Harriet Gibbons School/Street Academy

School named after an empowering woman.

In 1970, the Street Academy was founded by Sister Maryellen Harmon for grades nine through twelve (Street Academy; Albany Schools.org). This school went through numerous changes before being closed down in the 2009/10 school year (Albany Schools.org). Chuck Miller, a graduate of the Street Academy in 1981, discusses many of these changes on his webpage. He writes that, the school started at Franklyn Street but was moved in 1973 to Clinton Ave. In 1987, there was lots of talk concerning changing the school name to “Langston Hughes High School,” but the plans never went through. There were also plans to merge Street Academy into another school, or split it, but neither happened. Finally, in the 1991/91 school year, it absorbed School 21. In the same year, it gained another location on Western Ave (Miller, 2006).

The first principal of the school was Bob Peterkin. Miller goes on to write that Peterkin was principal starting in 1971, for three years. He later moved to Boston to become a principal at a high school there. Miller writes that, as of 2006, Peterkin was working as a “faculty professor” at Harvard (Miller, 2006).

The next principal of the Street Academy was Harriet Gibbons. Gibbons was a truly remarkable individual. She was born in Kentucky and received a degree from Kentucky State University. She went on to gain a master’s degree in education from the College of St. Rose. It can be assumed that her education here brought her to Albany. So why is she so remarkable? Richard Wexler from the Times Union writes, Harriet Gibbons was, “the first black women to head a city agency and the first black elected to the Albany Board of Education” (Times Union, 1992).

Gibbons became the principal of Street Academy in 1974, while teaching black history at Albany High School. She left in 1979 and became the director of the Office of Equal Opportunity, which was new to the City of Albany, until 1984. According to Wexler, Gibbons left this job because hers was the only salary to be cut, when all other salaries were being raised by Mayor Whalen III. Previously, Gibbons was elected to the Albany city school board in 1979, a position which she held until her retirement ten years later. But retirement did not make Gibbons stop trying to improve the city. Gibbons went on to become the director of the affirmative action office for Albany’s Department of Health. Throughout her life, Gibbons was also a member of the Human Rights Commission. She also held a position at the Albany County Department of Social Services, where she was a caseworker. She also worked at the Albany YWCA. She passed in 1992. Gibbons was 68 years old (Times Union, 1992). Gibbons moved from job to job, but each worked to improve society.

After her passing, the State Academy was renamed to the Harriet Gibbons High School. Miller writes that the school was closed in 2010, due to a decrease in attendance. He concludes his article by writing, “Forty years of that school's service to the troubled and disadvantaged youth of Albany's inner city ended on that day” (Miller, 2006).

Street Address:

165 Clinton Ave [map]

Cite this Page:

“Harriet Gibbons School/Street Academy,” Albany Walks for Health, accessed October 18, 2019, http://www.albanywalksforhealth.com/items/show/179.

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