Amador Valley High School

Amador Valley High School
A purple "V" with gold trim is centered on top of a purple "A" with gold trim
1155 Santa Rita Road


United States
Coordinates37°40′05″N 121°52′28″W / 37.6681740°N 121.8743425°W / 37.6681740; -121.8743425Coordinates: 37°40′05″N 121°52′28″W / 37.6681740°N 121.8743425°W / 37.6681740; -121.8743425
Other namesAmador Valley, Amador, or AVHS
Former nameAmador Valley Joint Union High School
TypeComprehensive public high school
MottoSchool of Champions
Established14 March 1922 (1922-03-14)
Opened1923 (1923)
School districtPleasanton Unified School District
SuperintendentJim Hansen (interim)
CEEB code052495
NCES School ID060002009282[1]
Teaching staff105.75 (on an FTE basis)[1]
Enrollment2,648[1] (2016-17)
Student to teacher ratio24.85[1]
Campus size39.27 acres (15.89 ha)[3]
Campus typeSuburban
Color(s)Purple and Gold         
MascotThe Don
RivalFoothill High School[4]
NewspaperThe Amadon
YearbookThe Book of Names and Faces
Feeder schools

Amador Valley High School is a comprehensive public high school in Pleasanton, California, United States, a city east of Oakland. The school was founded as Amador Valley Joint Union High School (AVJUHS), which graduated its first class in 1923. The school has been named a California Distinguished School, a National School of Character, and a National Blue Ribbon School. Amador Valley is one of four high schools in the Pleasanton Unified School District, along with Foothill High School, Village High School, and Horizon High School.

As of 2009, Amador Valley offered its 2,500 students 20 Advanced Placement courses, 23 varsity sports, a program to study local aquatic wildlife, and vocational training. A monthly school publication, the Amadon, reports on athletics, academic and extracurricular issues, and news of the school and community. Amador's location allows it to be the launching point for parades and to host the site of the Amador Theater, Pleasanton's central performing arts facility for more than 60 years. The Amador Theater has remained a part of the Amador Valley campus since the 1930s, despite major school construction in 1968, 1997, and 2004. Amador is the rival of Foothill High School, across town.

Student groups, including the Marching Band and Math Team, have toured out-of-state after achieving high rankings in Californian competitions. In national competitions such as We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution, the Amador Valley team has ranked in the top four places from 1994 to 1996, 2006 to 2009, 2011, 2013, and 2014. Similarly, the Amador Valley Robotics Team, AVBotz, is recognized nationally as the best performing high-school team in the autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) competition hosted by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).


Region and districts

Amador Valley High School, originally Amador Valley Joint Union High School,[5] was named for its location in the Amador Valley (part of the Tri-Valley area of the San Francisco East Bay). The valley's namesake was a wealthy Californio rancher, Don José María Amador.[6] The school was founded on March 14, 1922, as part of the Amador Valley Joint Union High School District (AVJUHSD), out of concerns of overcrowding and transportation for students traveling to nearby Livermore High School. Amador Valley's first class graduated in 1923.[7][8]

From 1922 to 1988, the school was part of the AVJUHSD.[5][9] Originally this district also taught students from nearby Dublin and served the local rural community.[10] In the late 1930s, the Amador Theater was added to the main campus building. The "original" campus building (c1922) was taken down in 1968 leaving only the theatre towards the front of the Amador Valley High School campus. The theater hosted school plays, band concerts, performances, lectures, and assemblies, and was the former home of the successful community theater group Cask and Mask, now known as The Masquers.[11] The Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956 led to the building of a series of freeways in the region, which led to increased population and an increase in student enrollment.[12][13]

Squares and rectangles are around the lab. They are labelled with classroom numbers. Towards the back of the image is an oval with a track around it signifying a football field. To the top and right of the map lays quarter circles that represent baseball fields. A parking lot is illustrated to the left and bottom of the image.
Student-drawn map of current school campus

In 1988, voters approved the unification of several school districts in the region. On July 1, 1988, the AVJUHSD merged with the Pleasanton Joint School District to form the Pleasanton Unified School District.[14][15] As of 2009, the district contained two comprehensive high schools (Amador Valley and Foothill), two continuation high schools (Horizon and Village), three middle schools, seven elementary schools, and an adult education program.[16]

