have our challenges … but we’re competitors. And we want our coaches here to be like coaches everywhere else, where they’re able to create an atmosphere where kids want to do well and succeed.” At the 2008 North Coast Section football playoffs, Coach Spain said “Our oldest players are juniors, so [our] kids are still developing and this allows us another week of evaluation.” Earlier the same year, Spain said he believed it would take one or two more seasons for the team to improve into a viably competitive program. In 2012, the varsity football team struggled with an 0-10 overall record, while freshman team was the best in its league with a 9-1 record.