Community to dedicate Sylvester Greenwood Academy on Saturday


The grand opening and dedication for Sylvester Greenwood Academy, formerly Samuel Gompers Continuation High School, is set for Saturday at 10 a.m.

The event will be held at the new $54 million shared campus at 715 Chanslor Ave. in Richmond, which opened this school year and also houses Leadership Public Schools, a charter school, on a 26,400 square-foot site.

The campus includes outdoor space for each school, a shared gymnasium and health clinic, according to the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD).

Along with city leaders and school officials, Saturday’s event will be attended by family, friends, colleagues and former students of the late Greenwood, a beloved community figure who served 38 years in the school district.

greenwood.10-28-1The school was previously named after labor leader Samuel Gompers (1850-1924), who was a national figure. But Vince Rhea, principal of Gompers, as well as other district colleagues, first suggested the name be changed to honor Greenwood, a local hero, according to this report by the nonprofit For Richmond.

Greenwood, who became known as the “gentle giant,” was born in 1945 in Arkansas but moved to Berkeley the following year and then Richmond in 1953, according to this family. He attended Peres Elementary School, Roosevelt Junior High School and then Harry Ells High School, which is now the site of LoVonya Dejean Middle School.

He was also quite an athlete, having earned a football scholarship to Fresno State before being drafted by the New Orleans Saints.

In 1968, after his two-year NFL career was cut short by injury, Greenwood began working as a security officer in what was then the Richmond Unified School District. After completing extended education, he later taught at Adams Junior High and Harry Ells High before becoming dean of students at De Anza High. He was also vice principal at Portola Junior High and principal at Downer Junior and Kennedy high schools before moving on to become assistant superintendent and interim superintendent in the district. He retired in 2006 and was heavily involved in the community throughout his years.

“A lot of kids would have issues at different schools and eventually they would go with him and he would give them a second chance,” Greenwood’s daughter, Dr. Sylvia Greenwood, told For Richmond. “They came to be called ‘Greenwood kids.’”

Greenwood died June 9, 2011, at age 66 due to complications from diabetes.