The school grounds are bordered on the east and southeast by Santa Rita Road, a Union Pacific railroad track on which the Altamont Corridor Express runs, and Arroyo Valle.[17] To the north are several businesses and residential districts lie on the western border. The school is the launch point for the annual Pleasanton Hometown Holidays Celebration Parade and the annual Fall Festival Parade, a part of the Alameda County Fair since the 1940s. The Fall Festival Parade, which features bands, floats, balloons, horses, and antique cars, starts on the Amador Valley parking lot, travels down Main Street, and ends near the fairgrounds.[18][19]

Court battle

In 1978, the AVJUHSD challenged the constitutionality of California Proposition 13, which placed a cap on county real estate taxes. The proposition limited property tax assessments to the 1975 standard, eliminating $7 billion of the $11.4 billion in property tax revenue collected each year. According to the Washington Post, the "severe" limitations this imposed on state funding forced local governments and most school districts in California to make "drastic cutbacks".[20] Furthermore, an article in the Los Angeles Times noted that Federal aid money for Californian schools, worth about $98 million each year, may be reduced if state-funded programs are cut. A recent Congressional report had found that Proposition 13 would not result in any major "local spending" cuts. In order to receive Federal aid, the state needed to maintain present levels of spending on local programs or secure local matching funds. However, the enforcement of this spending was "flexible in many programs" and the Federal Impact Aid program for schools was therefore in jeopardy.[21]

The district held that the measure was "so drastic and far-reaching that it was 'a revision' of the state Constitution and not a mere amendment". Ultimately, the district was unsuccessful in its suit. In their ruling, the judges distinguished between "amendment" and "revision." The court confirmed that an initiative cannot "revise" the constitution; Proposition 13, however, was an amendment to the California Constitution and not a "revision".[22] In 2009, Amador Valley was cited by dissenting Justice Carlos R. Moreno in arguing the non-constitutionality of California Proposition 8.[23]


Beige building with red roof. Grassy field in front and tree-covered hill in the back. A group of students sits on a bench facing the building.
School campus with the Pleasanton Ridge in the background

The first class of eight students graduated in 1923, and the school quickly became known for its municipal bands and sports teams, along with their cheerleaders.[24] The school selected the Don as its mascot, in honor of the title used by Amador;[6] Don is a Spanish term used as a mark of high esteem for a distinguished nobleman or gentleman.

Parents of Amador Valley students became involved with student activities. In 1927, Pleasanton mothers decided to start a school lunch program to provide students with a better environment for learning. Parents donated pots and pans, and a newly hired cook prepared lunches, to be eaten at new tables and benches. The tables and benches were constructed by the custodian and the music teacher from wood of horse stalls formerly on the campus. This project led to the formation of a Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) chapter at Amador Valley in the late 1920s.[25]

Much of the original Amador Valley High School building was demolished in 1968 leaving only the theatre to which a community fund raising effort restored. The following year, the school reached its maximum capacity, about 1,895 students. To accommodate the larger student population, Dublin High School was founded. Both schools held classes on the Amador Valley campus during the 1968–69 school year.[26] A continued influx of families to the Pleasanton region prompted the foundation of another high school, Foothill, in 1973.[7]

On the left, a beige two-story building with large windows. The front of the building says "Library Media Center." On the right, a smaller beige building and a large tree
The library and media center is the tallest building on the Amador Valley campus.[27] According to former Amador Valley Librarian Ellen Bell, the building was designed to be "open, spacious and exciting."[27]

Starting November 3, 1986, Amador Valley teachers went on a rolling strike to "protest a breakdown in negotiations for a new contract."[28] The school brought in substitutes to replace the picketing teachers.[28] Amador Valley teachers are unionized under the California Teachers Association and the National Education Association.[29]

