A Brief History of McKee
Ralph R. McKee High School was founded in 1920 and opened on April 12, 1920. There was no physical building at that time, so classes were held in available rooms at P.S. 20, Port Richmond, and P.S.1, Tottenville. The school offered four hours of education a week to those on Staten Island who had left school to work. Also offered were five academic classes, a commercial class of high school course, a dressmaking class, a woodworking class, and a sewing class. When students began losing their jobs, Mr. Harrigan, the Principal, said the students applied to attend school full time. With the school’s growing population the city purchased the Standard Varnish Company’s offices in Elm Park. This building became New York City’s first public school to offer full time academic class and vocational classes.
By 1928 the school was full and Mr. Harrigan knew that a new, larger building was needed. With the help of Ralph R. McKee, the Vice President of the Board of Education, a new school building was built in Saint George. On May 1, 1935, Staten Island Vocational High School opened and classes began in the new building on May 6, 1935 for two hundred students. It received a Charter as an Industrial High School from the University of the State of New York on May 17, 1935. In September 1935, the school opened with an enrollment of 1,200 students. The school now offered courses in printing, electrical, heating and sanitation, auto mechanics, machinery, home economics, beauty culture, sewing, and crafts.
On October 26, 1935, after a long illness Ralph R. McKee passed away. Two days later Principal Harrigan, with his staff, wrote a resolution to have Staten Island Vocational High School renamed the Ralph R. McKee Vocational High School in honor of his support and dedication to the opening of this school and to education and the children of New York. On June 10, 1936 Staten Island Vocational High School was formally dedicated and renamed Ralph R. McKee Vocational High School.