Wilby History


     In 1914, according to the Board of Education minutes, Waterbury was in need of a new high school.  Crosby High School had an enrollment of 1,250 pupils and a seating capacity for only 673.  At that time, the school was running on a two-session plan.   The sophomores, juniors, and seniors attended the morning sessions and the freshmen attended in the afternoon.   Each session filled nearly the entire building.  Mr. Stephen Wilby, Crosby High School Principal from 1896 to the time of his death on March 30, 1917 estimated that with the growing number of graduates from the grammar schools, the high school would not be able to accommodate the students.  Crosby High School was the only high school that offered cultural (college prep ) training.  There was concern that the hundreds of students graduating from grammar schools would not have any use for such formal training.   Perhaps they would wish to engage in technical and mechanical pursuits.

     Around 1915, a suitable site on Grove and Pine Streets had been selected and plans were drawn for an English High School to accommodate 1,200 pupils.   The new high school was to be named Wilby High School in honor of Stephen William Wilby.  The new high school when completed would cost approximately one million dollars and would be ready for occupancy in 1919.   As was stated in the Board of Education minutes, "It will become the Commercial (Business) School and will be a distinctive and individual school in every sense of the word.  Waterbury will have a progressive and well-managed Commercial High School."  The building will accommodate from 1,200 to 1,500 pupils.  Courses will be offered in commercial (business), modern language, and household art subjects and offer special opportunites to pupils entering business life, preparing for work in the home or preparing for college without having to take foreign language courses.  Joseph P. Kennedy was appointed princiapal of the new Wilby High School.

    In 1918, while waiting for the new school to be built, students were divided into two groups.  Because many classes were filled to capacity, classes also had to be held across the street at the Croft Annex.   The existing sessions in Crosby High School were divided as follows: Crosby High pupils, 8 AM t 12:45 PM; Wilby High pupils, 1 PM to 5 PM.  Because of the business and household curriculum, Wilby's enrollment was mostly female.   

     In 1919, with the opening of the new school behind schedule, Principal Kennedy reported to the Board of Education the pressing need for space.  He stated, "Male faculty returned from World War I to resume teaching and, with the new addition of new teachers, have formed a most efficient corps of teachers."  With the long-delayed opening of Wilby, afternoon sessions were still held at Crosby.   Wilby pupils put in a half day of work in factories or offices before coming to class.  This scheduling made the days long and difficult.  He also noted that there was a need for more space to accommodate more typewriters, adding machines, bookkeeping machines, dictaphones, duplicators, filing material, and other modern mechanical devices.  The students did their best without them, but they knew that all these would soon be part of the new Wilby High School.   The state inspector of high schools, Mr. Morton Snyder, said upon touring the afternoon school that he saw "the finest example of teaching that he had seen anywere in the State of Connecticut".

     In anticipation of having their own school, the students stared the Drama Club in 1918.  In 1919, the first Wilby High School newspaper was established, The Sophomore Sentinel, which later in the 1920's became The NewsIn the 1930's the name was changed to The Balance Sheet, then in 1964 name The Emerald was chosen and has remaimed to the present.


     Finally, on Friday May 14, 1920, late in the afternoon with the loss of only two hours of school time, carrying their own books and supplies, the students and teachers moved from their temporary quarters in Crosby to the new Wilby High School.  A recess was declared for the remainder of the day to allow the students an opportunity to insepct their new school.  For the first time since the orgaization of the school, students now could attened classes in the morning.

     Wilby was considered the finest high school building in New England.  A school superintendent from a large New England city , after touring the building, declared that it had the best bookkeeping department that he had ever seen.   The students were in demand from from local businesses.  One local firm had made a stipulation that in engaging new clerks for their business, they would hire only those who had taken the course of salesmanship from Wilby.

     In the same year, Wilby established its own baseball team as well as a school orchestra.  In 1922, a football team was established.   New clubs also formed such as the boy's and girl's rifle teams, a typewriting club, the debating club, and along with the trends of the time, a ukulele club and the long hair club for the girls who had not succumbed to the new bobbed hairstyle.


     During the 1940's, students did their part for the WWII effort.  The boy's had to leave school to go off to war.  Schools started a half hour later so there will be space on the buses in the morning for the war workers.    New clubs formed were the First Aid Club, the War Savings Committee (to sponsor the buying of war bonds), the Dance Club (due to the popularity of the big bands).

      On January 8, 1945, Principal Joseph P. Kennedy died.  Pupils lined Grove Street to pay tribute as his funeral passed by.   James Moran was appointed the new principal.    On a happier note, the boys returned from the war and enrolled back in school to finish their education.  They were referred to as the verteran students.  