In March 1997, the city passed Measure B, which granted the school district $69 million to replace old and crowded facilities and modernize the school campus.[27] The renovations revived one of the school's last original structures: the Amador Theater, the city's most popular performing arts facility.[7][11] The measure enabled the addition of renovated science classrooms, a multipurpose room, a library and media center, and a sound-proofed music building. The parking lot and central quad were expanded, with more than 550 parking spaces in the new lot, and classrooms were equipped to be more energy efficient.[30]

In 1999, responding to a directive from the California Superintendent of Education, the district identified character education as one of its goals.[31] As selected by the community, six character traits (responsibility, compassion, self-discipline, honesty, respect, and integrity) were listed as "expected behaviors" for Pleasanton. In 2004, Amador Valley and the school district won national recognition (National School of Character) for its program emphasizing the Community of Character.[15]

In 2004, a new two-story building was completed, containing twenty-four new classrooms. The following year, the Charles "Chuck" Volonte Aquatic Center was built for Amador Valley's swimming, diving, and water polo teams. Lighting retrofits were added in December 2004 for improved energy efficiency and illumination.[30] In 2005, Amador Valley High School was the first high school to join the worldwide Go Green Initiative. In the same year, Pleasanton was selected as the "Go Green City of the Year."[32]



As of the 2015–16 school year, the school had an enrollment of 2,628 students and 105.75 classroom teachers (on an FTE basis), for a student–teacher ratio of 24.85. There were 114 students eligible for free lunch and 43 eligible for reduced-cost lunch.[1] The student population at Amador Valley is predominantly White, with a large Asian minority and Hispanic and Latino Americans and African American minorities.[33] Seven percent of Amador Valley students are involved in special education, three percent qualify for English language learner support, and two percent qualify for free or reduced price lunch.[3]


President George W. Bush and Japanese Prime Minister are on the right of a high school student. The high school student speaks. In the background are more high school students and important political figures.
President George W. Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda talk with an Amador Valley representative at the 2008 G8 Summit.[34]

The school has been deemed a three-time California Distinguished School,[35] a National School of Character,[36] and a two-time National Blue Ribbon School.[37] Performance results for 2008 show Amador Valley with an Academic Performance Index (API) of 10 on a 10-point scale.[3] The Daily Beast/Newsweek ranked Amador Valley High School 171st in 2013, and 238th in 2012, in its list of the Best High Schools in America. [38][39] In 2008, a team of Amador Valley students won the national UNICEF-sponsored Junior 8 Competition. The team traveled to Toyako, Japan to attend the 2008 Group of Eight (G8) Summit of World Leaders to collaborate on solutions to world problems.[40] Eight of Amador Valley's teachers—Mark Aubel, Debbie Emerson, Jon Grantham, Tom Hall, Debbie Harvey, Brian Ladd, Marla Silversmith, and Eric Thiel—have been recognized as a Pleasanton Unified School District teacher of the year; one of those honorees, Brian Ladd, was also designated an Alameda County teacher of the year.[41][42][43][44][45]


Three high school students stand beside a beautiful creek. Two hold a net in the stream, the third points towards the water.
A group of Amador Valley students study aquatic wildlife with Project Creek Watch at Arroyo Valle.

As of 2009, Amador Valley curriculum offered 20 Advanced Placement (AP) classes, the most popular of which are AP Psychology, AP English Language and Composition, AP Calculus, AP Government, and AP United States History.[30] Nearly half of Amador Valley students participate in the school's AP Program. The average participant takes 4.3 exams per year and 87.5 percent of students receive at least one score of 3 or greater.[46] The school offers the complete range of AP courses in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), as well as AP Language courses and their literature complements in English, French, German, Japanese, and Spanish. Amador Valley also offers AP courses in social sciences and visual and performing arts.[30]

The school offers specialized instruction through vocational education as part of the valley-wide Regional Occupational Program. Courses offered include computer-assisted drafting, electronics, welding, medical training, and auto body repair.[47]

