In Defense of Huntingtown High


Entrance to Huntingtown courtyard with a sign that boasts the years Huntingtown has been selected as one of “America’s Best High Schools” (Years 2007 – 2020).

Laura Vance

I am writing this willingly. No teacher or administrator has recently approached me, begging me to defend this institution with my thesaurus in hand. It’s just me, my experience, and my perspective. And frankly, I think I’m pretty fed up with how often Huntingtown gets the short end of the stick. 

Sometimes it’s difficult for me to imagine that only six years ago, I attended a school where no room had fully functional walls. Instead, classrooms were arranged into little clusters we called “pods,” which were separated by thin, whitewashed barriersThis crude imitation of a wall was only a few feet in height, leaving a large gap of space below the ceiling and above the ground. This meant I could see students’ shoes in the two, sometimes three classrooms that were adjacent to mine… in addition to hearing their teachers’ every word. I can still vividly remember listening to the class next to me watching The Lion King as I took my sixth-grade English final. 

I remember a lot of things from the first of three middle schools I attended. Some were fantastic, like the very few teachers who genuinely cared about my academic success. Naturally, though, there were many cons to my early middle school experience, but that’s simply because it’s middle school. However, I don’t believe that experiencing multiple lockdowns or shelters in place in one month should be a fundamental experience that every preteen must endure before entering high school. Needless to say, I remember a time when I would feel a genuine and bone-chilling fear at the thought of going to school. Nothing could ever recreate the intense terror in my soul as I heard my principal over the intercom informing us that someone had been shot near the school’s grounds, and the paramedics required a helicopter to land on school property to transport the victim to the nearest hospital for the second time that month. Not a word was said in our gymnasium as the entire sixth grade sat in stunned silence, listening to the ominous whirring of the helicopter blades grow steadily louder. It remains one of the most petrifying feelings I have ever known. Unfortunately, these lockdowns became a regular occurrence. 

Aside from the local touch of weekly violence on the premises, I was surrounded by an air of apathy. You could simply tell that no one really cared about anything that much; teachers showed up because they were paid to, and students showed up because they had to. Extracurriculars like clubs and school sports were next to nonexistent, and extra academic assistance was rarely available. It was like trudging through a daily haze of misery. It’s hard to thrive in an environment where hardly anyone cares about your success in any area. 

Huntingtown’ hall dedicated to previously graduated seniors.

Moving to Huntingtown a few months later, I felt like I had plunged myself into a bed of icy water. Everything shocked me: no Target, no Chick-fil-a, no sidewalks, and not a single shelter in place initiated. The school’s chocolate milk wasn’t curdled, and there weren’t any maggots in the salads. Plum Point and Windy Hill Middle School served me well with excellent staff and instruction that woke me up from my academic stupor and adequately prepared me for the rigorous and highly acclaimed Huntingtown High School. The reputation around it thrilled me, especially when my previous educational instruction was more than lacking.  

Now, I feel that if you ask a lot of newer Huntingtown students why they moved to this area, overwhelmingly, the answer will be, “Because of the schools.” At least, that was my family’s reason. This common consensus is reflective of Niche’s ranking of Huntingtown as the #1 in “Best Public High Schools in Calvert County.” Our athletics are ranked #16 in the state, we are in the 78th percentile of “Best College Prep High Schools in Maryland,” and in addition to those impressive statistics, we are currently ranked as the 39th “Best Public High School in Maryland.” Though it’s nearly impossible to compete with counties like Montgomery and Howard, Huntingtown High School has made a respectable name for itself, which is why it surprises me when I hear a surplus of negative comments surrounding the institution. 

Huntingtown recognizing previous high-achieving students of past graduating classes, including the recognition of students with high honors, SAT/ACT scores, National Scholars With Distinction, Scholars With Distinction, Scholars With Honor, and Scholars.

This is not to say that improvements cannot be made; there is hardly a school in this world that can’t be improved. But after living through the atrocities of my previous school district, it’s personally hard for me to justify much of what I hear daily. What makes it worse is that oftentimes, these complaints aren’t exclusive to Huntingtown – they’re typically more reflective of the issues with the American school system at large, such as putting academics before students’ mental health, as well as similar subjects that are currently debated on a larger scale. This is to include concerns about the effectiveness of tests, grading student achievement like the FDA grades meat, and placing too much emphasis on a GPA. Although completely valid concerns, one can hardly place Huntingtown at fault for the problems caused by the American school system at large. 

Concerns about being “too college-prep focused,” though, are a bit ironic to me, especially with the vast number of electives that are offered, as well as easy access to the CTA. Though it has a high college-prep ranking, I’d argue that Huntingtown is still far less “college-obsessed” than many accuse it of being, as seen with the conscious effort of recruiting students for the CTA as early as eighth grade. Seeing military recruiters outside of the cafeteria at lunch isn’t a rare sighting, either. 

It also astounds me that there is criticism regarding an institution that is genuinely trying to prepare its students for post-high-school success, especially when compared to the lack of rigor and care I experienced with my own education in my previous school district. Yeah, it’s kind of a bummer that we have to take a math class senior year, but it will ultimately help those students who actually want to go down the college road in the long run — our administration is systemically preparing us for high achievement in our post-secondary education. In the meantime, Huntingtown is consistently doing its best to help our student body obtain success (Mu Alpha Theta, Peer Tutoring Club, Science Honors Society, the Student Writing Center, Future Think, after-school tutoring), yet it is never seen as enough. There is always something to find fault in.  

Huntingtown enforcing Covid regulations with a sign suggesting social distancing regulations.

I’m all for improvement, though. I support striving toward equity within the school, advocating for student mental health, and continuing to find ways that we can unitedly make a better Huntingtown. I’m proud of the efforts we have made with initiatives like Equity Club and Read Woke, which promote diverse perspectives. With that said, I am fully able to acknowledge that we certainly do have a long way to go in various areas. 

However, none of these resources, phenomenal guidance counselors, passionate teachers, and involved administration were previously available to me. With those memories in mind, it’s easy for me to sit on my moral high ground and be so violently preachy, such as what I’m doing right now. I understand we all come from different backgrounds, have different calibers of endurance, and have each experienced our own setbacks in various settings. But today, I’m not focusing on the bad. I feel very lucky to be at Huntingtown and am merely shining a light of perspective. So, with that in mind, I think it would be a good idea if we all just took a breath, zoomed out, and realized all the good we have here.