     In the 1960's, with the new John F. Kennedy High School being built in the west end of Waterbury, Wilby was no longer designated as a business school.   All three high schools offered the same curriculum.  Starting is 1966, students had to attend schools by the disctrict in which they lived.    As with decades before, clubs were changing with the times.  The Peace Club was formed in 1968 and also the Afro American Club was established. 


     In the 1970's, the Waterbury Public School system, in keeping with the trend of the country, incorporated the middle school concept.  The three middle schools were to be built in the three sections of town.   Wallce Middle School was built in with the new Crosby High School in the east end of town and West Side Middle school was built behind Kennedy High School in the west end.  In July 1978, Wilby High School left its home of 58 years on Grove Street to the new Laurel Hill complex (which included the new North End Middle School)  in the Buck's Hill section of Waterbury.   The new high school was built to accommodate the growing technological age.  The new complex included tennis courts, and fields for football, baseball, soccer, and track.


     The Wilby High School of today has come a long way since 1918.  The girl's and boy's rifle teams of the 1920's have been replaced by the MCJROTC (Marine Corps Junior Reserve Training Corps).   The MCJROTC Program established in 1991 had been awarded the Navel Honor School status five times and won  the national champion in drill in 1997.  

     The First Aid Club of the 1940's, the Junior Red Cross Club of the 1950's and the Future Nurses Club of the 1960's have paved the way for the Allied Health program which is a credited program where students have hands-on training in Waterbury Hospital for careers in nursing and health care.   The graduates of this program are eligible for placement on the Connecticut State Registry of Nursing Assistants upon successful completion of the program and the cerficication exam.  The summer of 2008, Waterbury Hospital offered a MRT/EMT summer training program for students.  Waterbury Hospital also has a mentor program with the ninth grade students to help them with career choices.

    The Round Table Club of the 1940's, the Projectionists Club of the 1950's and the Radio Club of the 1960's paved the way for a full-time credited course called Video Production.   The students compose scripts and texts which they edit for bradcast out of their own television station.  Students now publish and edit their yearbooks through a Yearbook/Media Production class. 

     The school orchestra over the years has become the school band.   Music technology and piano lab are offered.  The school also has a MIDI lab where students record thier own CD's

     The Afro-American Club now extended its membership to include the growing number of Hispanics.  The Club is now called the Afro-Latin Club. 

     The Debating Club has now become the Appellate Court, a competition sponsored by the State of Connecticut Law Consortium.  This competition is attended by the other city high schools, local digniatries, and the Waterbury Bar Association.

    September of 2002, the ATOMS Program (Advanced Technology of Math and Science) was introduced in the curriculum.  This program is an interdisciplinary approach to teaching math, science, and technology at an advanced level.   The program will prepare students for post-secondary education in professional fields such as engineering and is opened to students who are in the top 2.5% of their eighth grade class. 

    To accommodate the growing number of students, a new wing was built in 2008 which houses science and foreign language classrooms.  New programs offered include My Access, a computer based writing and scoring program with provides comprehensive intructional support for educators and unlimited opportunities for students to write, revise, and learn.

     Our library, now called the Media Center, offeres a monthly book club, a community book sale, student staff volunteers, a new updated parent center, periodicals and computer access.  A college/career fair is held every year.

    Exciting new initiatives were introduced in 2008, such as Project Opening Doors, AP Grant Funding, and Career Academies (Business, Finance, Heath and Human Services, Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Technology Education).

   Over 70 students, staff and parents volunteer for the American Cancer Society Relay for Life every year.   Wilby recently raised $12,333.00 and received the top fundraiser award for 2001, 2005, 2006, and 2008.    They school also adopted a local Burmese family in 2008.  Students also raised money for the Police Athletic League (PAL) and the United Way.  Each years they volunteer to serve at the Crime Stoppers banquet, the Red Cross blood drive, and Earth Day Cleanup.  

     In 2008, the technology department built their own Electric Race Car.  They raced at Lime Rock Park against other high schools in the state.  Wilby took 3rd place.

    In 2018 Wilby will be celebrating its 100th anniversary. Thanks to the  students, teachers, and the alumni who through their spirit and determination have made the school what it is today. 




                                 Joseph P. Kennedy.....................................1917-1945

                                 James E. Moran..........................................1945-1960

                                 Joseph Membrino.......................................1961-1972

                                 Domenic V. Coviello....................................1972-1982

                                 Philip P. Leonardi........................................1982-1990

                                 Francis G. Brennan.....................................1990-1994

                                 Dr. Martin Galvin.........................................1994-2002

                                 Robyn Apicella............................................2002 -2014

                                 Michelle Buerkle.........................................2014 - 2017 

                                 Carey Edwards...........................................2017 - Present