The Amador Valley science department initiated Project Creek Watch in 1994. The project provides students with resources for the long term study of Arroyo Valle; these resources include information about the chemistry in the creek, images of the creek, a guide to flora and fauna, and student projects on aquatic species. "The goal is to let kids realize there are a number of different physical and biological components that allow these organisms (in the creek) to coexist," said Eric Thiel, an Amador Valley Biology teacher and a co-founder of the project. "I hope they walk away able to see how complex ecosystems are."[48] In 1999, the project received a Golden Bell Award for excellence in education from the California School Boards Association. Research projects about the creek and other topics have won first place awards at the Tri-Valley Science and Engineering Fair.[49][50][51] In 2001, Thiel and the school received a National Semiconductor "Internet Innovator Award" for the Project Creek Watch website.[52]

Extracurricular activities


A female high school basketball player dribbles the ball towards the camera with a focused look on her face. Behind her trail basketball members from her team and the opposing team. All are running towards the camera.
The Amador Valley varsity girls' basketball team faces rival team Foothill High School.

As of 2009, the school offered 12 varsity sports teams for boys and 11 varsity sports teams for girls. These sports are run under the Amador Valley Athletics Boosters and include baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball, spirit squad, swimming/diving, tennis, track, volleyball, water polo and wrestling.[53] Amador Valley competes in the East Bay Athletic League and has won four East Bay Athletic League Championships.[30][54]

The Amador Valley Booster Club also has hosted East Bay Special Olympics basketball tournaments, track meets, and volleyball competitions at Amador Valley High School since 2004.[55] The school coordinates parent and student volunteers, donates proceeds from snack sales, and provides facilities free of charge for three Special Olympic events: basketball, track, and volleyball. In 2006, the Amador Valley Booster Club won "Volunteer Organization of the Year" from Special Olympics Northern California.[56] In 2009, the Booster Club provided over 200 volunteers to help with the logistics of the competition.[57]

The Amador Valley varsity boys' and girls' basketball teams both host an annual eight-team basketball tournament, the Amador Basketball Classic (ABC), in the first two weeks of December. The ABC brings high school basketball players and teams from within the state and outside of the state to play in Pleasanton. Each team plays four games between Wednesday and Saturday.[58] Taking place every year since December 1961, the ABC is the longest-running eight-team basketball championship in California.[59] The girls ABC tournament has been held since December 1994.[58]

Band and Color Guard

Two color guard members dressed in togas spin flags with fire designs in the middle of the DVC football field. Surrounding these color guard members are flute and saxophone players standing still and playing. They are dressed in a purple jacket and black marching pants and are wearing shakos.
The Marching Band and Color Guard perform "Heroes, Gods, and Mythical Creatures" at the 2008 WBA Championships.

Amador Valley's music program was founded in 1928 by Harry Tripp, a native of England. Tripp, the director of bands at Amador Valley, established an orchestra and a glee club, and recruited performers for parades and numerous operettas.[60] The Amador Valley band program is now the largest student activity on campus[61] and hosts the annual Campana Jazz Festival, named after Jim Campana, who led the band from 1959 to 1979.[62]

Amador Valley's band program consists of five concert bands: Wind Ensemble I, Wind Ensemble II, Wind Symphony Purple, Wind Symphony Gold, and Symphonic Band.[63] At the annual California Music Educators Association Band Festivals, all four of Amador Valley's concert bands regularly earn "Unanimous Superior" ratings.[64]

The Marching Band and Color Guard compete in the Western Band Association (WBA) circuit. The band practices a competitive field show, performed at football halftime shows and competitions. The Marching Dons are classified into WBA Class AAAAA.[65] The Amador Valley Marching Dons have received sweepstakes (highest score in combined AAAA and AAAAA classes) and first place awards and earned sixth place in 2008 at the WBA Championship.[66][67]

In 2006 the marching band competed in the Bands of America Regional Competition for the first time, and placed fourth in the 2007 competition. In 2005 and 2009, Amador Valley was invited to perform at the annual London New Year's Day Parade.[68]

In 2014, the Amador Valley Marching Dons earned fourth place at the WBA Grand Championships with their program, "The Forest," receiving a school-high score of 93.15.[69]

In 2016, the Amador Valley Marching Dons earned third place at the WBA Grand Championships with their program, "The Garden." Due to rainy conditions, the band was not able to perform at finals.

