Balboa High School celebrates 90th anniversary

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Balboa High School celebrates 90th anniversary

May 3, 2018 (San Francisco) - Balboa High School, the sixth oldest high school in the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), is gearing up to celebrate its 90th anniversary this weekend with music, food and a classic car show on campus.

“This anniversary is a significant milestone for Balboa High, where we strive every day to provide an equitable education for all of our students,” Principal Freedom Siyam said. “We have upheld that mission for 90 years and will continue to do so for the next 90 years.”

Principal Siyam wants Balboa to be known today for its commitment to upholding values of social justice, self discovery and responsibility. He explains that Balboa High teaches students to embrace learning to create a more equitable society, experience learning as critical and creative thinkers, and value learning that is rigorous and meaningful.

In 1995, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to name Balboa High a city landmark, recognizing its “special character, and special historical, architectural and aesthetic interest and value.” According to city documents, Balboa High represents San Francisco’s “golden age” of school construction -- between 1920 and 1930, SFUSD added 49 new school buildings amid citywide population and enrollment growth throughout the school district.

Balboa High -- named for Vasco Nunez de Balboa, the Spanish explorer who was the first European to discover the Pacific Ocean -- is considered a notable example of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture. The school was designed by prominent San Francisco architects, including those who contributed to designing San Francisco City Hall (in 1915), the United Nations Plaza (in 1936), as well as numerous SFUSD schools.

“Balboa High is all about inclusion. The school was built to help accommodate the 45 percent increase in SFUSD students in the 1920s, as the population shifted to the southern and western pockets of the city,” Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews said. “Balboa High’s strong presence in the Excelsior for the past 90 years and its commitment today to serving the community is very much something for our entire school district to be proud of.”

Tens of thousands of students have graduated from Balboa in the decades since the school opened in the Excelsior District in 1928 with 653 students and 23 teachers. Notable alumni include Calvin Simmons, the first African American conductor of a major U.S. orchestra, and Grateful Dead lead guitarist and vocalist Jerry Garcia.

“Those of us who attended Balboa are filled with school pride,” said Emily Powell Palmer, of the Balboa High School class of 1946, and a member of the Balboa High School Alumni Association. “Our alumni association is one of the most active high school alumni associations on the West Coast.”

The 90th anniversary celebration, organized by the Balboa High School Alumni Association and school leaders, will be held on Saturday, May 5, and will include a Classic Car Show on Cayuga Avenue. For more information, visit

Media are invited to attend from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. -- please RSVP for the event to Laura Dudnick at


Page updated on 05/03/18

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