A Brief History of Archie Williams High School
Archie Williams High School opened with the name Sir Francis Drake High School in 1951 as the second high school in the Tamalpais Union High School District. The 21 acre campus, verdant with trees, shrubs, and a creek, was once known as Cordone Gardens, a prosperous San Anselmo farm.
On May 11, 2021, concluding a nine month process of review and school community input, the Board of Trustees approved with a unanimous vote of support to change the name of Sir Francis Drake High School to Archie Williams High School. The vote was made at the regular meeting of the Board of Trustees on May 11th, which included 60 minutes of public comments on this item.
The Archie Williams attendance area originally included Corte Madera, Larkspur, Kentfield, Greenbrae, Ross, San Anselmo, Fairfax, Woodacre, Lagunitas, the San Geronimo Valley, and Nicasio. In 1958 Redwood High School opened to accommodate students from Corte Madera, Larkspur, Kentfield, Ross and Greenbrae.
When Archie Williams opened in the fall of 1951, the gymnasium was only a shell swarming with workers. Physical education classes met in the shop buildings, and the shop classes were busy trying to assemble equipment which had not been installed. Already standing on the grounds was the old music building, presently Devonshire Hall, an old elementary school. Its rooms were used as district offices the first several years the school was open.
Except for the paved walkways, there was no landscaping when the school opened its doors. Lawns were planted and there continues to be an ever changing landscape at Archie Williams High School.
In 1956 an auditorium and drama building were constructed (today’s Performing Arts Building), and applied arts classrooms and a new physiology lab were added to third and fourth corridors. Six additional classrooms were added at the end of the fourth corridor in 1963. In 1966 the gym foyer was completed and a wing of conference rooms was added along with and adjoining the enlarged library. Portable classrooms, across the bridge, were added, as well as the Covered Eating Area and Student Center buildings and the expansion of the Canteen facilities. In 1984 the football field was named in memory of George Corson, who was a teacher, coach and athletic director at the school for many years. In 1999 the gym was named in memory of Carl “Red” Brown, who taught and coached at the school and continued to be one of its strongest boosters after his retirement. In 2001, a modernization bond was passed by the local voters, and work began to upgrade the school facility. In May 2021, after a year-long process led by the Site Council, the name of the school was officially changed from Sir Francis Drake High School to Archie Williams High School after the local hero, olympian, engineer and beloved math teacher.
In the school’s first year Chester Carlisle was principal. When Mr. Carlisle was appointed district superintendent in 1952, Harold Allison became principal and served until 1971. Other former Drake principals include Thomas Lorch (1971-1973), John J. Hayes (1973-1977), Dildar Treadway/Gill (1977-1981), Norman Cady (1981-1989), Barbara Granicher (1989-1992), Bill Purcell (1992-1999), Carol Eber (1999-2004) and Don Drake (2004-2012) Liz Seabury was the principal of Archie Williams High School (2012-2021) and currently serves as Senior Director of Inclusion, Instruction, & Intervention. LaSandra White serves as Interim Principal. Opening enrollment in 1951 was 917 and peaked at 1,739 in 1968. Presently Archie Williams has an enrollment of about 1300 students.
Archie Williams enjoys an excellent academic reputation. In 1990 the school was designated by RJR Nabisco Foundation as a Next Century School, one of 30 in the nation, for entrepreneurship in education. At this time, the school opened a series of learning academies to enhance the educational experience for the students. Archie Williams continues to be in the forefront of innovative and effective high school instruction and in 1996-97 was one of eight schools in California to receive a Specialized Secondary Program grant from the California Department of Education for innovative programs. In 1997 Archie became a leadership school in the Bay Area School Reform Collaborative. In 1999 it was designated a California Distinguished School and was recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a New American High School. In 2000 it received a Small Learning Communities Grant to implement teams of teachers and students working collaboratively in the 9th and 10th grade. . Another Specialized Secondary Program grant was awarded to the school in 2002 to develop curriculum for its new International Studies Academy. In 2003 Archie Williams was recognized as the nation’s first Bay Area Green Business School for its environmental enhancements to the school’s campus. Archie Williams High School also has a strong reputation in athletics. In 1982 history was made when both the girls’ and boys’ basketball teams captured the State Championship Division II titles. In 2014, Archie Williams Varsity Boys Basketball returned to the state Championships. Archie Williams also has a many time state champion Mountain Bike Team.
Archie Williams' history is full of excitement, success and innovation. This is what our school brings to you. What will you do with the future we prepare you for?