Math Team

39 students stand on a staircase and face the camera. In the background is foliage.
The Amador Valley Math Team as part of the Pleasanton Math League won fourth place among Bay Area math teams (sixth overall of 42) at the 2009 Stanford Math Tournament.[70]

The Amador Valley Math Team hosts outreach events and participates in mathematics competitions. The Mathematical Association of America placed Amador Valley High School on its School Merit Roll for performance on the American Mathematics Competitions series.[71] The Math Team placed fifth nationally on the 2008 Collaborative Problem-Solving Contest[72] and placed in the top 25 nationwide in the 2005–2009 Fall Startup Events.[73][74][75][76][77]

Amador Valley is the first high school in California to host a tournament. The tournament was run by Amador Valley math teachers with help from the Amador Valley Math Team. The event served as a qualifier for's Northern California Championships and served as a tryout for the Bay Area American Regions Math League team. The Independent reported Amador was "showing leadership in mathematics".[78]

At the 2009 Northern California Championships, the Math Team placed second in Northern California to Lynbrook High School and received an invitation to's multi-state championship in Kansas City. Amador Valley High School, the first to represent California at the Midwestern event, finished fifth in the championship out of the ten qualifying teams.[79]

The Math Team also hosts the Amador Valley Geometry Bee, modeled after the Scripps National Spelling Bee. This competition invites students from Amador Valley, Foothill High School, and the district's three middle schools to compete in timed rounds. The style of the competition consists of rounds of 10 questions each, deviating from the traditional spelling bee format.[79]

The Math Team also hosts an event for parents and students, Family Math Night. This event lets parents preview course material with their students through hands-on activities run by math team members. The goal of Family Math Night is "to help parents become comfortable assisting their students with math homework."[80]

Robotics Team

Two teenagers look down at a small vehicle. The vehicle is enclosed in a clear plastic tube and the machinery inside is clearly visible. To the right, a female student holds the vehicle. To the left, a male student adjusts tubing on the vehicle. In the back, a middle-aged man is holding a harness for the vehicle.
Two Amador Valley students prepare AUV deployment at the Transducer Evaluation Center (TRANSDEC).

The Amador Valley Robotics Team, founded in 1999, is the first and only high school team to compete in the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) Competition hosted by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).[81][82][83] Each year, with a minimal amount of outside technical assistance, the team develops an AUV to maneuver an underwater obstacle course.[82]

The team first entered the competition in 2000 with its Hammerhead AUV, weighing 98 kg (220 pounds).[84] They placed seventh in the field of twelve.[83] According to Daryl Davidson, the executive director of AUVSI, "The Amador group really broke the ice by being the first high school team at the competition...It caught everybody off-guard and their enthusiasm was very infectious."[82]

At the 2001 competition, Amador Valley placed second to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with its Manta Ray AUV.[85][86] The Manta Ray weighed less than 100 kg (220 pounds) and featured a modular design.[86] According to Jim Bales, technical director of the competition, the technical details of the Manta Ray impressed many judges and its performance surpassed a number of university teams.[82]

The Amador Valley Barracuda line, started in 2002, "is propelled by two laterally mounted SeaBotix thrusters controlling speed and heading and two auxiliary thrusters aligned vertically controlling pitch and depth." To guide the AUV autonomously, a pressure sensor, compass, camera, and hydrophone array return navigation input data to the software. The AUV uses a Beagle Board single-board computer that runs Angstrom Linux.[87][88]

In 2008, several fundamental changes were made to the robot. The control system was reorganized and the mission control software was revamped to improve communication and to limit overhead. A low-level microcontroller-based control system was added to free up system resources. This extra processing capability will be used for mission control and image processing tasks.[88]

In 2016, after almost 15 years of incremental improvements to Barracuda, the team designed and built a new AUV, Marlin. The hull and frame were expanded, and an all-new electronics and pneumatics package was developed. The software was also completely rewritten in a more modular fashion, to allow for easier testing of separate subsystems. The added maneuverability of eight new brushless thrusters and the processing power of a desktop computer motherboard gives the team lots of overhead for later developments and improvements[89]

Speech and Debate

Five high school students in suits and name tags face left. They are seated on the same side of the table and smiling.
Students of Amador Valley We the People team testify in a simulated congressional hearing.

