Cass Technical High School Explained

Cass Technical High School
Student Population:2000+
Principal:Lenora Ashford
Type:Examination School of Choice
Affiliation:Detroit Public Schools
Address:2501 Second Avenue
Colors:Forest Green and White
Newspaper:CT Visionary
Motto:"Cass Tech #1, 2nd to None"

Lewis Cass Technical High School is a four-year high school in Detroit, Michigan, United States. The school is named in honor of Lewis Cass, an American military officer and politician who served as governor of the Michigan Territory from 1813 until 1831. The school is a part of Detroit Public Schools.

Until 1977, Cass was Detroit's only magnet school and the only non-neighborhood enrollment school in Detroit. Today, Cass is one of four magnet schools in Detroit. Entrance to Cass is based on test scores and middle school grades. Students are required to choose a curriculum path—roughly equivalent to a college "major"—in the ninth grade. Areas of study include, but are not limited to, architecture, music, graphic arts, business, human services, and chemical/biological sciences.


Cass Technical High School, formerly known as Cass Union School, was founded in 1861. Cass Union School was established to provide training in woodworking and metal trades for young men. The school was built on land given to the City of Detroit by former Secretary of State and Michigan Governor Lewis Cass. The donated land formed a triangle at Second Avenue, Grand River Avenue, and High Street West. That land had a pickle factory on it, but they transformed it into a school building.In 1918, Cass Technical High School lent its space to Ford Motor Company outside of regular school hours to allow their employees access to the industrial training facilities within the building. During the 1920s Cass held classes in chemistry, bacteriology, biology, and dietetics for local nurses in addition to printing classes.

In 1970, concern over the condition of the school building surfaced. It was feared that the building would be allowed to deteriorate beyond repair and that the school and its curriculum would be eliminated. Modernization of the school began in 1981 and was completed in 1985. The addition was designed by Albert Kahn Associates. The new wing included a gymnasium, various music rooms, a recital hall, and a practice room. The new wing provided an enclosed lunchroom on the second floor that held approximately 700 students. Classes in the business wing were also renovated.

On Monday July 30, 2007 the old school building was set on fire.[1] The police arrested two of the three men in connection to the fire. At least six homeless men were believed to have been living in the vacant building. The fire is said to have started in the first floor classroom and risen up to the third floor before firefighters were able to put it out. In addition to two police officers, two firefighters were also injured while fighting the three-alarm fire.[2]

The New Cass Technical High School

During the 2005-2006 school year, Cass Tech faculty, students and staff were moved to the new building, which was constructed on and around the school's old football field. The move into the new building sparked controversy because of uncertainty about the future of the old building, which is considered to be a historic landmark.

The new Cass Technical High School building was designed by TMP Associates Inc.[3] The new building is physically partitioned to emphasize its varied activities. Academic, public, athletic and performance spaces are all distinct pieces of the building. The building required organization vertically on six levels in order to accommodate its small urban site.

One design challenge was to accommodate the unique lab environment, catering to career pathways and retaining flexibility for future curriculum requirements. The solution was a collection of “collaboration centers,” situated strategically, to promote interaction between the pathways and to encourage team teaching.

In the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year, Cass Tech opened a credit union in the north lobby of the new building. Students, parents, and staff are all eligible to use it.

The construction of a football field behind the building was a substantial portion of the new development, however, until the beginning of the 2007-2008 school year, it could not be used because of construction errors.

The building won the top design award given out by Learning by Design, which honors and showcases school design and construction projects. It also received the American Institute of Architects - Michigan Chapter Honor Award in 2007.[4]


Cass Technical High School's average ACT score is 21, which is four points higher than the average for Detroit public high schools. Cass offers eleven advanced placement courses including language composition, history, chemistry, calculus, and physics. Students are required to maintain a 2.5 grade point average on a scale of 4.0 in order to retain enrollment.


In 2003 El-Amin, the Academic Games coach, was awarded the 'Most Outstanding Coordinator' award. In 2006 Cass represented DPS at the National Academic Games Olympics and won the Team Sweepstakes award.

Music Department


The Choir does vocal training under the direction of Dr. Cheryl V. Harden. She has been the choral director of Cass tech since 1999. Over the years, the choirs have produced two CDs and are now working on their third. Cass Tech has many choir groups, including the following:

Harp and Vocal

Cass Tech is the only school in the city of Detroit with a Harp and Vocal Ensemble. The Harp and Vocal Ensemble has existed for eighty-two years since its inception by Cass Tech alum Velma Froude. The Director from 1976-2007 was Patricia Terry Ross, a former student of the ensemble. As of 2007 the Director is Lydia Cleaver, also a former ensemble student.

Harp Ensemble

The harp ensemble is usually composed of five well-seasoned student harpists. They each receive private lessons under Lydia Cleaver, learning performance skills and the traditional techniques of the Carlos Salzedo Method. The group does not usually perform outside of school related functions.


There are beginner, intermediate, advanced and jazz band classes, as well as a marching band. The marching band has performed for Patti Labelle, Sinbad, and Jay-Z as well as at various college and university, and homecomings. The marching band was also a part of the 2007 FedEx Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida, but was not televised. In 2008, the band performed at Texas Southern University.


The orchestra is under the direction of Marc W. Haas. The 2005-2006 Cass Tech String Quartet was the winner at the 2006 MASTA state-wide chamber music competition. The quartet was also featured in the 2006 Michigan Youth Arts Festival. The Cass Tech Chamber String Orchestra, the school's advanced orchestra, participated in the All City High School Symphony Orchestra program at the Renaissance Center's Ambassador Ballroom on March 8, 2007.

JROTC Program

Cass' JROTC Program is the largest organization in the school. It has a curriculum that includes Leadership Lab and Cadet Challenge, a drill team, and an honor guard team. The drill team is composed of: a First-Year Color Guard, an Open-Year Color Guard, an Armed Exhibition Team, an Unarmed Exhibition Team, a Female Armed Exhibition Team, an Unarmed Regulation team, and an Armed Regulation Team. The JROTC program has the "Gold Star Insignia", which is the highest attainable rank in the JROTC program. The Cass Tech Renegades Drill Team has attended the National Drill Team Competition held in Daytona Beach, Florida on multiple occasions. The honor guard team has attended many events throughout the city, including many parades and grand openings.

Notable Alumni



  1. Beamer, Christine. "'U' catches Cass Tech talent". The Michigan Daily. 5 Apr 06.
  2. "DPS students shine at the National Academic Games Olympics". DPS News online. 19 May 2006. Detroit Public Schools. 22 Apr 2007. DPS students shine at the National Academic Games Olympics
  3. Shurney, Simone. "Music program is aged to perfection". CT Visionary. 30 Apr 2007.
  1. Farrell, Perry. "Douglass earns 1st playoff trip". Detroit Free Press. 19 Oct 07.

External links

Notes and References

  1. Web site: Old Cass Tech catches fire. Detroit Free Press. July 31, 2007. 2007-08-02.
  2. Web site: Two firefighters injured in blaze at Cass Tech. Detroit Free Press. July 30, 2007. 2007-08-02.
  3. TMP Associates, Inc.; Cass Technical High School Project
  4. Michigan Chapter Honor Award