Amador Valley's main Speech and Debate teams places a heavy emphasis on public speaking skills. The school's Mock Trial team represented Alameda County at the California State Championships in 2007,[90] and competed as the wildcard in 2009.[91] The Mock Trial team has perennially been Alameda County finalists in this Constitutional Rights Foundation sponsored competition, holding the finalist title five of the six years from 2004–2009.[92][93][94][95][96] Alameda County Superior Court Judge George Hernandez, who presided over the final county round in 2007, praised the level of preparedness of Amador Valley's Mock Trial team.[90]

The national We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution competition takes place each spring in Washington, D.C.. The Amador Valley "We the People" team has represented the state of California at the national competition more than a dozen times since 1992.[97][98] The team earned the national title in 1995, and took second place in the 1996, 2006, and 2007 competitions, in addition to placing third in 1994.[99] In 2008 and 2009, the team placed fourth and third in the national competition, respectively. The team placed 6th and 5th in 2015 and 2017, respectively, and took second place again in 2011, 2013, and 2014. In 2018 the team placed fourth place. Congressman Jerry McNerney and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi congratulated the 2009 team on Capitol Hill.[100]

Student outreach

Three high-school age students sit around a round table. Two are writing letters on white paper and the third (on the right) is holding a water bottle. A packet of paper that is titled STAND sits on the middle of the table.
At the Second Annual Bay Area Human Rights Conference, Amador Valley Human Rights Club members write letters to their senators to urge them to support taking action to end the genocide in Darfur.

Amador Valley's Interact Club was founded in coordination with the local Rotary chapter, and is one of 33,000 Rotary chapters in the world.[101] Every year, the Interact Club coordinates several local fundraisers as well as nationwide campaigns in conjunction with Rotary events. Club members are a part of millions of worldwide Rotary and Interact members who work "locally, regionally, and internationally to combat hunger, improve health and sanitation, provide education and job training, promote peace, and eradicate polio under the motto Service Above Self."[101] Amador Valley's Interact Club has been praised for its efforts to "educate, advocate and fundraise for life-changing programs."[101]

The Human Rights Club is a similar sort of outreach group, affiliated with Amnesty International and STAND. The club was founded in 2007 by Amador Valley student Shelby Margolin, the California state high school outreach coordinator on the national STAND leadership board.[102] The club focuses on ways to address issues such as genocide, disease and poverty in Africa. The student group hosts educational seminars and keynote speakers in an annual Human Rights Conference in the hope of "raising awareness about and helping to end genocide."[103][104]

Notable people associated with the school





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Online resources

  • Enrollment numbers
  • Enrollment by ethnicity
  • Enrollment by grade
  • Amador Valley High School 2005–2006 School Accountability Report Card (PDF), Amador Valley High School, archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-16, retrieved 2009-07-27 Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)
  • Amador Valley High School 2007–2008 School Accountability Report Card (PDF), Amador Valley High School, archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-08-24, retrieved 2009-07-27 Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)
  • Amador Valley High School Robotics (2000), Hammerhead: Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (PDF), archived from the original (PDF) on May 23, 2004, retrieved 2009-07-20 Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)
  • Amador Valley High School Robotics (2001), Intelligence by Design: The Development of an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (PDF), archived from the original (PDF) on May 24, 2004, retrieved 2009-07-20 Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)
  • Amador Valley High School Robotics (2002), The Barracuda Project: Building an efficient reliable platform for underwater operations (PDF), archived from the original (PDF) on May 26, 2004, retrieved 2009-08-16 Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)
  • Amador Valley High School Robotics Club (2008), Barracuda VII, retrieved 2009-11-16
  • Pleasanton Unified School District (October 2006), Two schools in Pleasanton designated National Blue Ribbon Schools, archived from the original on 2006-10-04, retrieved 2009-11-24
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  • California Department of Education (2008-09-10), 2001–02 Award Winning Schools – Blue Ribbon Schools, archived from the original on 2009-11-23, retrieved 2009-06-23 Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (help)

External links